Anyone else have to eat lunch on the go more often than they’d like?
I would much rather sit in my house at my own table and enjoy a freshly prepared lunch, but my current lifestyle doesn’t always allow for such things. Between building friendships (read: social activities) and running errands, there are a few days where I can’t make it all the way back to my house to eat lunch and then back to town again to pick up my daughter from preschool. It makes more sense to eat outside the house.
So instead of opting for fast food or something unhealthy, I plan ahead and pack a healthy lunch for myself and my two-year-old on those days. I try to keep it simple. Packed lunches don’t have to be fancy, just filling!
My Usual Packed Lunches
Sometimes I bring an assortment of finger foods, sticking to deli meat, sticks of cheese, and nuts for protein. I like snow peas, carrot sticks or whole carrots, celery sticks, and cucumber slices as vegetable sides. And for a fruit, I go with whole fruits that are easily eaten without a lot of mess. Think bananas, apples, berries. I like to have some sort of starch. Maybe a few crackers, Cheerios, or naan. Super easy and quick to put together and much healthier than hitting the drive through!
Sometimes I go the sandwich route. Either deli meat & cheese or just nut butter. (Confession: I love a good ol’ fashioned peanut butter sandwich!) I like to bring raw veggies and fruit with sandwiches too.
Sometimes I go wild and whip up quesadillas. We like them at room temperature just as much as hot. The nice thing about quesadillas is that you can add chopped veggies and beans or meats to the quesadilla itself.
All the above ideas are awesome for literal on-the-go eating because everything can be eaten one-handed without utensils. However, if I’ve got time to sit down at a park picnic table or maybe a table at the library, my options expand quite a bit – bigger sandwiches with more veggies, regular salads, deli salads (chicken, tuna, egg, pasta), beans and rice, hummus, cottage cheese and chopped fruit, yogurt parfaits, oatmeal, pasta, leftovers, etc.
Now that I’ve given a few ideas on what to have for lunch…
Here are some tips to make the packing go a little smoother:
Plan ahead where possible.
This is one of those times where having a meal plan is so helpful. I’ll take some time over the weekend to chop all our veggies for the week. For example, my meal plan this week has several meals, including lunches, with shredded carrots. So instead of shredding them while making each individual meal, I shredded a bunch and put them in the fridge. Now they are ready to grab and go.
In addition to actual food prepping, planning ahead and looking at my schedule allows me to know which days I’ll be in a time-crunch and will need to bring a lunch.
Plan for leftovers.
We always grill more chicken than we need, so that we have it available to use for lunch the next day.
On the weekends, I make a ridiculous number of pancakes. I freeze extras, and use them during the week to make little pancake sandwiches with peanut butter and banana slices for the girls. Using something other than regular sandwich bread makes my girls so excited!
We also make huge meals for dinner. My husband takes leftovers for lunch the following day. I’m so thankful he is eating something worthwhile and not whatever energy drink/granola bar combo he finds on his own at work. And I absolutely love when my husband tells me that someone complimented his delicious-looking lunch that day!
Invest in a good thermos to keep your foods warm.
We use these. I have several, and we use them for hot soups, stews, or leftover pasta. My four-year-old can open her thermos fairly easily, but we primarily use them with her for items that are less likely to spill, such as pasta. My six-year-old has been using them since Kindergarten with only one mishap in the lunchbox.
Invest in good food storage containers.
For plastic containers, I use and love Snapware. Costco often has great deals if you keep an eye out for it. Snapware does not leak, and they are easy to open. You do have to clean the little seal inside sometimes, but for a container that is air-tight, I’m okay with that. I wash all plastics by hand so I cannot confirm how well they hold up in the dishwasher.
For my daughters’ packed lunches, I go with the plastic version. I’m afraid they may drop the glass, and some schools have anti-glass policies anyway. For myself and husband, I prefer glass for the most part, but especially for my husband who often reheats foods in his workplace microwave. I also prefer glass for storing leftovers at home.
Invest in a good lunchbox and ice packs.
I bought my children’s current lunchboxes at Costco, and the lunchbox has zippered sides made specifically for the ice pack inserts that came with the set. I love that feature!
I also adore the little fancy Bento boxes that you find on Pinterest. However, I’ve never made the leap to them due to cost and because, honestly, what I use now for my girls works fine for us. No sense in trying to fix something that isn’t broken!
The bottom line is that with a few good tools and a little bit of planning, you can avoid buying a lunch out and enjoy a healthier meal while on the go! In the comments, I’d love to hear your ideas for healthy lunches while outside of the home!