Have you been spending a lot of money on your office lunches? It is estimated that an average person spends between $10 and $15 a day on junk food while at work. Still, the damage done on the household budget is not the only downside that should make you consider switching to home-packed food; there are two more reasons why you should do it:
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– Health. There is no need to talk about how harmful fast food is. Changing the type of food you eat is the first step to creating a healthy lifestyle. Consuming homemade food on a daily basis provides variety and allows you to control portion sizes. Not to mention it tastes much better.
– Convenience. Even though the daily expenses related to food-on-the-go are significant, many people continue relying on fast food due to convenience – order and you have a warm meal in a matter of minutes.
However, packing lunch at home can be very simple and that is what this post is all about. It all comes down to two things: organization and routine. Keep reading and learn how to become a professional lunch box-packer that complies healthy and balanced meals for the whole family completely stress-free!
- Check Your Fridge and Pantry
Make sure your fridge and pantry are always filled with staples like sandwich bread, along with your family’s favorite ingredients. Stock such ingredients in a bulk to be sure you won’t run out at a critical moment. This will minimize the stress and speed up the whole process.
- Use up the Leftovers
By packing leftovers, you save any unwanted food from ending up in the trash (which is another way to save money), providing diversity at the same time. One option is to make extra dinner and pack the leftovers to eat at work. Another option is to re-purpose leftovers – for instance, if you had roast chicken for dinner, use the leftover meat to make a quick chicken salad, wraps, or sandwiches.
- Balance the Meals
When packing your lunch, make sure it contains a wide range of nutrients. Here is what you need to include in order to cover all daily needs:
– Protein to give you enough strength and energy for the day. Plan to include about 2 oz. of protein in the form of meat, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, or nut butter.
– Fruit and vegetables to be sure your meal is packed with vitamins and minerals. We recommend bananas, strawberries, carrots, and broccoli, but anything you choose is fine.
– Whole grains to provide fiber that will make you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Think whole grain bread or pasta.
– Don’t forget to include a bottle of water for refreshment and hydration and a coffee to keep you awake!
- Plan ahead. Make Sunday a day to prep the meals for the whole week. Draw up a weekly meal plan and shop for the ingredients accordingly. You can make bigger batches of meals and distribute them throughout work days or freeze part of them for future use.
- Another option is to prepare your lunch boxes the night before to prevent being late. You are probably groggy and in a hurry when you get ready for work, so forgetting certain items or even the whole lunch box is very likely.
- Line up. If you really must assemble your lunch box in the morning, the least you can do is arrange all the containers and ingredients you’ll need on the counter. This will save you plenty of time & nerves.
- Whole fruits are great to eat on the go, but veggies are a bit more complicated since they need to be washed and chopped. Do this they day you get them from the supermarket and store them is containers or zip-lock bags in the fridge until ready to use.
The first rule to go by when choosing your containers is: make sure they are high-quality and convenient. There is no need to have a whole cupboard of containers. Here are the essentials everyone needs.
- Lunch Boxes. Apparently, lunchboxes have evolved into portable electric heating containers, heat-resistant glass boxes, and complex stainless-steel vacuum lunch jars. These advanced lunch boxes allow you to heat your meals wherever you are, pack liquid foods without the fear of spilling or place them directly into the microwave, but we believe that there is nothing better than the simple, old-school plastic ones.
Choose a compartment lunchbox that will help control portions and prevent different ingredients clean (you don’t want your pasta spilled over the fruits!).
No matter what type of lunchbox you decide to invest in, you can rest assured that it is a far better option than plastic zip-lock bags. According to statistics, American families spend over $80 yearly on plastic bags, which makes them budget-unfriendly. In addition, plastic boxes are reusable and hence eco-friendly. And finally, they allow for minimum mess and waste.
If you still find it difficult to give up baggies, try reusable silicone ones. Unlike their plastic counterpart, these airtight bags contain no harmful materials such as PVC or latex. They are made of the best food-grade silicone and are safe to throw in the microwave, freezer, even the dishwasher.
- Drink containers. Everybody needs one reusable drink container. We prefer plastic over glass because it is unbreakable and over stainless steel because it is lighter. Plastic containers will enable you to replace store-bought juices full of added sugars with fresh ones but are also perfect for milk, sodas, and water.
Alternatively, you can opt for reusable blood bags. As creepy as these bags might sound, they are quite convenient since don’t take up too much space. Moreover, they are completely food safe and widely used for parties and decorations.
- Coffee thermos or travel mugs are the perfect choices for caffeine lovers. They are leak-resistant and heat-insulated, ideal for keeping your coffee or tea aromatic and warm for hours. These containers are perfect for soups, chili, and other meals that are served hot, but you can also use them for smoothies!
- Mini dip containers might seem too tiny and insignificant but you will soon come to realize how difficult life is without them. Use them for sauces, dips, dressings, and more!
- Lunch bags come in so many shapes, sizes, and exciting colors. Some of them have such cool designs, they can safely pass as regular bags that match your outfit! Besides great looks, lunch bags come with a specific function – they keep your food chilled until you are ready to eat.
Sometimes, good organization is not enough to keep you repeating the same routine over and over again. Here is what you can do to inspire yourself.
- Do a research. Find an amazing cooking app and pack your smartphone with quick and easy recipes. Read through blogs dedicated to packing lunches (yes, such things do exist) to find ideas and resources. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Printables. To make things easier and far more interesting, print colorful weekly or monthly meal plans and pin them on the fridge. They will not only help you stay organized but will also make your kitchen more cheerful! In addition, print some cute notes to slip inside your loved ones’ lunchboxes and brighten up their day.
- Make your lunch containers cooler. If you are skillful, decorate them yourself by sticking fun handmade drawings or turning food into art. In addition to your vivid imagination, owning a few cookie cutters and some food coloring will come handy in this case. Less artistic souls can download some great lunchbox designs online. Not fancy enough for you? Buy a lunch box worthy of showing off.
Explore antique shops for vintage lunch boxes – you might just get lucky and find a hidden gem. But bear in mind that such pleasure comes with a price – lunch containers from the 1900’s are very popular collector’s items and real aficionados are prepared to pay between $1500 – $13000 for rarities featuring Superman, Mickey Mouse, or the Beatles.
However, this is nothing compared to the most expensive lunch box in the world. The Takashimaya Restaurant in New York serves Oscheriyori, the world’s most expensive lunch box meal worth over $230.000 made completely out of gold (of course we know this is crazy and impossible, just sharing a fun fact 😊)
- Partner up with a coworker to share recipes and ideas but also to eat lunch together. Having support when trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is very important, especially if the rest of the colleagues stay loyal to fast food and sweet treats. You can also make an arrangement to bring food alternately, which will certainly reduce the pressure since you will only have to pack lunchboxes every other work day!
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In the end, remember: eating healthy is important, but treating yourselves to a guilty pleasure from time to time is definitely not a crime.
I believe that food should not only taste good, but make you feel good as well and that is why I am so interested in exploring ingredients, preparing meals, and finding ways to make the whole cooking experience fun and exciting! Being a blogger for MyGreatRecipes unites my two passions – food and writing, and I am enjoying every second of it!