I have mentioned before that I love packing my lunch for work and creating healthy meals for myself. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that I like to spend hours in the kitchen everyday doing so. While I think it is important to make health a priority in your life and eat as much real, unprocessed, “clean” foods as possible, I don’t think it must be a time consuming process either. Other things in life are important as well!
This week, my schedule is about to change a little. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from now until May, I will start attending night classes at my local community college. I am starting a long (well, about a year) journey to gain prerequisites for grad school (I have mentioned that I am confused about my future a few times on here).
I enjoy packing my lunch now, but I am going to need to take it to a whole new level. Instead of packing just one meal a day, I now will be responsible for two (3x a week). On these days, I most likely will be going straight from work to school, so I will need to be prepared with meals in advance.
In order not to drive myself crazy, and still keep meals healthy and fun, I thought I’d draft some ideas of how to make my Tupperware/tinfoil lunches and dinners exciting (and possibly start documenting them on here to help me keep track of notable meals).
I feel like I already have a few secrets as to how to keep packed lunches exciting, so I plan to continue with my current methods and possibly switch things up as I develop new ideas. As long as my meals are,
1. well-balanced (include a mix of grains, proteins, veggies, healthy fats)
2. easily transportable
3. healthy and exciting (eating more than just hummus and veggie sandwiches every day)
I will be a happy camper.
So to start off this lunch packing adventure, I thought I could share a tip as to how to I make packed meals exciting (and then I thought I could add to the list as time goes on and as I develop new ideas). I always love reading blogs that discuss topics like this, so I am hoping others feel the same.
So for Tip #1:
The secret is in the sauce…. Condiments!
I won’t lie, I tend to eat pretty much the same thing for lunch everyday. The thing is, is never get boring! Although I tend to follow a lunch packing formula:
grain (1) + protein (2) + veggie (3)
(1) grain = whole grain bread, whole grain wraps, brown rice, quinoa (technically a protein), barley, bulgur (there are sooo many options here)
(2) protein: beans (kidney, black, chickpeas, great northern, pinto… many options here as well), edamame, soy proteins (tofu, tempeh), veggie burgers, canned tuna, canned salmon, cheeses (usually an additional, not main source for me), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans)
(3) veggies: whatever I have on hand…. carrots, cucumbers, celery, spinach, arugula, romaine, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms….
I keep things exciting on the condiment front.
My usual supply:
I swear there is a condiment for every taste/mood. Plus, condiments tend to last a pretty long time as well. If you buy one “fun” condiment every week for a couple of months, you, honestly, will have an endless supply of delicious/inspired meals at your disposal. For anyone on a tight budget, this is always a good thing.
(I love Trader Joe’s and the ethnic isle in larger grocery stores to find interesting condiments)
Some lunch/dinner packing ideas using the above formula (1,2,3…) + condiment:
Indian: Indian-inspired wrap: whole wheat wrap (1) + lentils or chickpeas (2) + spinach, cucumber, shredded carrots (3) + curry sauce/masala sauce
Mexican: “Taco Salad: ” brown rice (1) + black beans and Greek yogurt (2) + romaine (as a base), avocado, carrots/any other veggie you have on hand + salsa (can also add a little guacamole)
Greek: Greek salad: quinoa (1) + chickpeas and feta (2) + spinach/romaine (as base), cucumber, tomatoes…. (3) + greek dressing (can add olives)
American: a BBQ-inspired wrap/sandwich with a veggie burger +cheese +tomato/spinach + BBQ sauce
Asian: brown rice (1) + tofu/edamame (2) + onion, carrots, peppers (3) … + teriyaki sauce
and, of course, the old standby:
Veggie and hummus sandwich: whole wheat bread(1) + veggies (3) + hummus (2/condiment as well….)
The options are really endless. Plus, none of this is an exact science. You never need a specific ingredient to make any of these lunches/dinners. Mixing and matching of grains, proteins and veggies is encouraged and also keeps this exciting. There are always new flavor combinations to discover!
One way I definitely plan to keep my meals exciting/healthy/not too time consuming is to continue to incorporate this idea into my daily meal packing. Plan to see some documentation of this in the future (I’m hoping this will keep me more accountable and help me avoid any food ruts in the next few months).
Anyone else have to pack their lunch everyday? do you have any tips on streamlining/simplifying the process while still keeping things healthy/exciting?