It seems like such an easy thing to do. Who really needs a tutorial on how to pack a lunch? I mean, most of us have been packing a lunch since grade school. That’s where I see the problem. Most of us still pack a lunch like we’re in grade school. PB&J, package of chips, package of cookies, can of soda, and maybe an apple that won’t get eaten. Or maybe you haven’t packed a lunch since grade school and choose to eat out and spend a lot of money on food that might not be all that healthy. I thought it would be good to show you how easy, health, and budget friendly it is to pack your own lunch for work, school, or wherever you’re headed for the day.
Pick a main course. There is such a variety of food out there that you can pack as the main bulk of your lunch. You should step outside your realm of quickly thrown together sandwiches. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to use leftovers as the bulk of your meal. I like to make more food than Adam and I can eat for dinner, and then use the leftovers for lunch the rest of the week. You could also spend some time on the weekend and make a big batch of a few different meals and use that. Salads are a really great and easy way to make a bunch of food that won’t spoil quickly throughout the week. Try my Simple Vegetable Millet or Curried Quinoa Salad. Get creative too. Use the grilled chicken you made over the weekend in a whole wheat pita pocket, add some lettuce, tomato, and mustard and you have a yummy pita pocket. Or buy a bunch of collard greens and scoop quinoa salad into the middle and make a lettuce wrap. The possibilities are endless and you never have to have a boring main meal for lunch.
Slice up some sides. Rather than grabbing a bag of chips or crackers, slice up your own sides. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a lot healthier than most of the fair you will find in the snack aisle of your grocery store. Yes, it’s really easy to buy a big case of chips and then just grab a bag each day. It’s really simple to just walk to the vending machine in your office and get some pretzels or crackers too. But it isn’t helping your health or wallet either. Buy a big bag of carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, radishes, or any other vegetable that strikes your fancy. Then cut it all up and portion it out at home, then voila! You now have an easy to grab and healthy side for your lunch. Bring along hummus or homemade BBQ sauce to dip your vegetables in and you won’t have to be crunching on boring celery (although I don’t think any vegetable is boring… is that just me?). Fruit is also a great thing to have in your lunch and apple, pear, or orange slices are delicious and portable. The other good thing about eating fruit and vegetables for your sides is that they will fill you up with healthy fiber and help keep you fuller longer. That’s a win-win!
Hydrate up. This isn’t just a tip for lunch, you should be drinking water all day long. Invest in a really good water bottle that you can fill up and just keep sipping throughout your day. If you’re not into plain water, jazz it up with some lemon or lime slices, berries, cucumber, mint, or even watermelon. Just keep yourself hydrated. Often when we think that we are hungry, we’re really thirsty. Instead of reaching for food, try a glass of water first and see if your body just needed some water instead.
Plan for a snack. 3:00 pm rolls around and you find yourself wandering to the vending machine looking for a candy bar to tide you over until dinner. Or maybe you start downing cups of coffee to help you push through the last few hours of work. Instead of doing that, plan to bring a snack with your lunch. Adam likes hard-boiled eggs as his afternoon snack, and those are really easy to make a bunch at the beginning of the week. Plus they are portable. Eggs aren’t your thing? Try making a mix of dry-roasted almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds to keep you going. Need a little sweet? Add some raisins or other dried fruit to the mix. Just make sure to read your labels and check to see that there isn’t any added sugar. If you’re looking for salty and crunchy, try some roasted chickpeas. Also, don’t go overboard with your afternoon snack, just enough to keep you going until it’s time for dinner!
See? Packing a lunch doesn’t have to be hard or boring. Take a little time to plan what you are going to have for the week and then just throw it all in your lunch box and head out the door. Packing your own lunch is a great way to save money and support your healthy lifestyle. And if every once in a while a cookie finds it’s way into your lunch, that’s ok too!