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.

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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?

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4 thoughts on “Finding the Joy in Packing Lunch

  1. Loving these menu ideas! Keep ’em coming please. (I made your eggs in the cupcake pan last week and they were great!)

    I don’t love to cook, but a new favorite of mine is making meals in a slow cooker. One of my favorite recipes is a bean soup/chili concoction. 1 can of black beans, 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of black beans, 1 can of corn and 1 can of diced tomatoes. Add a chopped onion, a chopped pepper, a couple cloves of chopped garlic, some Texas Pete and your favorite spices (chili powder, basil, salt and pepper) and you’ve got lunch for a few days. I usually keep it on the slow cooker for 4 hours on high — super easy to make! I’ve also gotten into making a corn + avocado + tomato salad with a sprinkle of lime juice. Easy, healthy and costs next to nothing.

  2. I’m glad they were a success! Thanks for the chili recipe, I don’t have a slow cooker but think I should make the investment very soon for times when I’m a little tight on time. I’ll keep posting recipes!

    1. Hi Carly! Thanks so much for the call out. You are doing a great job, and you’re meals look delicious. I’m finding the same with my friends, I’m surprised to find that some of them are in the same boat, and open to having a movie and popcorn night to hang out. Also, love the ways you’re looking to make some extra cash. I’m having a little difficulty there so would love to hear your success stories. Ebay hasn’t worked for me so far but maybe I just need patience.

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