Cold lunches were always a treat for me— a reprieve from the mystery meat of school lunches— and in many ways they continue to be. However even the most decadent peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwich can lose its appeal in the wake of sushi lunches out with friends. Here are some tips for breathing new life into your brown bags and lunch boxes, and for keeping them mostly inexpensive and healthy.
The first tip is to turn to the blogosphere. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that food blogs, DIY blogs and healthy living blogs are crazy popular. No matter your budget, dietary restrictions, or palate preferences, you can find some beautifully photographed suggestions for your lunch box. Once you find the first blog that you like, search through the comments to find others that might interest you. For a fun twist, also consider searching for camping food ideas.
Here are a few of my favorite lunch posts, blogs and otherwise:
5 Make-Ahead Vegan and Gluten-Free Lunches, Best Sandwich and Chips Combinations, and Canal House Cooks Lunch.
Also, try to plan your lunches in advance. Deciding what to pack at 6 a.m., when you can barely put on your clothes in the right order, is a recipe for disaster. Snack Packs five days a week does not a healthy lunch make either. The first link above shows how you can plan lunches for an entire week by putting in a little work on Sunday afternoon. Planning your meals will also make it easier to use fresh ingredients in your lunches—and don’t be afraid to use those fresh ingredients! Carrot sticks aren’t the only vegetables you can pack in your lunch. Steam fresh broccoli in the microwave, bring coleslaw or warm up a homemade butternut squash soup.
Also, don’t forget about leftovers. Do you live alone but are seriously craving a gooey pan of lasagna? Go ahead and make your favorite dish and eat the leftovers for lunch. You can be satisfied, green and cost-effective. Speaking of green, disposable lunch stuff is bad for both the environment and your pocket book. Although superhero lunch boxes are still totally cool in my opinion, there are lots of more adult options out there. I’ve had my eye on this one for ages.
So, how much can you expect to save on bringing your lunch from home? This calculator tallies up your expected savings at over $800 per year. More interestingly, it takes that savings and calculates how much money it would earn if you invested it at 10.5% each year for 10 years (don’t ask me where to find that kind of interest rate right now). The grand total? A whopping $15,027. I’m pinning up inspirational photos of Europe—and all their gourmet lunch spots—as we speak.
Share your favorite cold lunch recipes! Leave a comment below, or send me a tweet, @ithinkther4iamb
IMAGE: Courtesy of Got Sole