Bringing a lunch from home is a great way to ensure you get healthy food and save money. However, it can also be a major drag to pack lunches. I have come up with a system that streamlines the processing of lunches for my entire family.
Have A Lunch Structure
Most take-from-home lunches consist of sandwiches and accompaniments. However, you are not necessarily limited to those items. It is good to have a pattern for what you will put in a lunch.
In my husband’s and my cases, we may take leftovers for lunch or a healthy sandwich. In addition, there will be fruit and veggies, and for my husband, usually chips or a dessert.
My daughter’s lunches are less varied: mac and cheese on Mondays, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (PB&Js) the rest of the week. Each day has either a fruit or veggie, a healthy snack, and a small dessert.
I would like to point out that these are things that the consumers have requested. It is appalling to me to think of eating PB&J four days a week, but that is what my daughter wants.
The sandwich is usually the centerpiece of a lunch. In some cases, it is possible to make multiple sandwiches and store them in the refrigerator until they are used. I make four PB&Js at once on Sunday or Monday evenings and keep them in the fridge, pulling one out per day as I assemble her lunch.
For meat or filled sandwiches, this can be trickier. If the sandwich is just meat, cheese and bread, you can assemble it ahead of time. Beware of condiments, though! Mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and the like will soak through the bread and render the sandwich soggy. One other way to get around this is to keep the condiment packets from fast-food restaurants and throw them into the lunch.
Most whole fruit is readily usable in lunches. Some fruit, like bananas and ripe pears will bruise easily, so make sure you cushion them with napkins.
Cut fruit can be a problem due to oxidation. To get around this with sliced apples, either dip the apple slices into lemon juice or sprinkle some cinnamon into the bag with the slices.
A favorite at our house is unsweetened applesauce. Unflavored comes in big jars, which I will divvy out into portions and store in the refrigerator. My daughter also likes the flavored pre-packaged cups: peach is her favorite, with strawberry coming a close second.
Fresh, raw veggies are easiest to transport. Easiest of all are baby carrots, which need no prep work. Sliced cucumbers, celery sticks and green pepper strips are next easiest, followed by broccoli and cauliflower.
Every Sunday I slice up veggies and package enough for the week for all three of us. These are stored in the refrigerator.
I love the idea of the individually packed snacks I see at the grocery store. I hate both the price, and the nutritional quality of those snacks. I have a simple solution: I make my own. When I get home from the grocery store, I package individual portions of snacks and store them in the designated “snack basket” in the pantry.
Desserts and sweets are a rarity for us, but when I do buy or make cookies, I package these up in individual servings, much like the snacks. The only difference is that the desserts are stored in a “sweets basket” that is conveniently out of reach (for my daughter) and out of sight (for me).
Assembling a Simple Lunch
To put together a lunch in the morning, I grab a pre-made sandwich, a serving of fruit, a package of veggies, and either a snack or a dessert. Within two minutes, the lunch is ready to go!
Photo by daveynin