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 Post subject: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunch
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:49 pm 
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One of my plans/resolutions this year is to stop eating so many lunches out and/or buying food from lunch trucks. This can be expensive and sometimes not that healthy. I've tried bringing leftovers or other food from home, but this doesn't work out so well for me. I've been trying not to cook massive pots of food for dinner since it's just the two of us and we don't need a vat of curry that will end up mostly being thrown out. Half the time I bring leftovers I just don't feel like eating them and go and get something from a truck or restaurant instead. I have trouble finding time/motivation in the evening to prepare something extra to bring for lunch, and I am completely unwilling to get up earlier to make something extra in the morning (my morning routine is down to the minute already!) I've tried preparing things in advance on the weekend but I don't like dedicating that much weekend time to food prep.

I do enjoy going to restaurants with coworkers once in a while so my current plan is to allow myself one day a week of eating at a restaurant or getting food from a truck, so it is more of a treat than a regular thing. The other days I'm planning to sort of put together simple meals at the office. I realized this might work for me since that's what my BF and I basically did on a recent trip to Greece if we didn't feel like dealing with a restaurant. We made salads and ate lots of bread and canned stuffed grape leaves (they sound gross but are really good!). I don't love eating just salad every day but I can deal with it if I can vary the ingredients and also have something a little more substantial to go with it like some bread and hummus or something.

So today I went to the grocery store and bought:
a loaf of nice bread with roasted garlic inside it
cucumbers
a jar of sweet peppers
a clove of garlic
basalmic vinegar
garlic & herb seasoning
olive oil
mustard
1 can stuffed grape leaves
2 lemons
mediterranean spice mix
1 can hearts of palm
pineapple slices
whole wheat couscous with basil and rosemary (can be cooked in microwave)
bag of 6 apples and 4 oranges
bag of baby carrots
3 hearts of romaine lettuce
tahini
spicy red pepper hummus

The total for all this was $69.17, which seems like a lot, except I got quite a few things that will last a long time. I plan to supplement these things with whatever odds and ends of leftovers or extra things I have from home. I have a ball of cashew cheese that I'll bring in to eat with the bread for example. Or some grilled tofu for a sandwich. I think it will be easier to have some staples at the office and just have to think about adding a few things. Probably will bring some nuts too, and a can of chickpeas to add to salads. I've avoided things like just cans of soup or ramen noodles which tend to be gross and salty, and also any sort of pre-packaged frozen stuff. Might as well try to eat more whole foods while I'm at it! I don't like most packaged salad dressings plus it's boring using the same dressing every day, so I plan to make different dressings using the tahini, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon, mustard, and spice mixes.

Just out of curiosity, I'm going to keep track of what I eat each day and how long it takes me to get through all this stuff so I can see approximately how much per meal I'm spending.

Anyone else ever tried something like this? Suggestions for things that are easy to make in an office?


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:25 pm 
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When I'm not packing dinner leftovers for lunch, I pretty much do what you've outlined (packing a bunch of little things that come together as sort of a meal). I have a few bento box-type lunchboxes, ones with multiple compartments, so you can have different foods without having them all get mixed together.

My favorite lunchbox is similar to this one, with a big compartment on the bottom and a thing with three little compartments on the top. In the bottom I will pack something like a salad with lots of stuff in it, or grains like rice/couscous, and in the top part I will put side dishes, like raw veggies & hummus, cubed tofu, or veggies I've pre-cooked in big batches for consumption later. The canned grape leaves would work well in this type of setup, I think! For me the big grain/little veggie/little veggie/little protein ratio works really well. Sometimes I will also pack extra bread or hummus or something in a separate container. If you're pressed for time, you can prep a few dishes at the beginning of the week at home to just take as needed (like rice pilafs and couscous) and then supplement with whatever random fruits/veggies/etc you have on hand. If you're packing salads I would recommend getting some sort of leakproof small container and packing the dressing separately, because salad greens can get kind of gross and soggy if they're sitting dressed for a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:49 pm 
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Dying from Nooch Lung
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I work in an office and these are my routine lunches and snacks.

Salad
Leftovers
Hummus with veggies
Soup
Veggies burgers on a GF english muffin
Nuts
Dark Chocolate
Fruit
Frozen Amy's meals

I normally stick with the same thing for a week or two and then rotate it around so I don't get too bored. I also make my lunch the night before so all I have to do in the morning is grab and go. So if I'm eating salad it gets made at night and put in my tupperware container in the fridge. We have a microwave and a toaster oven at work, so that helps with making different foods and not just reheating things. If I go out to eat it's normally just a salad from Chipotle.

There's also a lunch thread on the boards you can take a look at for ideas!

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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:51 pm 
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I like the idea of prepping something like couscous in advance. That would be easy.

I plan to leave all my veggies and stuff at work and just put together salads or whatever there. So I don't have to worry about things getting soggy, or having to do things in advance.

Luckily there's lots of space in my office fridge. Think I might get a little cutting board to take to work, and hopefully remember not to ever leave it in the kitchen area so nobody cuts up their meaty things on it!


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 3:52 pm 
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I WISH we had a toaster in the office, but apparently it is a fire hazard or some such nonsense.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:33 pm 
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At the moment my favourite take-to-work lunch is a portion of stir fry veggies, maybe with some cubes of seitan or tofu, in a roomy microwave proof box with soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce to taste. At lunchtime I heat up the veggies in the microwave then add a packet of instant noodles and hot water to make ramen, plus a glug of soymilk.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:49 pm 
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I pack a lunch bag the night before. 90% of the time it's carrots and hummus. Sometimes I will cut up some fruit too. Snacks lately have been luna bars, dry cereal, dry roasted edamame, and other things that require no effort.

If I get my shiitake together enough to make salads, I do it the night before and add dressing at work so nothing gets gross. I would find it to be kind of a hassle to do any food prep at work, but whatever works!


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:02 pm 
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For me personally I think it would be less stressful and more time-efficient to cut a few days worth of veggies at home and then bring them to work in little tupperwares instead of trying to cut/assemble a whole salad every single day. Then you could mix and match according to your mood each day, plus you wouldn't have to worry about other people accidentally getting meat juice on your cutting board. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:29 pm 
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Calls "cavemen" on that
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I make my dinners with leftovers in mind personally. At least once a week, I will make something that will make amazing leftovers, something I can eat for a few days. Like a nice cous cous with lots of veggies, or another grain salad. Or a soup. I love soup for lunch. Curry is also really good leftover. If you plan something great, you less likely to go "meh, I don't want to eat that today"

If you hate leftovers, and wants something that can feel like you made it at work, thing about bringing stuff for bowls. We have a thread going about that right now.

How about baked potatoes? if you have a microwave at work, you can toats make those.

(I am not much of a sandwich/salad person for lunch myself, no more than 1X per week at most)


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:31 pm 
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Yeah, I don't know if this is going to be a hassle or the answer to my whole lunch problem! I have just been utterly unsuccessful at getting myself to prepare salads or anything at home for lunch the next day. We'll see how it goes!


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:20 am 
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My first thought after reading the original post was bento boxes. Have you looked into those? I know it looks kind of complicated but I know some folks swear by them and kinda become obsessive about "whats going in my bento box?" Plus most have about 5 to 8 spaces so you have a large variety of food to choose from. Great for budgets also.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:20 am 
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Do you like soaked oats? They're really easy to take for lunch, and you can bulk them up with a lot of additives if you want something hearty. Just put your oats, milk, and any extras in an empty jar before you go to work and they'll be great by lunch with some fruit on the side.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:52 am 
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A couple of ideas -- are you sure you'll have space in the lunch room to do your prep work that others won't be vying for? I've never really been able to store much food at work or had enough time to do more than pop something in the microwave, but I think the space might be a limiting factor, as well as time unless you get an hour for lunch. Maybe you've already tried things out by now -- how has it been going?

I always have a hard time packing my lunch when I'm trying to do it right before bed. I either forget about it or wind up a bit activated, thinking about the next day. It works better for me if I pack my lunch shortly after getting home, or earlier in the evening like before or shortly after dinner. Sometimes it's nice to do when I'm already in the kitchen, cooking dinner, cleaning up dishes or getting a snack. It can work to put things together in the morning, but I find I have to have a clear idea of what I'm going to pack.

I know you said you don't like leftovers, but have you ever done any kind of freezer meals? It is awesome to be able to pull a container out of the freezer for lunch. One tip is that I've found it works best to defrost the frozen food for at least 24 hours before you want to eat it -- that will depend on the size and shape of your container. If you use flat freezer bags, it should thaw more quickly, but I use round plastic containers that I can eat right out of, and they take a while to thaw to the point where they are more easily microwaved. I've also done things like freeze a tabouli base (bulgur, chickpeas, and dressing), then thaw individual servings in the fridge and mix in whatever veggies I have on hand.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:57 pm 
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I made lunch today at work and it wasn't a total hassle! The only annoying thing was not having a cutting board because I haven't brought one in yet. And probably next time I'll just get a bag of pre-washed salad mix because it's a pain washing and drying romaine leaves. There is plenty of space in the fridge and in the kitchen area. A couple of coworkers were like "oh, I want to do that!" (people who also want to eat out less but have trouble planning ahead to bring stuff). I do get a full hour for lunch and usually go to the gym for at least part of that, but really five minutes spent cutting some stuff is no big deal. I also work in a very relaxed environment where I don't have a boss hovering over me accounting for my every minute.

I'm eating some bread, hummus, grape leaves, and salad with lettuce, cucumbers, sweet peppers and tahini-garlic-lemon dressing.

I think part of the appeal of doing things this way is because I feel like I have more choice in what I eat for lunch, instead of feeling like I just have to suck it up and eat whatever I thought I'd want to eat the night before even if I don't want it. I think that's part of the appeal of going out to eat, and why I hate leftovers and am easily persuaded to go out to eat instead of eating whatever I brought. (I know, I'm weird!) But this way, if I decide I want a sandwich I can make a sandwich. Or if I want a salad I'll make a salad. Or if I want to just dip bread in olive oil and spices I can do that. That's the plan anyway!

Another benefit is having plenty of food to snack on. I get hungry at odd hours, like 10am even though I eat breakfast every day. Usually I'll just eat some nuts or an apple which I try to always have around, or just wait until lunch and then probably eat too much because I'm hungry, but today I got to eat some carrot sticks and hummus instead, and then a couple of pineapple slices before I went to the gym.

I've tried packing lunches the night before, and I've tried making extra food on weekends, and it just never works out. I also always have good intentions about pre-washing and cutting all my CSA vegetables for the week but I never do it. I know it saves time in the long run, but it doesn't feel like it! I spend a fair amount of time prepping nice dinners almost every night but for some reason anything beyond that just seems too much. It's odd, I'm generally very plan-ahead and organized, but I'm just not that organized about food things!


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 2:15 pm 
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epcarie wrote:
Do you like soaked oats? They're really easy to take for lunch, and you can bulk them up with a lot of additives if you want something hearty. Just put your oats, milk, and any extras in an empty jar before you go to work and they'll be great by lunch with some fruit on the side.


I've never tried soaked oats before. Sounds interesting! Sometimes if I don't eat breakfast at home I bring oats and whatever extras and cook the oatmeal in the microwave and it turns out great.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:31 pm 
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Baked potatoes are a great idea! At one point I was making 5 or 6 at a time in the crockpot on Sunday nights and then eating them week for lunch. Topped with chili, sour cream, salsa, guac, daiya cheddar, broccoli, cheesy sauces, sky's the limit!

Before I was gluten free I would go for a tofurky and vegan rice cheese slices on whole wheat with mayo. Or even a PBJ! Ooooh and this tofu chicken salad over some crispy lettuce.

http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2012/06/ol ... salad.html

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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:03 pm 
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I think this is a brilliant idea. My most successful work eating days are when I bring in a whole bunch of assorted veggies - I've often brought in huge bags of veggies to use for the week and made a plate full of veggies to eat at my desk for lunch (everything handheld - carrot sticks, cucumber, jicama sticks, etc.) and supplemented with maybe a soup cup and various fruit. I've also done a week of salads by bringing in all the components in separate big bags and the dressing in another container and put them together at work (the AFR Nicoise salad was great for this - I quadrupled everything but the dressing and the lettuce -which I eliminated because I don't like lettuce - and that was enough for big satisfying lunches for the week. with fruit for snacks). We have a full-fledged kitchen, but I probably wouldn't bother with actual chopping there because it's easier to chop at home for me and it decreases the volume of stuff I have to bring in.


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:50 am 
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Hearts James Cromwell
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I work 12 hour night shifts and don't have much time to eat before work, so I bring things of stuff! I usually make some kind of soup, squash and carrot, leek and potato etc and freeze most of it in single servings, then I make stew... white bean and veggie, or chickpea sweet potato curry... same thing.. freezea bunch of it in single servings. veggie chili too.... then I have few options throughout the week if leftovers aren't available, or enough food for the entire night. between those options and fresh fruit, carrots and hummus and Lara bars im usually pretty prepared... and thats saying something cause I'm not an organized girl at all.. LOL


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 Post subject: Re: Operation Eat Better/Stop Spending So Much Money on Lunc
PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:50 pm 
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My lunches are leftovers from dinner like 90% of the time. Do you ever cook and freeze stuff for later? I'm not much of a snacky/sandwichy lunch person. I prefer hearty food, but I do physical work and wouldn't really be sustained by salad or light veggies.


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