I received my first ever blog post request. That is, I got a question from a reader (and friend) to answer via a post.
Here is her question:
I am trying to find some creative meals to give to my husband when he goes to work. We are trying to save money and buying lunch each day is obviously way too much [money]. Right now we are getting some rolls, sandwich meat and cheese. Which is okay and we shake it up by getting some different types of meats but I am sure he is getting bored of those. You see with his job he doesn’t have access to a microwave so we can’t provide stuff that we can just heat up.
Now, I’m neither a nutrition expert nor a chef (not technically anyway). I’m just wearing one of the many hats I wear as a wife and mother.
I wish I could say that I happily pack my husband and myself a lunch each day we go to work. The truth is that I don’t. If we do take lunch from home, usually it’s either leftovers from dinner, or (for myself) a frozen South Beach meal. But, both of us have access to a microwave at work.
My friend pointed out two very important aspects of her situation.
- They are trying to save money.
- Her husband can’t access a microwave.
Keeping that in mind, here are my cold lunch ideas. (Using the term “cold” loosely since some are actually warm choices, but the point is that no microwave is required.) Some are not the healthiest choices, but they sure are cost-effective.
She mentions that they’re already doing the standard sandwich, but here are some other types of sandwiches they could make. These mainly vary the “bread” used, but any of them could vary in content as well.
- Peanut butter & jelly: Try using different kinds of jelly (grape, strawberry, etc.) or even jam which has a different texture. If you also spice up the bread used, like using multigrain, nutty bread, it could really take the standard PB&J up a notch.
- Pita pocket: Tuna salad or chicken salad can easily be stuffed in a pita. To avoid it spoiling, if a fridge is not available either, a portable cooler or insulated lunch bag can be used. The salad could be packaged in a separate container and stuffed in the pita when ready to eat.
- Bagel: Bagels make great sandwich “bread”. There are also the square bagels that make for great sandwiches.
- Wraps: Take a traditional ham & cheese and wrap it instead of using bread. Obviously, you can create endless types of wraps and can use either whole wheat, tomato, or spinach tortillas when the plain flour tortilla tires out.
- Croissant: I’m sure you’ve heard of the CroissanWich from Burger King. Why not make your own? Again, many types of sandwiches can be created using a croissant as the “bread”.
Using a thermos, you can keep food warm. Try some of these ideas to get away from a sandwich.
- Soup: Pack up last night’s leftover soup or try the canned variety.
- Chili: You can make a batch of chili early in the week that will last a few days. There are also plenty of canned chilis out there.
- Chef Boyardee: Not the healthiest, I know, but it is rather cheap and can make for a quick meal every so often. Spaghetti will probably work best, but you can try many of their choices.
- Pork & Beans: Also not the best choice in my opinion, but some folks love it.
Of course salads can easily replace a traditional sandwich, but they normally need to keep cool. If no fridge is accessible, you could (as mentioned earlier) use a portable cooler or insulated lunch bag. Packing the dressing separately is always a good idea. But, the rest could easily be pre-tossed together.
There are endless salad choices available. A personal favorite for lunch in our house is green leaf lettuce, black olives, shredded carrots, shredded cheese, craisins, and cut up chicken. My husband also likes to add sunflower seed kernels. For the chicken, you could buy the pre-cut grilled chicken strips for convenience.
- Hot Dogs: We’ve done this on many beach trips. Boil the hot dogs in the morning and pack in a plastic container. They do well at room-temperature and can easily be assembled with the bread, cheese, etc., when it’s time for lunch.
- Leftovers: There is plenty of food that if you heat up real well in the morning before leaving the house, keeps well and can be eaten at room-temperature by lunch time. Rice comes to mind.
What Others are Saying
- Lunch in a Box: Box Lunches
- WebMD: 15 Fresh Brown Bag Lunch Ideas
- Clever Dude: Frugal Lunch by Clever Dudette
Now it’s your turn.
Do you have any more ideas for cold lunches? What do you recommend she pack for her husband’s lunch?
I look forward to reading your comments about lunch ideas you’ve tried in the past or think will work.
Photo by Pieter Dirkx