Brown Bagging It

Something that comes up a lot is packing a lunch for work.  Even the best local dives, while relatively inexpensive, still add up.  Consider that a quick takeout salad or sandwich lunch downtown runs about $10.  Five days a week and 4 weeks per month takes your lunch expense to $200 each month!  I don’t know about you, but I can certainly think of a few other things I could do with $200.

Of course, brown bag lunches often bring visions of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cold leftovers in Tupperware, or the ubiquitous cup of noodles.  It doesn’t have to be that way though.  Consider first what you like to eat and how that might be prepared in a to-go situation.  There are a variety of thermos type containers to consider, as well as thermal lunch bags that keep your hots hot and your colds cold.  One of my favorites is the Bento thermos .  imageIt’s a large-ish thermos with 3 smaller containers inside and it comes in a thermal tote bag.  There’s a larger version as well for those who have a bigger appetite than I do.  And a bonus, my thin coffee thermos fits in the same tote bag!

I like the three containers for breakfast, lunch,  and snack.  I leave super early in the morning so don’t eat breakfast until I get to work.  Instead of opting for the nearest mc-breakfast sandwich, I scramble eggs, chopped bacon, and cheese before I leave and pop it in the smallest bento container.  Lunch is often leftovers from dinner the night before, heated before I leave home and put in the largest container.  The medium container gets a snack or another lunch item.  Breakfast is still hot when I get to work (after an hour and a half train ride), and lunch is still warm at noon.

Ok, so you’re still thinking “leftovers”, ugh!  Just hold on a minute.  Let’s take a look at some of the recent recipes we’ve created.  Chicken enchilada bake with a little extra salsa makes a perfectly nice lunch, or you can take some of that leftover chicken and wrap it in a tortilla or lettuce leaf for a taco/wrap.  How about that shredded pork?  Put some in one container and some lettuce and tomatoes in another container.  With a dollop of salsa you’ve got a taco salad for lunch.  Quick and easy!

So what if you don’t have any leftovers, or really don’t want leftovers 5 days a week?  Then make up some other lunch options when you’re doing your weekly meal prep on the weekend.  Planning on chicken stir fry one night for dinner?  Cook a couple of extra chicken breast tenders at the same time and make chicken salad.  Dress it up by using wasabi mayonnaise or mashed avocado.  My favorite is adding turmeric and black pepper.  You can even make a couple of small batch variations for variety during the week.  Toss some in a lettuce leaf for a healthy wrap or serve some with tortilla chips for a fun variation.

Chicken Salad (the basics)

Base Ingredients: chicken breast tenders, mayonnaise

Options: wasabi mayo and chopped green onions, turmeric and black pepper, celery and onions, or cranberries and walnut pieces.  Just use your imagination!

Add-ons: lettuce leaves for wrapping, chopped lettuce for salad, tortilla chips, whole wheat crackers

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