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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: brand new stash on May 29, 2013, 09:08:18 AM

Title: Packed lunches
Post by: brand new stash on May 29, 2013, 09:08:18 AM
I'm a new convert to the mustachian lifestyle, but I know myself well enough to know that I can't make a bunch of changes all at once and stick with it.  So I made a long list of changes, and I've been implementing a new change every two weeks.  First was stop going out for dinner or ordering take out.  Second was apply for a job once a day that is closer to my house.  Third was give up my huge diet coke addition that was a big drain on my grocery budget.  Next Monday is the fourth change: start bring packed lunches instead of eating lunch out.   I hate getting in a rut on meals, so I need a variety of ideas for packed lunches that are cheap and easy.   I have a fridge and microwave at work, so it can be things that require reheating, but I need a bunch of ideas so that I don't get into a turkey sandwich rut and burn out.

So Mustachians:  tell me your favorite packed lunches.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: bevathome on May 29, 2013, 09:11:53 AM
Leftovers are my favorite!  Very little prep is required, unless you're making a salad with them.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: bkru21 on May 29, 2013, 09:14:29 AM
Usually left-overs from last night's dinner. If there isn't enough, I usually pack a salad (pre-mix greens ftw!) and throw some chicken in there. I am trying out Paleo, so no refined carbs for me (breads, pastas, granola, oats, etc.). Add a peice of fruit, and it's enough to hold me over. ONLY DRINK WATER! I cannot stress this enough, much cheaper and healthier for you.

I usually have a cheat day where I go out to lunch but still pick something paleo.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: totoro on May 29, 2013, 09:34:00 AM
Yep, leftovers.  Just make extra at dinner and it is almost no extra effort to make or to pack the next day.  With a microwave and a fridge you are set.

We don't make green salads but we make a lot of cooked vegetables like steamed broccoli and roasted beets and squash, and pasta salads and greek salads - all of these are very good the next day.   

We sometimes do big batch cooking too and freeze individual servings of soup/chili/curry etc.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: Spork on May 29, 2013, 09:39:56 AM
Broken record:  Leftovers from last night.

Like bkru21: Friday is a cheat.  I go out to lunch with the wife.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: hybrid on May 29, 2013, 10:12:08 AM
I like cooking something on a Sunday or weeknight and then having that for lunch for a few days.  For example, I enjoy Indian food and can get three meals from a simple recipe I make.  Reheat at work.  Three weeks ago I cut out lunches out four days out of five just like Spork.  Makes a big difference over time.

Also, I keep several cans of soup and/or chili at work so I don't get caught flat-footed.  There is always something in the office to eat.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: MountainFlower on May 29, 2013, 10:44:41 AM
I like to batch cook lots of meat in my crockpot and freeze in individual servings for lunch.  For example, taco meat or burrito chicken meat.  Keeping soup at the office is a good idea.  I also like the lentil meals they have at costco.  They don't require refrigeration. 
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: AmyGarfield on May 29, 2013, 10:52:44 AM
Second the leftovers. Also, variety in the bread is always nice. Pita one day, whole wheat another, etc.

And salads. You can make quick salads when really rushed by mixing a can of tuna with olive oil, cracked pepper, and lightly steamed/microwaved green beans or other frozen veggies. Have pita or bread on the side to round it out.

My old favorite is PBJ and when I was working, I often kept supplies for it at work.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: Starstuff on May 29, 2013, 11:26:13 AM
I hate cooking, so leftovers and a Sunday cook were out for me. (Dinner is usually something pieced together... veggies and cheese or something.) And salads make me sick... long story. So I decided to go with the work food 'stache. I hunted the grocery store for healthy, easy lunches that I could throw together at work. Ended up with some canned soups, a loaf of bread (Health Nut is my favorite!), tuna, frozen turkey burgers, and some fruit bars. It's not the cheapest, but I consider it a great stepping stone from eating out frequently to eating in. It's saved me something like $40 in 7 days. I also grabbed some microwave breakfast options for days when I oversleep, so I'm not tempted to stop somewhere for breakfast. Best part: I can now use the time I used to spend getting food taking a quick walk around the block.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: cerberusss on May 29, 2013, 11:40:05 AM
I usually make five sandwiches, three with cold meat and two cheese sandwiches. Two pieces of fruit in the bag and I'll get through the day.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: bogart on May 29, 2013, 11:54:10 AM
I'm a fan of a crudite approach to lunch, so a few chunks of good cheeses, some smoked fish or maybe prosciutto or a hard-boiled egg, and some easy fruits or veggies plus some crackers or decent bread and maybe some olives or pickles.

Bagels + cream cheese (my office does also have a toaster in its kitchen equipment, which helps, but isn't essential).  Add smoked salmon or use flavored cream cheeses if you want.

More a fan in winter for this, but a baking potato + cream cheese keeps a good while in the fridge, for an emergency meal. 

Yogurt + a fruit.

Most of the above goes straight from the grocery store to my work fridge to be consumed, though I'll bring in roasted veggies (and am also a fan of leftovers) from home, and do prepare the hard-boiled eggs at home.

I find that both cooked white or brown rice and cooked chicken freeze well in small portions and then can be thawed and warmed in the microwave (also cooked shrimp, which can be bought frozen).  So those are options to keep on hand and combine in various ways with the above or each other.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: icefr on May 29, 2013, 12:02:07 PM
I keep cheese, ham, and bread at work and make myself a sandwich when I'm hungry. I also keep yogurts at work. A muffin or slice of say banana bread is good for the other snack.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: smalllife on May 29, 2013, 12:18:47 PM
I am still growing my cooking skills and Sunday night is one where I don't have a lot of motivation, so I go the easy route.  Those frozen skillet meals for two can be turned into three meals by making rice on the side (the Asian ones in particular).  I take two Pyrex dishes to work on Monday - one for rice and one for the meat/veggies.  You could make your own version of this, but for a transitional Mustachian move just throwing a premade thing on the stove is wonderful.   The fourth day I either do leftovers or I have a stock of frozen meals to bring (lunch is provided once a week).   I went the home-made stir fry route for a while but needed some variety. 

In the winter I make a lot of baked pastas, etc and bring the leftovers (read: make a meal for 4 and I have three left over because I'm single).
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: mpbaker22 on May 29, 2013, 12:24:01 PM
Agree with leftovers.  The key is to plan to make leftovers, so you make last night's dinner bigger.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: StarryC on May 29, 2013, 01:06:48 PM
I have at different times done many things listed:

Cook one big batch/make 5 meals on Sunday- I've done "Cafe Yum" bowls with brown rice, black or red beans, cheese, and salsa.  Then the "cafe yum" tofu/almond/tangy sauce and some sour cream.  I made the rice, packed them up, and brought the sour cream to work.  I liked it for about 4 months, then got bored.  I also did Tuna Nicoise sandwiches this way (making a second batch on Tuesday night.  get/make some crusty bread, put tuna, green peppers, olives, boiled eggs, tomatoes, oil and vinegar on the sandwich, wrap it up tight, and eat the marinated sandwich.  This lasted about 3 months.  Pasta with tuna, pesto sauce, and peas or whatever vegetable lasted about 2 months.  I've also sometimes done a hearty soup or chilli with crackers, but that's a one week at a time deal.

Dinner Leftovers- This is what I'm doing now.  I got a free trial of Mealime and it sends recipes for 1 person for dinner and luch for the week along with the shopping list.  I'm liking it.  If you are already cooking 4+ nights a week it is no extra effort. I'm not much of a cook, but I'm really learning with this, though the food isn't super cheap. 

Modular snacks - Hummus, yogurt, celery, baby carrots, an apple, a string cheese stick, sliced cheddar, crackers, some pasta, some lunch meat, pepperoni, boiled eggs, leftover grilled chicken.  Buy a combination each week and leave at work.  I particularly like Pepperoni, String (mozzerella) cheese, a tomato and some crackers for a pizza like flavor.  THis doesn't get boring, but it doesn't feel like a "meal" sometimes. 
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: anastrophe on May 29, 2013, 01:09:44 PM
I like salad. On Sunday, I cut up a huge pile of vegetables and dish it into three airtight containers. That's Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday's lunches (along with a side of leftovers, which get packed up right after dinner). On Wednesday, I do it again for Thursday and Friday.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: frugalcalan on May 29, 2013, 02:26:55 PM
These aren't the cheapest option (pb&j with a banana would definitely be cheaper), but they are delicious, healthy, and make me happy.

Here are some of my badass lunches: (  Nom nom nom.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: footenote on May 29, 2013, 03:11:38 PM
Hey brandnew - just wanted to compliment you on the brilliance of changing one thing every few weeks. I predict with thoughtful self-behavior-mod like that, you're going to have a supersize stache in no time.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: oldtoyota on May 29, 2013, 03:22:37 PM
Yay for you on the changes.

In addition to eating dinner leftovers, I keep oatmeal packets, nuts, apples at work for emergencies or days when I am extra hungry.

I had not thought about keeping cans of chili at my desk. I may start doing that too.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: kh on May 29, 2013, 03:24:48 PM
I am a lazy person.  I know myself, and I know that I run late in the mornings.  Even when I remember to pack delicious leftovers the night before, I often forget them in the fridge at home.  This is why there is always a loaf of bread and either peanut butter or hummus in my fridge at work.  So even when I've dicked up my grand plans of bringing lunch, I still have food, and don't go out to eat out of desperation.

Also, my office kitchen always keeps honey around for tea.  I love PB&H sandwiches, even though they make me feel like I'm 9 years old.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: pbkmaine on May 29, 2013, 03:57:35 PM
Soup: make huge batch of soup when ingredients are on sale. Freeze in individual containers. These also keep the rest of my lunch cold. Salad: put just greens into a container. Keep oil and vinegar in desk at work. Put soggy ingredients like cheese and olives into separate container. Breakfast oatmeal: put container with oatmeal and water in fridge overnight to soak. Take to work and nuke. Jar of peanut butter and box of crackers in desk for emergencies. Bulk purchased apples and oranges for snacks.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: ep114 on May 30, 2013, 02:07:25 AM
The freezer is your friend! You can make a big batch of something you like like chili, a filling soup, stew, you get the idea, and then freeze it in single serving containers. You can also freeze ingredients to make pulling together your lunches mid week easier. I freeze cleaned and sliced veggies for stir-fries or left over cooked veggies (my favorites are roasted peppers, mushrooms and onions and steamed squash)  I also freeze leftover roast chicken and make that into spicy chicken salad.  Lately I've been really into lentil or quinoa salads. They can be super flexible. I usually add little bits of things hanging around in the fridge like roasted veggies, arugula or spinach, nuts, cheese, etc then just mix with some oil and vinegar.    Lunches don;t have to be sandwiches, it can be anything you'd eat for dinner or breakfast too.  Bring some fruit too! I find it easier to eat healthy when I bring those things with me all the time. Especially if I'm busy at work, I just eat what's in the lunch bag and don't have to make any decisions. 

Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: aj_yooper on May 30, 2013, 03:11:11 AM
For years, I brought a cooler to work.  Water bottle, fruit, yogurt, salad, carrots, sandwich, always a lot of crunchy stuff.  No sweets.  I never got bored with it as I grazed during the day.  Never went out for lunch at work; people didn't even ask after a while, just smiled.  Didn't drink coffee or consume any machine beverages, but brewed some tea.  You'll save a ton of calories and eat way better than going out.  I had my own office so this worked for me; I stayed out of the lunch room as people would bring in desserts or have candy from their kid's fundraisers for sale.  Just too easy to be bad there.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: Theadyn on May 30, 2013, 08:35:24 AM
Love cooking up bigger meals on a weekend then freezing in portions.  Or during the week I'll cook enough for 4 or so, eat that night, then save the rest in fridge or freezer. 

Right now in the freezer portioned up is:   pepper steak with rice, enchilada casserole with Spanish rice, serving size meatloafs and Salisbury steaks, red beans and rice, taco soup, roast with veggies, pepperoni chicken, hamburger stew, pinto beans, pork tenderloin, and chicken and rice casserole.  Grab some fresh veggies, bread, side of beans, and fruit if some are lacking and you're set. 

Not only is it great for lunches, but during the week if tired can just grab something from the freezer without the fuss, and won't be as tempted to eat out.

Even go so far as to cook up batches of bacon or sausage (I know, bah!!  I like meat in the morning to keep me going) and put them in the freezer.  Can scramble some eggs, reheat some frozen bacon and have toast ready in 2 mintutes.  Sure helps with staying away from the hospital cafeteria or getting drive-thru.   

Fan of cans of soups at the ready.  Not the most healthiest, but neither is eating out, not to mention it's cheaper.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: brand new stash on May 30, 2013, 09:23:16 AM
Thank you all for your suggestions.  Reading these have given me a lot of ideas and things to try. 
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: jrhampt on May 30, 2013, 02:20:52 PM
I like to keep a stash of nuts, trail mix, granola bars, peanut butter crackers and other nonperishables in my desk.  I supplement by bringing apple sauce, yogurt, cheese, fruit, and sometimes leftovers from home.  We don't have a fridge at work, but we do have a microwave. 
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: WhatMomWears on May 30, 2013, 04:45:57 PM
Another one for leftovers. Burritos are good too or quesadillas. Batches of chili frozen into individual portions (serve with rice or blue corn chips, cheese, etc). Bring fruit for a snack. Stew over mashed potatoes. There's loads of things you can do once you start thinking outside the 'sandwich' box.
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: Zikoris on May 30, 2013, 09:16:30 PM
My favourite work lunches are curried chickpea burritos with homemade flour tortilla wraps. Regular burritos are good too. Fried asian noodle dishes seem to heat up really well also. And I love love love sandwiches.

Usually for work food I bring a morning snack of either homemade bread or whatever thing I recently baked(cookies, carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, could be anything), and a lunch of either a sandwich or leftovers, and I eat raw fruit and veg at work in the afternoon(they provide it).

Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: El Gringo on May 30, 2013, 10:00:41 PM
Every day I eat a spinach and kale salad with olive oil, frozen grapes, and almonds.  I eat greek yogurt and 1-2 pieces of fruit. It's super easy, super healthy, and super cheap. And I like it, too!
Title: Re: Packed lunches
Post by: brand new stash on June 12, 2013, 07:01:46 AM
I wanted to follow up and say thank you for all your ideas and suggestions. 

Last Monday was the beginning of bringing my lunch as a new habit.

At the grocery store, I found these  frozen pot pies that are 10 for $10.  I bought them, and stocked them in the work freezer as my backup plan.  Then I've been trying to bring leftovers from the night before for lunch, and have done that most days, but one day I didn't have any leftovers, and one day I forgot the leftovers at home...on both those days I ate the frozen pot pie for lunch.  So far so good...I haven't gone out to lunch at all.  I was spending an average of $7 a day on lunches, and now I'm spending about $1 a day.  $6 each work day in savings!!!