Stylish, sustainable items for lunch unveiled at housewares expo

  • This stylish insulated tote bears little resemblance to your grade-school lunchbox. Thermos partnered with Chicago-based T-shirt designer Threadless to come up with hip graphics for its new line. Perfect for everyone from tweens who have outgrown Hello Kitty to 40-somethings looking for cool coolers. ($14.99 at Target)

    This stylish insulated tote bears little resemblance to your grade-school lunchbox. Thermos partnered with Chicago-based T-shirt designer Threadless to come up with hip graphics for its new line. Perfect for everyone from tweens who have outgrown Hello Kitty to 40-somethings looking for cool coolers. ($14.99 at Target) Courtesy of Thermos

  • Fabric sandwich bags have been around a few years, but this is the first sleeve I've seen with a pvc-free insulated liner ($9.99). Pair it with a matching lunch tote that collapses into its front pocket ($19; available spring 2011 at Bed Bath and Beyond)

    Fabric sandwich bags have been around a few years, but this is the first sleeve I've seen with a pvc-free insulated liner ($9.99). Pair it with a matching lunch tote that collapses into its front pocket ($19; available spring 2011 at Bed Bath and Beyond) Courtesy of Blue Avocado

  • Yogurt will stay cold all morning when packed in this Stayfit Yogurt 2 Go. The plastic walls are filled with gel that keeps food cold for hours. Comes in a set of two so you can pack granola in the top container if you so desire. ($4.99; amazon.com)

    Yogurt will stay cold all morning when packed in this Stayfit Yogurt 2 Go. The plastic walls are filled with gel that keeps food cold for hours. Comes in a set of two so you can pack granola in the top container if you so desire. ($4.99; amazon.com) Courtesy of Cool-Gear

  • Biodegradable plastic puts these Green Solutions Meals on the Go containers at the top of my must-have list. Use the dual compartment tray for years and years and then recycle it. If it does end up in the garbage the microbes that live in the landfill will break down the plastic. ($3.99 for a 2-pack; available July 2011)

    Biodegradable plastic puts these Green Solutions Meals on the Go containers at the top of my must-have list. Use the dual compartment tray for years and years and then recycle it. If it does end up in the garbage the microbes that live in the landfill will break down the plastic. ($3.99 for a 2-pack; available July 2011) Courtesy of Shye Worldwide

  • Keep these eco-friendly Repeat bamboo utensils in your purse, briefcase or desk drawer and you'll be ready to eat anytime, anywhere. The fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks come in a holder made of recycled water bottles. Doesn't get any greener than that! ($12.95; Whole Foods Markets, REI)

    Keep these eco-friendly Repeat bamboo utensils in your purse, briefcase or desk drawer and you'll be ready to eat anytime, anywhere. The fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks come in a holder made of recycled water bottles. Doesn't get any greener than that! ($12.95; Whole Foods Markets, REI) Courtesy of To-Go Ware

  • A meal-sized salad packs into this leakproof, silicone container and then the bowl collapses for easy storage. The set comes with smaller bowls (also collapsible) for dressing, nuts and other salad accoutrements. ($25, available May 2011)

    A meal-sized salad packs into this leakproof, silicone container and then the bowl collapses for easy storage. The set comes with smaller bowls (also collapsible) for dressing, nuts and other salad accoutrements. ($25, available May 2011) Courtesy of Aladdin

  • Pass along midday words of encouragement with Say it Sandwich Bags. A box of 60 re-sealable bags (three designs per box) costs $2.79 at sayitsandwichbags.com.

    Pass along midday words of encouragement with Say it Sandwich Bags. A box of 60 re-sealable bags (three designs per box) costs $2.79 at sayitsandwichbags.com. Courtesy of Black Lab Products

  • Who gets to take this tackle box-sandwich keeper hybrid (created by an Evanston mom) has been the cause of morning strife in my house. The boys like The New Generation Lunch Box because of the two-levels of compartments, I like it because, unlike other bento-style boxes, it fits into an insulated lunch tote and there's still room for an ice pack. ($18.95 at select eco-child boutiques or www.brightbin.com.)

    Who gets to take this tackle box-sandwich keeper hybrid (created by an Evanston mom) has been the cause of morning strife in my house. The boys like The New Generation Lunch Box because of the two-levels of compartments, I like it because, unlike other bento-style boxes, it fits into an insulated lunch tote and there's still room for an ice pack. ($18.95 at select eco-child boutiques or www.brightbin.com.) Courtesy of BrightBin

  • The Bynto lunchbox takes the functionality of a traditional bento box and makes it fun for kids of all ages. The brightly colored totes (the brainchild of a Naperville mom) come with a matching drink container and hold an array of munchables. The tightfitting lid keeps foods in their places. Stickers allow children to customize their Bynto. ($12.50 at Whole Foods Markets)

    The Bynto lunchbox takes the functionality of a traditional bento box and makes it fun for kids of all ages. The brightly colored totes (the brainchild of a Naperville mom) come with a matching drink container and hold an array of munchables. The tightfitting lid keeps foods in their places. Stickers allow children to customize their Bynto. ($12.50 at Whole Foods Markets) Courtesy of Goodbyn

  • What kid wouldn't want to have lunch with these funny bunnies? This Threadless-designed Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle is just one of the funky new styles in Rolling Meadows-based Thermos' new line. The leak-proof lid can be opened with one-hand and the smaller size fits in a kid-sized lunch bags. ($14.99 at Target)

    What kid wouldn't want to have lunch with these funny bunnies? This Threadless-designed Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle is just one of the funky new styles in Rolling Meadows-based Thermos' new line. The leak-proof lid can be opened with one-hand and the smaller size fits in a kid-sized lunch bags. ($14.99 at Target) Courtesy of Thermos

 
By Deborah Pankey
Updated 3/16/2011 1:19 PM

Has the term "lunch hour" become obsolete?

Whether they're tight on time or tight on funds (or both), fewer people are taking time for lunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For some, lunch means eating Sunday's pasta from a plastic deli container at their desks while checking e-mail or scheduling appointments, or crunching away on salad greens spilling out of a takeout container during an afternoon staff meeting.

Housewares manufacturers have taken notice of these habits and have responded with solutions for the lunch-on-the-go consumer. Dozens of items from reusable sandwich bags to a biodegradable salad bowl were unveiled earlier this month at the International Home and Housewares Show at Chicago's McCormick Place.

"We've definitely evolved from the metal lunch tins we all grew up with," said Lisa Casey Weiss, lifestyle consultant for the International Housewares Association.

"Companies are eliminating the disposable aspect of lunch products, making them more environmentally friendly and ensuring food will stay fresh for longer," Casey Weiss said.

Here are a handful of items worth consideration (retail prices may vary by location).