A big part of saving time and money goes into planning your meals. The world likes to show us the convenience of grabbing on the go, but look what that has done to our waistlines and our wallets! Yikes! The best plan is to plan, prepare and work in your meals during a less busy time of the week.
I’ve said before that I like to do my meal prep on Sunday afternoons. I do work outside of the home during the week so I understand when there is the argument of time. However, packing lunches does not need to be a time hog.
The benefits of packing lunches greatly outweighs the time argument. Whether you are packing for yourself, your spouse and/or your children, the benefits are all the same.
- You control the portions. Everything from fast food to sit down is all greatly increased in the area of portions.
- You control the contents. When you make, pack and measure, you know exactly what is going into your body. If you or a family member have allergies, you no longer have to worry about ingesting something bad for them.
- The cost is greatly less. The cost of putting together a lunch is greatly less then buying on the go. Journal it and you will see it for yourself.
- Less waste. This is a huge item, you aren’t added to the garbage issue and if you pack wisely, you will cut down on your own disposables!
What you will need:
- A Lunch Box. I know the picture shows a brown paper bag. But I really do not advise using one for many reasons. You will want a stable lunch bag/box that can hold some time of cooling pack, easy to carry or put into a backpack (good idea for kids and adults alike), but big enough to carry what you need for the day.
- A Reusable Cooling Pack. These are very inexpensive and can be used over and over again. I have one that is very thin and does a great job of cooling my lunch bag very well. Just put it in the freezer every day when you get home and it will be ready for the next day!
- Reusable item containers. You can pick these up at the dollar store. Make sure you get microwaveable safe ones if you are planning to need to reheat items. A Soup Thermos is also a great item to have so you don’t have to use a microwave! I am not in favor of using disposable wrappings and bags, trash is trash, whether it comes from home or from somewhere else.
- Reusable Coffee/drink mug. Avoid buying bottled water or coffee. Make and bring your own and refill for free during the day.
- Reusable utensils. Have a specific set for your lunch box(es). Again, avoid disposable.
But what do I pack?
This is where it gets fun. You are only limited by your imagination! For kid lunches those are just super fun! You can make your own “lunchables” of crackers, bread cut out using cookie cutters, meats, cheeses… but we will get to that. Here are some ideas, adults enjoy the fun stuff too, sometimes even a little more!
- Sandwiches do not need to be boring! Use a large shaped cookie cutter to cut bread, meat, cheese and stack together.
- Afraid your sandwich will get soggy? Pack the bread in one container and the items in another as and use a small condiment container for your ketchup, mayo or mustard.
- Subs. Hot and cold subs are so simple to prepare at home with what you have on hand when you plan ahead!
- Hot Dogs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hot dogs. My kids would love it when we would have “Hot Dog” week. I would grill up hot dogs ahead of time and each day they would get a different type. Monday, Pizza dog; Tuesday, Chicago Style Dog; Wednesday, Taco Dog (Chili dog with taco seasoning) and so on.
- Do not fear the dinner left overs! When I make casseroles, I will make enough to put aside for some lunches for myself. Especially in the winter to have a nice hot lunch.
- Soup and Salad. How often to you pay $12+ for soup and salad at a fast food place? So inexpensive and easy to do at home and pack! I will make a pot of soup during the week and set aside portions for my lunch (and even freeze some like chicken noodle). Salads, easy peasey. Toss in some mixed lettuce, tomato and cucumber and whatever else you like and use a condiment container to carry our dressing.
- Chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets are so easy to make at home. Do not buy the frozen ones. Pre-make a batch by taking chicken thighs and or breasts and cutting into bite sized cubes. sprinkle with fine bread crumbs if you like and cook in a skillet. They freeze up perfect and you have a much better nugget.
- Sweet Tooth. There is nothing like a sweet treat in the middle of the day. The best thing is to bake and portion out a cookie a day. Make a healthy sweet treat, or better yet, add in some fresh in season fruit! My children when they were young liked something called “dirt pudding” which was simply chocolate pudding with crushed a crumbled cookie on top and I would put in a gummy worm or a gummy flower in each little cup for them.
- Homemade Lunchables. These things are expensive in the store. Make your own. Using small cookie cutters, cut shapes out of cheeses and meats and add to a decorative container. Add in grapes, pretzel sticks and other finger foods as a side. Avoid the bad preservative packed snacks!
- Pizza. I’m not talking about left over take out. If you don’t make your own pizza and save some for lunch, make mini pizzas by using biscuit dough (I make my own), and putting on toppings and bake. You can store these for the week and even freeze them after baking for later.
- Burritos. My husband is responsible for getting me to love burritos for breakfast and lunch. The possibilities for fillings are endless. My favorite is a breakfast burrito with chorizo, eggs, potatoes and green chilies. I enjoy it for breakfast and lunch.
- Egg Bites. These are great for breakfast and for lunch! Here is how you make them. Breakfast Egg Bites
Here is a hint. If you see it “prepackaged” in the store with cute enticing packaging, you can make it at home cheaper, with less preservatives and much better for you! Another thing to remember that buying individually wrapped is much more expensive then buying a larger size and parsing out on your own. Apple slices are just as easy to slice yourself, and a boiled egg is just as easy to do yourself instead of buying it boiled, and honestly, probably safer.
With all the food health warnings coming out in regards to fast food chains, take the time and responsibility over your own food. Buy in season, enjoy variety and enjoy the health and saving benefits!
Until Next Time,
Mrs. Kay Lynn Rice