Author Topic: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?  (Read 8941 times)

Ditchmonkey

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Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« on: March 09, 2015, 06:43:50 PM »
I need to kick my going-out-to-lunch habit at work. I bring lunch once or twice a week, but those other days I just never seem to have anything ready to bring. I'm extremely busy at home so planning food in advance doesn't happen very often. What have the MMM crew done to improve food planning? Do you have a structured system and a bunch of recipes ready to go? Any tips would be appreciated.

Oh and if anyone here is eating lunch out of their own aquaponics system then I'll be requesting an autograph :)

SaintM

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2015, 07:14:29 PM »
I have a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter (the kind with one ingredient--peanuts), and some local honey.  That is lunch most everyday.  Not very exciting, but as you can probably tell from my picture, food does not interest me at all.

retireatbirth

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2015, 07:18:36 PM »
I've found salads are easy to put together the night before. I usually just eat the same, but it wouldn't be hard to add variety. Healthy too.

NotJen

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2015, 07:37:09 PM »
I developed a system that involves bringing a salad to work every day, but with a different topping.  I don't do sandwiches because they don't fill me up - I need crunch and to chew for a while.  I never tire of my lunch - I always look forward to it!  I do usually eat out on Fridays - I plan in flexibility one day a week so I can go out to eat with co-workers and socialize.

My system:
Whenever I do cook (usually 1 week-night, and on the weekend), I make recipes or pieces of meat suited for many people, even though it's just me and sometimes my boyfriend.  Leftovers go directly into the freezer to take with lunch.  My favorites are Boston Butt pork roasts, whole chickens, and beef brisket in the crock pot.  I also have several soups and stews that are regulars in the winter; pork chops, hamburgers, etc.  With soups and stews and "casseroles", I'll take a small salad, and I use the meats on top of large salads.

I mix up olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little Dijon mustard every morning for my dressing - don't care for the bottled stuff anymore.

I make my salads on Sunday - just put them directly into the containers I'm going to use for the week.  During the summer, I belong to a CSA, and my salads use what I get in my box.  In the winter, I buy spring mix, spinach, broccoli slaw, cucumbers, radishes, and fresh basil as my base.  Oh, and some sunflower seeds sprinkled on top.  Sometimes I'll throw in onions or tomatoes.

Yum.... I'm making myself hungry!

thingamabobs

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2015, 07:41:49 PM »
bread, peanut butter and jelly, sometimes nutella and banana. extra piece of fruit to snack on, a frozen juice box to keep things cool in the lunch bag.

woodnut

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 08:44:53 PM »
Here's what I've been doing on days I don't have time/ambition to prepare my lunch before leaving for work.  I consume the excessive lunch I ate years ago and I always have it with me.  If I lose 15 pounds and get to my ideal weight I'll come up with a different plan.  I find after eating a healthy breakfast, skipping lunch doesn't bring on hunger.

aschmidt2930

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 09:08:20 PM »
I have a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter (the kind with one ingredient--peanuts), and some local honey.  That is lunch most everyday.  Not very exciting, but as you can probably tell from my picture, food does not interest me at all.

+1

I'll also bring salads, spaghetti, random leftovers. I personally think simplicity is the key.  Most people won't be consistent with anything that takes more than a minimal amount of effort, but a PB sandwich or salad is hard to slack on.

ninjaneer

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 09:33:12 PM »
I bring leftovers almost every day.  The dinners we make tend to be a meat (chicken thighs, breast, pork, etc.) with two sides (like rice and green beans, or some such), so when we put away the leftovers, I just throw all of that in one dish for me to take the next day.  If that doesn't happen, then I or DW just separate it out in the morning before I leave for work.

wealthviahealth

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2015, 05:45:54 AM »
I have a long standing tradition of cooking all of my meals up for the week on Sunday.
( Learned this one from the Body Builders)

There is no way I would be able to do this every day in small quantities as I also feel like " I don't have time"
but carving out 1-2 hours on Sunday is fairly simple and saves me a great deal of money and time as I can do other things over lunch break such as working out, reading, long walks, etc.. that I enjoy much more than going out to eat.

Louisville

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 05:58:13 AM »
I bring leftovers almost every day.  The dinners we make tend to be a meat (chicken thighs, breast, pork, etc.) with two sides (like rice and green beans, or some such), so when we put away the leftovers, I just throw all of that in one dish for me to take the next day.  If that doesn't happen, then I or DW just separate it out in the morning before I leave for work.
This is the real anwer. You eat dinner every night, right? Make your lunch for the next day at the same time. When dinner goes onto the plate, lunch goes into the container.

theadvicist

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2015, 06:22:17 AM »
When I have the oven on for a long time, I fill up the empty shelves with big potatoes to bake. Then I freeze them. I can grab one in the morning to take with me, but I'm really lucky and have a freezer at work, so I keep a stash there.

If I get it out in the morning it's usually thawed by lunch. If not, I defrost in the office microwave. For toppings I use whatever I have but tinned tuna is good as it is shelf stable. Just butter and cheese is my favourite though, and very easy.

A jacket potato to take away at the cafe in my office is 3.30. I can buy enough potatoes for a month for that! It is dependent on reheatability though.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2015, 06:31:42 AM »
We have a dinner schedule that we're not religious about, and usually it produces leftovers for lunch. But our main problem was not knowing what to eat for dinner and then eating something frozen, which we wanted to move away from.

Monday - chicken, Tuesday - beans, Wednesday - fish, Thursday - beef, like that. It really helps us make more from scratch, and as silly as it sounds it makes me more excited for meals.  Alright, it's bean day!

Noodle

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2015, 07:33:22 AM »
Plan A: Leftovers. I hate to cook on weeknights, so I make food designed to have leftovers on the weekend.
Plan B: Picnic food. If i have no leftovers available, I gather up fruit, hardboiled eggs, cheese, crackers, etc. for a random food lunch.
Plan C: Desk food. I keep a couple of frozen lunches in the office freezer, and things like soup, protein bars, etc. in my desk drawer.
Plan D: Go out. It very rarely gets as far as going out for lunch.

purplepants

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2015, 07:43:17 AM »
I cook a massive amount of freezer-friendly food on a Saturday afternoon.  I portion it out into lunch-sized containers and freeze it.

Packing my lunch means grabbing a container from the freezer, grabbing a few pieces of fruit, and heading out the door. 

Fodder

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2015, 08:19:22 AM »
My lunches are almost always leftovers from the previous night's dinner.  I ALWAYS pack my lunch (and DH's and kid lunches) the night before.  I don't have time for that in the morning.

That said, on nights I don't have leftovers (or I was lazy and didn't cook dinner), I have a few things I do to keep from buying lunch:
1) Cheap frozen meals - I buy them when they are 99c.  I supplement with veggies, fruit and nuts.
2) Frozen soup - I make a lot of soup and will freeze some in 500 mL mason jars - perfect size for lunch.
3) Salad - greens + veggies + grated cheese + chickpeas/tuna + nuts = filling, fast and tasty salad
4) Frozen burritos - I will roll a big batch and freeze them wrapped in waxed paper; another easy thing I can grab for lunches.

I do buy my lunch once in a while, but though a bit of planning, I'm able to keep it a rare treat.  It helps that I HAVE to pack lunch for my daughter every night, so I might as well pack all of them.  We don't have school cafeterias, so if I don't pack her lunch, she would starve!

FLBiker

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2015, 08:31:16 AM »
Another vote for leftovers.  I use a glass container (so I feel OK microwaving it), and I bring an apple, carrots and unsalted pretzels / rice cakes.  Takes almost no time -- I pack the leftovers the night before, grab and apple and carrots, and keep a big bag of pretzels in my office.  The pretzels / rice cakes scratch my itch to eat virtually everything on toast. :)

markbrynn

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2015, 08:49:13 AM »
I think the problem that most people have (those who have problems) with bringing lunches is mental:

1. It's too much work - No it's not. Sandwiches are easy (less than 5 minutes for special sandwiches, about 30 seconds for most basic ones). Leftovers is easy- just put into container. Salads are easy - less than 10 minutes even with lots of variety of ingredients, can be about 1-3 minutes for a basic salad.

2. They're not tasty - If you learn to make tasty food this isn't a problem.

3. No refrigerator at work - Most work environments don't get so hot that a sandwich or salad is going to be inedible by lunchtime. You really don't have to worry about dying of food poisoning for food out of the fridge for a few hours. Buy a small cooling box if this is that important to you.

4. No way to heat food at work - Bring food that you can enjoy without heating. If you really need it, buy a insulating container.

5. I like to eat out - Then eat out and stop complaining on a website where saving money by avoiding unnecessary costs is one of the main things.

6. It creates more dirty dishes that I have no time to clean - Same as 5.

Making/taking lunch is not difficult. Just make the effort.

cashstasherat23

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2015, 09:09:29 AM »
I make a bunch of different foods on Sunday and put them all in big containers. Usually one of white rice, one of shredded chicken, one ground beef, or whatever other meats I have on hand. When it's time for dinner, I take a serving of white, a serving of meat, some frozen veggies, throw it all in a pan to cook up. While that is cooking, I take another serving of the foods that I already have out on the counter, and put them all in a tupperware for lunch the next day. Done-lunch is packed before my dinner is even warmed up.

Makes it easy to mix and match, and I just put whatever sauce I am craving on top of it. I can have Asian , bbq, spicy thai, italian-anything I want, all in less than 5 minutes.

MLKnits

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2015, 09:21:59 AM »
Honestly, I just make five (actually, I usually make six to have a buffer/easy dinner if I'm lazy/etc) of the same thing on Sunday and bring them to work on Monday. If you pick something you like, who needs day-to-day variety? I can have that at breakfast and dinner, if I want.

Most typically I bring sandwiches: avocado and deli meat open-face, or just PB&J. Sometimes I do leftovers if I cooked on the weekend (rice and beans, stew, yada yada).

Then I throw a couple of oranges in my bag each morning (or apples, or whatever's cheap and in season), keep a Nalgene at my desk, and ta-da: set for the day.

MsPeacock

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2015, 09:42:52 AM »
I bring leftovers most of the time. Dinner goes on the plate, leftovers go immediately into appropriately sized containers. In the morning I grab one, an apple, a soda - toss them all in my bag.  Other options: sandwich of whatever is on hand (cheese, pbj, ham, etc.), ramen + bag of frozen spinach + an egg + siracha. Back-ups: cup-o-noodles, frozen dinners (still way cheaper than buying lunch), prepackaged salad w/ dressing (also cheaper than eating out), canned soup or chili.

I used to buy lunch when I worked in a different building - coworkers tended to go out to eat, and the dining facility was located near-by. My worksite moved several years ago and now it is 15+ minute walk to the dining facility - so I never buy lunch (aside from the obvious budget considerations in not buying it).

4alpacas

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2015, 10:16:53 AM »
I have a long standing tradition of cooking all of my meals up for the week on Sunday.
+1

I bulk cook on the weekends.  I freeze single serving portions, so I don't have to eat the same thing for an entire week.  Today I packed butter chicken with rice that I cooked in January.  I do the same thing for dinners.

In order to squeeze in more vegetables, I have a bag of mixed greens that I keep at the office (bring in a bag on Mondays).  I also have a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge.  For snacks, I keep fruit around my office.  I also keep nuts, a can of soup (for the days I forget to pack lunch), dark chocolate, and tea in my office closet. 

jopiquant

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2015, 10:33:56 AM »
Hey there - good on you for wanting to get this in gear. You might want to check out the lunch forum at http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/what-did-you-pack-for-lunch-today/

It depends a lot on your calorie needs and your desire for variety. The two easiest things are making everything up on Sunday or saving nightly leftovers. In the winter, I usually do soup on Sunday, into mason jars for the week, no freezing necessary. In the mornings I'll sometimes throw tablespoon of yogurt or cream cheese on top before I go. In the summer, I'll make a big bowl shredded carrots, beets and zucchini and divvy up, adding a little can of tuna or a hard boiled egg at lunch time.

Cwadda

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2015, 10:52:40 AM »
You can go about making lunches just as much of a habit as going out. I bought a lunchbox from Goodwill for $2. Every day I got home from work I would prepare lunch immediately and put it in the fridge for the next day.

Shopping-wise, cold cuts and PB&J are the base sandwich ingredients. Go shopping every other week. I buy boxes of granola bars, crackers, snacks, etc. and dump them all into a large cardboard box. This includes buying 1 large bag of pretzels and having them pre-poured into individual snack bags. This way when you go to make a lunch you make a sandwich and then you go straight to the box to select  the already prepared items you want for that day. You can also reuse all of the sandwich bags.

You can make lunches in 3-4 minutes each day. After about a month it becomes a habit.


Another way to psych yourself into bringing your own lunch is by doing out the math.

Weekly lunch expenses (5 days): This gives a cost estimate of the week (assuming you're paying premiums b/c nothing is on sale)
1/2 lb ham $4.00
1/2 lb cheese $3.50
Loaf of bread $2.50
Box of granola bars $2.50
Bunch of bananas $1.00
Yogurts $2.50
Refillable bottle of water $0
Total: $16/week or $64/month

Going out weekly expenses:
Lunch + transportation = ~$9/day
Total: $45/week or $180/month

The difference of $116 per month is around $1400 per year. Over 10 years at a 7% interest rate, that's $19,460 closer to retirement.
http://www.investor.gov/tools/calculators/compound-interest-calculator

« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 11:04:26 AM by Cwadda »

mm1970

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2015, 11:05:58 AM »
Depends.

These days, I just eat salad every day.  So I wash a bunch of greens and veggies on the weekend, make up a batch of vinaigrette, and hard boil a bunch of eggs.  Each night, I take 5 minutes to assemble and bring my nuts/seeds on the side.

Prior to "these days", when I wasn't trying to lose weight (aka, when I wasn't eating salad), I cooked up a big batch of something on Sunday (10 servings) for spouse and me to eat at lunch.  10 burritos, a pot of spaghetti, a bunch of broccoli and chicken and rice, whatever.  It changed week to week.

mskyle

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2015, 11:19:25 AM »
I don't pack a lunch anymore because lunch is provided at my work, but when I did I would usually do the same or pretty much the same thing every day of the week. It was just so easy to not have to think about it. I had PB&J, baby carrots, and yogurt every day for MONTHS. I've also done salad (sometimes mixing it up a bit - two-three days of "greek salad" with chickpeas, greek dressing, and pita chips, two-three days of "taco salad" with salsa and yogurt, black beans, and tortilla chips).

Ditchmonkey

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2015, 01:20:22 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! I do cook extra at least once a week, but since we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, its tough to cook a batch of calorie-dense food that is big enough to be used for more than 2 or 3 meals. I must admit that I just can't get myself to eat PB&J - I'm just not a fan and I don't like to eat sugar in a meal like that. However, I like the sandwich idea in general I think I'll start with that!

ZiziPB

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #26 on: March 10, 2015, 01:24:13 PM »
If you don't want sugar (the J), then how about a PB&B (Banana)? 

Ditchmonkey

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #27 on: March 10, 2015, 01:25:46 PM »
If you don't want sugar (the J), then how about a PB&B (Banana)?

Great idea!

NotJen

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #28 on: March 10, 2015, 01:33:55 PM »
The trick is finding what you enjoy eating on a daily basis, which will take some planning. However, once you get in a routine, you don't have to plan so much. I don't have to think any more - just pick up my normal quantity of salad ingredients at the store, and throw them together.

This is one of my standbys, although I usually eat it for a quick dinner instead of lunch.  I use sweet potatoes instead of squash, and I've been using collard greens instead of tortillas.  I get 8 burritos out of it:
http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/24/black-bean-and-butternut-squash-burritos/

I also really like these pocket sandwiches (again, makes 8):
http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spiced-lentil-sweet-potato-and-kale-whole-wheat-pockets-181100

Fodder

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #29 on: March 10, 2015, 02:03:50 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! I do cook extra at least once a week, but since we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, its tough to cook a batch of calorie-dense food that is big enough to be used for more than 2 or 3 meals. I must admit that I just can't get myself to eat PB&J - I'm just not a fan and I don't like to eat sugar in a meal like that. However, I like the sandwich idea in general I think I'll start with that!

I saw a previous poster already quoted the Oh She Glows site, but you should 100% check it out.  Her recipes are great.

You could also make frozen burritos - sweet potato/black bean is one of my favourite combinations.

Taco/enchilada skillets/casseroles are awesome.  And any sort of big pasta dish --> lentils make a mean bolognese (and taco filling, for that matter) will keep well and make a large batch.

You don't really need to cook extra - just cook in slightly larger quantities.  Like if you make a burrito bowl dish for dinner, instead of making enough for 2 people, make enough for 4, and then you can pack up your lunches for the next day.  You don't have to do huge batches - just a little bit bigger.  :)

Oh She Glows also has a recipe for chickpea salad (like a vegan alternative to tuna/egg salad) and it's super tasty too.

I have a couple of Pinterest boards that might give you some ideas:
Pasta board (not all vegetarian, but a lot of veg options): https://www.pinterest.com/ottawal/food-pasta-and-noodles/
Vegetarian/Vegan Entree Board: https://www.pinterest.com/ottawal/food-veganvegetarian-entree/


11ducks

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #30 on: March 11, 2015, 03:32:31 AM »
I keep a loaf of bread in the work freezer, a some avo, cheese and vegemite in the fridge, and a few cans of soup and packs of muesli bars and microwave pasta/rice at my desk. Not gourmet but works for the days I forget lunch!

11ducks

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #31 on: March 11, 2015, 03:33:12 AM »
And leave your money/cards at home-
Means you have to eat what's there!

lil_miss_frugal

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Re: Kicking the lunch habit - food calendar?
« Reply #32 on: March 11, 2015, 03:15:16 PM »
I like leftovers for lunch, but I only really cook dinner once or twice a week so if I don't have leftovers I usually buy frozen meals from the grocery store and I'll have that for lunch. If you're not into frozen meals, how about planning a trip to the grocery store and buy simple things that are easy to cook/prepare that will last the entire week.

Some quick and easy meals I like to prepare are basmati rice with lean ground beef, mix it together and put some sriracha on it! (yum).
Spaghetti is super easy to make.
Chicken breasts (cooked anyway you want it) I prefer mine cut up and sauteed with seasoning salt thrown on top... with either rice of steamed veggies.

When I really want to be fancy I meal prep, which is cooking a lot of food at once and dividing it up into containers that will last the entire week. This is usually done on Sundays. That way all you have to do is grab a container in the morning and be on your way!