Buying lunch at your favorite bistro, deli or diner can be rather expensive. A tab of $10 per day isn’t unusual, totaling more than $200 per month for most. Instead, save most of that and bring your lunch. Fortunately, you can break out of the PB&J or lunch meat syndrome easily and relieve that tedium with tasty foods that satisfy the palate and pad the budget.
Single-serving soups are inexpensive and quite good. If the can uses a pull tab to open, simply pack the can, a covered heating dish that can double as your bowl, some crackers and a spoon. Enjoy a hot, nutritious meal in minutes.
If you don’t have access to a microwave to heat the soup at lunch, heat it at home. Preheat a good thermos with boiling water. When the soup is good and hot, remove the water and pour in the soup and seal tightly, keeping as much of the heat inside as possible. Most thermoses can keep the soup decently warm for hours.
Garden salads, fruit salads and pasta salads are three top salad choices for a ‘DIY lunch.’ Keep any salad dressing in a separate container, though, and pour only when ready to eat lunch.
Add some cheese, a few strips of broiled or baked chicken or ham, perhaps a hard boiled egg, and you have a fresh, tasty salad that meets both nutrition and flavor cravings. Toss in toasted rye tips or a few inches of Italian bread for a complimentary taste.
If you have no refrigerator available to keep your salad cold, there’s still hope. Use the reusable cooler packs. Freeze overnight and place one in a resealable plastic bag. Place a small towel or a pot holder in the bottom of your lunch bag, place the frozen ice pack on it, then pack your salad on top of it. Add your side items around it, and the pack should keep your fruit, garden or pasta salad cool until you sit down for your inexpensive meal.
Pasta salads are usually eaten cold and are included above. However, if you want a hot meal, preparation is the name of the game.
Prepare your pasta dish as you normally would. If you plan to use left-overs as lunch items, simply put a bit of pasta in the bottom of your sealable container and pour the sauce on top of it, seal the container and put in your refrigerator until you’re ready to pack your lunch. Don’t forget, though, to pack the mozzarella or Parmesan cheese in a small baggy or small container. Add a side of olives, some bread sticks or toasted crusts, and perhaps a small side salad, and you have a pasta feast ready after the dish is heated.
Adding the sauce to the pasta allows the food to be frozen for longer storage. Make a batch especially for lunches, and the meal is ready for packing whenever you want it or are running late. Just wrap the frozen container in a small towel to absorb melting frost, toss your additional items in the bag, and you and your lunch are ready to go.
Lest we forget, sandwiches are the ‘tried and true,’ lunch bag staple from back in the day. Sandwiches can be of any bread, have almost any filling and toppings and take only a few moments to prepare.
Meatloaf, roast beef, ham, chicken, turkey and more have graced bread slices since long past. Tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, mayonnaise and salad dressings lead the ‘toppings’ list, but eggs, cheese, pickles, olives, sprouts, peppers—even chips have found their way onto people’s favorites list.
Use your imagination. Almost any edible food item can qualify as a sandwich between two—or more—slices of your favorite bread—including lunch meat and peanut butter and jelly!
written by: JC Ryan
Image courtesy of noomhh / FreeDigitalPhotos.net