Finding the Joy in Packing Lunch

Happy Sunday!  Hope everyone had a great weekend.  Sunday is the beginning of a new week.  The day when my sister and I start to plan out our meals, especially lunches, for the beginning of the week.  Working late is not unusual in my industry, I’m not talking 6pm, I’m talking 8 or 9pm at night.  Over the past few months, I’d become lazy opting for take out at the end of the day or an $8 sandwich at the deli across from work.  When I finally came to terms with my bank account, I noted that the amount I was spending on convenience food would add up to a fancy dinner at a hip restaurant, or a fraction of a plane ticket to travel.  When my sister put me on my budget,  takeout and buying lunch (along with buying coffee) had to go.  My sister said, “sometimes you get lazy, but you just have to do it”.  Since I had stopped cooking as often, I not only felt like my  health-minded self, was slowly slipping away but I was also losing a creative outlet that I enjoyed.   Therefore I’ve learned to view these 15 minutes of packing lunch as a way to decompress at the end of a stressful day.  Here are some of my favorite quick fixes that have kept my palate engaged and excited for lunch time…

Quick Lunch Fix #1: Pasta Tosses

The night I got home from my Florida trip, the one where I had my financial breakthrough, I knew buying lunch was not an option on my first day back.  I perused my cupboards to see what remnants  of food existed after being away for a week.  I found  half of a box of pasta, half of a bag of frozen kale and some frozen shrimp.

Boiling pasta takes all of 10 minutes.  The shrimp and vegetables were pre-cooked so after putting the cooked pasta in a tupperware I topped with the frozen shrimp and veggies, spritzed with olive oil and  lemon juice and seasoned with salt pepper and garlic powder.  By the time I was ready for lunch the next day, all I had to do was pop it in the microwave and I had a delicious lunch.  You can always cook a lot of pasta at the beginning of the week, and top with various combinations of frozen veggies.  Instead of pasta, you can always sub rice, or bulgur wheat.

Quick Lunch Fix #2: Make Your Own Antipasto

I am a bit OCD with the way I eat my food meaning that I feel unbalanced if my meal does not include a starch, a vegetable/fruits, a protein and a dairy.  Same rules apply for snacking.  If I have veggies, they need to be paired with some sort of protein like hummus and crackers.   Sometimes I run low on bread, or I have something that may not fit in a sandwich so instead of making an extra trip to the grocery store, I figure out how to make it work my creating a “something” lunch out of nothing.  A rummage through the ‘fridge may reveal grapes, or sliced cheese, or cold cuts.  I usually always have eggs on hand to boil and a few types of veggies.  Just pack in plastic baggies or tupperware and with minimal prep work you can create a snackable lunch.

IMG_0916

Quick Lunch Fix #3: “Kitchen Sink” Salads

This is another great way to use up any thing in your fridge that may be on it’s last leg.  My kitchen sink salad to the right was quite amazing.  I had lettuce, avocado, some strawberries that were about to go bad, and some roasted butternut squash.  NOTE: I did not use cucumbers or tomatoes, I didn’t have them on hand, and didn’t go out of my way to buy any.  I’m pretty sure there was some cold cut roast turkey as well.  I drizzled with balsamic vinegar and enjoyed.

I used this trick a few weeks ago on my way back from a run when I was  craving a slice of pizza.  I channeled my thoughts to what I had in the fridge and came up with a combination for another delicious salad.  I stayed strong and said no to the pizza.  Healthy and a $2 savings.

The key to preparing these delicious lunches, is keeping a well stocked ‘fridge and pantry inclusive of unprocessed convenience foods such as frozen vegetables, sliced cheeses, crackers, and vegetables.  I also try to keep things on hand that I would normally crave for takeout so I can make at home, such as avocados.

What are some of your go-to bagged lunch ideas?

Little Wins

budget

I recently had a boss that held monthly “little wins” meetings to build motivation while we worked toward a common goal of pleasing our client.  After my first month of keeping my budget, I’m starting to feel the withdrawal from shopping and going out for drinks and dinner, so celebrating “little wins” are going to play a role in getting me through this process.

Here are my little wins for this month: 

  1. One full month of no credit cards!
  2. Started my blog!
  3. Paid off my loan from Mom and Dad!  Total debt paid off this month =$2700
  4. Saved $200 toward my emergency fund and $276 toward San Francisco (more than half my plane ticket!)
  5. Started making extra money on the side

This month I feel a little bit short so I’m going to have to pull in and limit going out for the next few weeks.  Here is the breakdown of my April 15-May 15 budget:

  • April 15: 
    • Pay: $1413
    • Bills:
    • MasterCard: $337
    • Visa: $100
    • Discover: $80
    • Loan to Mom and Dad: $160
    • Dress Alterations: $56
    • Cell Phone: $60
    • Cable: $57
    • Electric: $25
    • Total Remaining: $538
  • April 30
    • Pay: $1425
    • Rent: $1100
    • Total Remaining: $250

Expenses I’ve budgeted for so far include $100 of copays, $100 for food, and $100 for a friends birthday to go wine tasting. I’ve also moved $125 into my SF fund. leaving me with $363 of discretionary money for the month.  It’s going to be tight!  But I think I can manage for the next few weeks.

Boston You’re My Home

235_510892365581_6311_n

Me and my girlfriends celebrating Marathon Monday in 2007

I have written my one month update, but will post it tomorrow instead, in light of this weeks Boston Marathon explosion….

I moved to New York about four and a half years ago from Boston.  People always ask me which city I like better and I say that while I love the two for different reasons, Boston is where my heart is.  My great grandparents came to this country close to 100 years ago after escaping the Armenian genocide.  Boston provided them immense opportunity and a safe haven to establish fulfilling lives.  

My immediate and extended family still live in various suburbs throughout the greater Boston area.  I grew up in Andover, about 30 minutes north of the city.   “Going into Boston”, as my mom would say with excitement, was special.  It involved summer art class at the MFA, mother daughter shopping days at Filene’s Basement (the ORIGINAL!) and Newbury Street.  It also meant getting dressed up to go to the Nutcracker at Christmas, the Pops, and plays.  And special occasion gatherings for tea with my mom, sisters, grandmother, aunts and cousin.  The city was a place for special occasions.

When I returned after college, I moved into an apartment in Brookline and Boston became my home.  I worked in the Prudential Center and built my closest friendships there.  My apartment was at mile 24 of the Boston Marathon and was the place that people gravitated to for the prime viewing location. We’d spend the morning making posters for friends and others we knew who were running the race while sipping on mimosas.  Not only was it a day of celebration, community, and achievement, but there was a feeling of  freedom in the air.  With work cancelled, we had the day to play and feel like children.  After the majority of runners had gone by, we’d walk down to the Fenway bars to continue the celebration with the rest of the Red Sox fans.  

What makes me most upset this week is that the feeling of freedom on that day will be lost and replaced with fear now.  The people of Boston are perseverant and inherently loyal and proud of their city, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this tradition will continue with comparable excitement as it has. It just won’t be the same.