Packin’ It In

Summer is packing away its blazing days and lazy mentality, giving way to the disciplined back-to-school season. And with that season (or any season, if you’re a year-round 9-to-5er) comes the lunch dilemma.

What to pack? And how to pack it? What to make that’s new? What to bring that’s quick, cheap, and healthy? And, if you’re like more and more Americans, How to do it sustainably?

First off, lemme say that I’m not always successful in planning ahead and packing something good. I often go for the quick fix of buying food from the cafeteria at work. When I do think ahead and buy food for lunches, I try to relax the purse strings a little. No matter what unprocessed foods you buy, I reason, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be cheaper than take-out.

To pack up your own lunch, how about a sandwich? There’s always the classic PB & J, and you can add a healthy, sustainable twist even to that. Here are a few more that are yummy and probably comparable in price to Subway:

Goat cheese and roasted red peppers on sprouted grain bread

Broiled marinated tempeh with sliced red onion, lettuce, tomato, and soy mayo on sourdough

Homemade egg salad (peel and chop hard-boiled eggs, add mayo plus Dijon mustard) in whole-wheat pita

Good ol’ hummus with sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots in whole-grain cracker mini sandwiches

Main dishes:

Leftover stir fry over brown rice

Pasta tossed with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes

Peanut or sesame noodles (Spaghetti or soba of your choice topped with a sauce of peanut butter or tahini mixed with water, tamari/soy sauce, and chopped fresh garlic. Top with sesame seeds and chopped scallions)

Side dishes:

Yogurt with granola or fruit (Buy it by the quart and repack single servings in small reusable containers. Add your own granola and fresh or frozen fruit, honey, or agave nectar)

Chips and salsa (Wrap the chips in a Wrap-n-Mat and put your salsa in a small reusable container)

Sliced veggies with homemade ranch dressing (For the dressing: Combine plain yogurt, chopped fresh garlic, dill, a splash of lemon juice and olive oil, and salt and pepper)

Apple slices with peanut, almond, or cashew butter

Mixed nuts (Raw, unroasted nuts are said to be healthier — more good oils for you!)

Whole fruit

Go with those environmentally-friendly packing ideas above and/or get yourself a Tiffin. And if I can self-reference for a minute here, lemme direct you to this post on sustainable packaging.

What’s your favorite lunch tip? Feel free to share.

And bon appetit!

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