I’ve been having this problem lately. You see… I really like to bring my own lunch to work. But you know how it is. I’m always rushing around first thing in the morning with barely a sip of tea in me. And I work in a kitchen so I’m not necessarily stoked on coming home to whip up and pre pack something clever for the next day. I’ve got a little roster of foods that I tend to take with me, but it seems like I could use a never-ending list of ideas!
And I mean sure, I don’t pack a lunch all the time. But I really prefer it. I feel more like myself when I eat my own food. I feel more confident in that I won’t have to run around looking for something palatable during my ever-so-short lunch break. I can just kick back for a minute and enjoy food that I made myself with love. Not to mention saving my cash for something more exciting than a slice of pizza.
What do you think, sis?
Well, I have some thoughts about this! I also prefer to pack my lunch. Many of the neighborhoods that I teach in do not have any great lunch options (especially gluten-free ones) so I pack my lunch almost every day! Okay, I did have a bit of an addiction to getting huevos rancheros from the cafe near my favourite school last year. But I have that under control now. It is just too expensive to eat out every day!
You and I cook very differently. You are a vegetarian and I am an omnivorous non gluten eater. You are an improviser and experimenter where as I follow and then tweak recipes and record all of my measurements. You take care of your self by eating whole grains and vegetables and I take care of myself by eating foods that I find comforting, which usually involves adding some butter or duck fat. BUT we do have these two things in common….We eat seasonally and we are frugal.
Here are a few general tips….
- I like to cook a lot of food on my day off. I always cook at least one or two things that can keep all week and be packed for lunch. It is time well spent on future happiness!
- I find that it is helpful to have a lunch bag that you like. This may sound silly but, I feel like enough of a bag lady carrying art supplies around the city. Acquiring a good-looking lunch bag with a zipper on top and a little bit of heat insulation has really helped. My mother sends me these awesome insulated lunch bags that they sell for just a few bucks at the grocery stores near her house in Hawaii.
- I also like to have containers with compartments. I pack a lot of salads, and most salad greens wilt if they sit around with their toppings for a few hours. A Tupperware with two compartments will do just fine, but I really love my tiffin. I put salad topping in the one with three compartments, greens in the middle and a container of dressing, a towel and a fork in the bottom! Then I stack it all up. I got this one from mod cloth and its all cool and Jetsons looking, but a classic metal tiffin from one of the Indian stores near your house might be a good investment.
- Get yourself a little, tightly sealing jar for salad dressing.
- In the winter I take mason jars of soup to work in addition to salad. In general, I do not use microwaves but a nice warm jar of soup for lunch really takes the edge off on the days that I have a long cold commute. For a fairly comprehensive list of soups click here.
- Most food really does not need to be refrigerated if you are going to eat it within 5 hours. Us modern folks tend to be needlessly obsessive about refrigeration. Actually Silvi, your mother taught me that when I used to come and visit her and our dad when I was a teenager. She said that when she lived in Italy, people didn’t refrigerate their food so much….so you probably already know that!
- Get some cheap silverware that you don’t mind loosing. Plastic forks are depressing.
Here is a list of recipes from our blog that make fabulous packed lunches, organized by season! All of these recipes are fine without refrigeration or reheating, in my opinion.
- Classic Quiche with a little, simple green salad
- Yummy Quiche with Baked Potato Crust
- Chicken Empanandas with a little, simple green salad
- Coronation Chicken Salad with a green salad
- Jain Coriander-Scented Millet and Mung Bean Pilaf with Home-made Ghee
- Cauliflower Fried with Aromatic Spices and Moroccan Carrot Salad
- Roasted Cauliflower with Gremolata Breadcrumbs with a green salad, capers and a lemony dressing
- Turkey or Chicken Keema with roasted yams or squash and Simple Swiss Chard
- Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart (Gluten-Free)
- Fresh Winter Potato Salad
- Asian Coleslaw
- Spinach and Citrus Salad with Balsamic Honey Vinaigrette
- Spicy Lemon Date Spread on a sandwich with brie and arugula
- Swiss Chard and Feta Phylo Triangles
- Cheerful and Simple Kumquat Salad
- Christmas Salad with Figs Marinated in Spiced Wine, Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts
- Green Salads with Roasted Beets
- Indian Spiced Cabbage with Fennel and Sesame Seeds with baked yams or squash
- Kale Salad with Roasted Squash, Almonds and Sharp Cheese
- Quinoa-Amaranth Sushi
- Salad Rolls
- Cobb Salad
- Green Salad with Roasted figs and Asparagus
- Ride Your Bike To Coney Island Salad
- Ieva’s Greek Salad
- Smoked Salmon Hash with Fresh Herbs
- Roasted Potato Salad with Garlic and Rosemary
- Savory Sweet Corn Pudding and Mona’s Bean Salad
- Peach and Corn Salsa with corn chips
- My Mother’s Amazing Crab Dip with celery sticks and/or Roasted Asparagus
- Baked Samosas with Rima’s Indian Green Beans and/or Cauliflower Fried with Aromatic Spices
- Green Salad with Smoked Trout, Apples, Pecans and Manchego (pack a knife to cut the apple!)
- Spinach Salad with Fuyu Persimmons, Green Beans, Toasted Almonds and Spiced Vinaigrette
- Fennel, Apple and Red Cabbage Slaw with Savory Sweet Corn Pudding
- Quinoa, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad
- Hashed Chicken or Turkey with Cranberries and Sage
- Alex’s Brussel Sprouts with roasted squash or yams
- Braised Red Cabbage with Apples with roasted squash or yams
- Swiss Chard Stem Gratin
- Cauliflower Kofta in Creamy Tomato Gravy
- Savoury Indian Dumping Cake in Tangy Tomato Sauce
10 Comments Add yours
I love this post. And I love both of these sisters very much! xo
This is a question I have been obsessed with, both for myself and, more recently, for my kindergartener (who refuses to eat school lunch – and who can blame her, really?!) When Eliza started school, I had a feverish (literally) obsession with making bento box lunches for her. (See my blog post about it here: http://endyfamily.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-am-proud-of-this.html). That was pretty successful for a few weeks, then Eliza tired of her lunch options (which she came up with) and I tired of getting creative, only to find my carrot-sticks-and-dip returned at the end of the day, untouched. (Interesting cultural tidbit: remember those cheese-and-cracker packs with the little red stick for spreading the “cheese”? Well, they make similarly packaged organic carrot sticks-and-ranch-dressing and I thought that was clever, so I packed it in Eliza’s lunch one day. She came home and said she did not want to eat it BECAUSE it resembled the cheese-and-crackers snack that another child had. A poor kid. Yep, really. So I repacked the carrots in her fancy bento lunchbox…and she still didn’t eat them.)
Anyway, getting to the point, related to Erin’s comment about the lunch containers: I finally invested in a Laptop Lunches bento-style lunch box for Eliza. It was expensive. But Eliza’s teacher told me a few weeks ago that it still “brings her great pleasure” (even if half her lunch comes back uneaten. Different problem.) I use a ho-hum BUILT lunch bag. I covet a tiffin. I meant to ask for one for my birthday. (Remember when we used to pack our lunches in plastic ziplock containers and then put them in the microwave?? Eek.) I bring leftover whatever-we-had-for-dinner or sometimes a hummus and cheese sandwich. I can’t think of what else I do when whatever-we-had-for-dinner is quesadillas or cereal. I will start consulting this list!
I remember the bento box genius! You are one seriously clever girl.
I have to admit that I still use tupperware…although I do not put them it in microwaves anymore. I also still use yogurt containers (which STILL cannot be recycled in NYC) to freeze soup stock and store gluten-free flours. I am sure that I am gradually poisoning myself…but what can I say…except, they are free.
I am obsessed with this post. Food is so expensive and fatty where i work, and I am trying to health myself up as i batten down the hatches and dissertate (yes that is a word).
I’ll be coming back to this again and again as I stock up my inherited classic thermos containers and bento boxes (and glass jars and yogurt containers) in my adorbs lunch bag.
Also, saw this recipe and though of Erin!
I know that you can rock a fashionable packed lunch…in fact I kinda want a photo…maybe the next time I post about packed lunches I can include photos of my adorable, thrifty friends….hmmm.
The next time I go home to Hawaii I am going to get myself a good Bento Box. All things Japanese are available for a better price and with more choices in Hawaii. A good old fashioned thermos would be the bomb too…
Oh my word…that shortbread recipe is EVERYTHING. I am so in love with cardamom.
Also that blog is fantastic! Its like you smooshed Silvi (vegetarian gardener) and me (gluten free and Indian food obsessed) together and made us a mom. I love the photos of her kids’ chubby hands holding the cookies! So sweet! I will subscribe!