Safety First when Packing a Lunch

            May 25 is National Brown-Bag-It Day, celebrating the convenience and health benefits of lunches packed at home. Carrying lunch to work or school is a great way to use leftovers from home, helping to eliminate food waste. While preparing and packing a lunch does take time, it is estimated that American families can save $500 per year just by taking lunch from home! Saving money are reducing food waste are excellent reasons to brown-bag-it, reports Extension Educator Debbie Kuenning. Follow these tips to make sure your lunch and the lunches you pack for others are food safe.

Give the brown bag an upgrade! Reusable, insulated containers and gel freezer packs ensure that cold food stays cold, allowing leftovers to be enjoyed a day or two after preparation. Keeping the environment cold helps food avoid the “Danger Zone” of 40-140 degrees for more than 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is 90 degrees or more).

Dig out the thermos. An insulated thermos is a great way to carry cold or hot liquids. For better temperature management, be sure to prime the thermos first. Fill with hot liquids (for hot foods) or cold liquids (for cold foods) and let sit for a few minutes. Empty and fill with desired contents.

Remember safe food preparation. Cook all foods to a food safe temperature. Prepare only what will be eaten at that serving to avoid dangers with leftover perishable foods.

If possible, keep lunches in the refrigerator until ready to eat. If a lunch is packed the night before, keep the perishable parts in the refrigerator until it is time to leave.

Wash your hands! Be sure to pack a lunch with clean hands and, if possible, wash hands before eating the packed lunch.

If you do not have an insulated bag and ice pack, stick to these brown bag friendly items that need to refrigeration:

Peanut Butter Sandwiches, popcorn, bread, crackers, bagels, unpeeled fresh fruit, unopened single serve containers of fruit, fruit juice and pudding, commercially prepared meats, poultry, seafood, and dried beans (such as beans and franks, pouches of tuna, etc.) that can be opened and eaten immediately, dried fruits, nuts, cookies, and cereal bars

Give brown bagging it a try! Home packed lunches can be as unique as the person eating them. A little planning and packing can provide a versatile lunch that can be eaten anywhere.

To learn more about packed lunch safety and ideas for packed lunches, ask for the article, “Packed Lunch Safety” at your local University of Nebraska Extension Office or available on the web at Nebraska Extension In Our Grit, Our Glory.

UN–L for Families
Nancy Frecks, Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension