A Little Help From My Friends

10:15 AM Posted In Edit This 15 Comments »
I have a naughty secret. I usually eat lunch at the hospital cafeteria. And sometimes breakfast, too. Sure, all those nice recipes I post for you get brought in when I make them, but the cafeteria? It's convenient. If I forget to pack a lunch or if I'm in a hurry, I don't worry about it because I know that there are two cafeterias for me to choose from and there's bound to be something at one of them that I feel like eating. And I justify the expense because as an employee, I get a sizeable discount.

This has not been good for my waistline. For all the healthy eating I try to do, I probably end up ruining most of it by a once or twice weekly Really Bad Decision. Like chicken strips and fries. Or cheesy bread. Sometimes it's the mac and cheese and corn dogs that beckon me. I know, gross, right? It's there. I tell myself I won't do it, but I do anyway. And then of course, I feel disgusting. I have a wonderful salad bar to choose from, grilled meats made to order, fresh soups, etc. Why? Sigh.

But, with my new job? No more cafeteria. I'm really going to have to plan lunches. And some dinners as well - because I will work a couple evenings a week. (Which I am excited about because I like to go to the gym in the mornings better than the evenings. I see this as a good thing. 9-5 has never been my forte.)

So. I need some suggestions. I will have a refrigerator, freezer and a microwave at my new place. Along with a coffee maker and full sink. I pondered just buying a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and some jelly and leaving it there. But I'm better than that. I'm a cook, right? The biggest challenge is that I'm single. And anything I make, I have to eat at least half of and be able to freeze the rest for a later date. That gets hard. So. I'm asking for your help. Give me some solid ideas for portable work lunches that won't break my bank and are tasty and warm. Especially warm. Because well? Winter is here.

15 comments:

Helen said...

I suggest that you do make yourself up a snack/condiment box to keep in a drawer or tote. I make sure mine has good healthy things, like some peanut butter, granola bars, pretzels, etc. Then I also have condiments in the fridge... low calorie salad dressings, hot sauce, mayo, mustard, cottage cheese, yogurt.

As for the food itself? In the summer I salad myself to death, with an occasional sandwich. In the winter it's a lot of leftovers or soups. Since Mr. Helen doesn't eat soup very well, I tend to take it and freeze it into single servings right away. It's easy to grab one and add something like a nice piece of bread or cornbread to go with.

Yesterday my lunch was: blackeyed peas over brown rice with a big container of cooked kale.

Malaise Inc said...

Frankly, I'd suggest going to the frozen food section at the local grocery. Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, and Healthy Choice all make great tasting entrees for $2.50 or less. And, if you shop at a chain like Target, at least one of those brands will be on sale every week. Take in a small garden salad and you're good to go.

Tay Talk said...

So for the first month or so of my job I would go out and eat. But then I really started to notice the lack of funds in the bank account. Those lunches really add up! Plus, the big guy was eating out for lunch too. So we finally said enough, is enough. We bring lunch every day now. Whether it’s left-over’s from dinner or packing a lunch. It’s been great and I feel like I’m always eating the things I should too.

My favorite is to make a big pot of delicious soup. Lunch is covered for 3-4 days.


And then I always keep a stash of nuts or granola bars in my desk.

Lemon Gloria said...

I'm hideously lazy about lunch and it's something I hate spending money on, because it adds up so fast. I have a loaf of whole wheat bread and organic peanut butter at the office, and I make PB sandwiches almost every day. Low sugar, decent fiber, and protein. I have a piece of fruit with it on days I remember. I also have cans of tuna in oil, and I'll bring in spinach and dump the can on top and there's my protein and veg.

clearness said...

I am such a cafeteria junkie. I love cafeteria food.......I don't eat it often though.

Meigan said...

Soup soup soup soup soup. Make a batch & freeze in individual Ziploc twist top containers. Grab one a day for lunch. It's wonderful. Turkey chili, too.

Email me if you want any recipes.

I also keep a stash of Amy's soup on hand. One can & I warm it up in the microwave in a big bowl. Just ate some. Yum.

Sparkling Red said...

I suggest making casseroles with everything in one pot: meat, pasta or rice, and a variety of veggies. You can whip up a big batch and freeze individual portions in microwavable containers. Once you've made a few varieties, you can choose among them in your freezer, so you don't have to eat the same thing day after day.

Ink Spiller said...

I've got such a thing for brown lentils at the moment. Caramelized onions, garlic and chili mixed in, maybe even some mushrooms. Or some curry. It's low fat, high protein and very filling plus it tastes good cold too.

I have the same problem as you with the cafeteria so I really have to disciplined.

And woohoo for the new job Kate! Best of luck!

Cello Mama said...

Meigan beat me to my exact thought: soup. It's economical, you can make a HUGE batch, it generally freezes well (and in individual portions - you can freeze them in certain "point" servings and even write it on the bag!

G said...

Can always make good cold-cut sandwiches that you can heat up on a cold day.

Add a cup of soup and/or a side salad and you got an easy portable and nutrious lunch/dinner at your disposal

Lucky Punk said...

I try to cook for myself, too, but it's hard to squeeze in the time, sometimes, and easy to be lazy about it, especially if you're single (not only the freezing, but the payoff isn't that great, since you cook for hours and finish it in 10 minutes with no one to appreciate it).
I've found that Trader Joe's has some great frozen food options - different kinds of pre-cooked rice, pre-cooked veggies, and I'm a big fan of the mini party meatballs. I just mix together a few in a lunch sized portion in tupperware, and it's good to go... and very often delicious.

melissalion said...

I missed this post! Here's my recommendation: crock pot. Anything in the crock pot. I live and breathe that thing.

justme said...

this is not very cook-like, but since i've been bringin my own lunches, i've had to get creative. i bring snacks that are cold and portable and make sure my lunch is hot. i make a pot of brown rice and measure out what i'm eating, put some coconut oil in and bring it to work. there are also cans of organic beans and rice in all different flavors that make a great go to lunch and have plenty of protein and carbs. if i'm making dinner the night before, i just make double and use it for lunch. we make great use of storage containers at our house!

Can do mom said...

Another vote for soup. I'm a huge fan of it. Like you, I live where it's cold out and soup is just so great at warming you up on a cold winter's day.

Make a big batch and freeze it in individual sized containers or in ziploc bags. Even with a family of five I do this because sometimes I want a single serving of it.

I have plenty of soup recipes if you're interested. Good luck!

badmuthafudruckers.com said...

I know I'm like a million years late, and you've written about a ton of other really important stuff, but here's my go-to work lunch - portabella pizzas.

Just get two big portabella caps, top with tomato sauce (I know you have some homemade!), cheese, and some basil (if you have it). Pop in the toaster oven (or real oven) for a couple minutes, and voila! A good, meaty, filling lunch on the cheap.

Ok, now to catch up on everything else...