Portable food: travelling computer tech edition.
January 28, 2014 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm a travelling computer tech for a school district in Cincinnati. Of the 12 schools in our district, I am a tech for 4 elementary schools. I work year-round and all seasons; and am on the move constantly. I have a flexible lunch schedule but I prefer to eat on the move because the district is 54 square miles and I cover a lot of ground on a daily basis. Currently I eat out just about every day because it's convenient and I need to get to my next building quickly (we're not timed but will be soon), but my husband and I are saving for a minivan so it's financial crunch time.

Here come the snowflakes:

- I'm 5 months pregnant, so lunchmeat is more or less out.
- I'd prefer room temp/cold simply for convenience and limited access to microwaves/refrigerators.
- I don't own a cooler; suggest a great one that can withstand drastic temperature shifts. Summer weather is the worst (no a/c in most of the buildings and if there is, it's turned off in the summer time).
- Anything that I can make big batches of that's good at room temp/cold.

I know I sound overworked here but help me out, MeFi!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Pumpkin Muffin Cake Thing
(based on, and much of the text copied from, a recipe by Mark Sisson)

1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted (that's just under 2 oz)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cooked pureed pumpkin
6 eggs (yes, six)
4 T butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Butter an 8" x 8" baking pan very well.

Sift coconut flour, baking soda, salt and spices into a small bowl. Stir to blend well and set aside.

Place pumpkin puree in a medium bowl. Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add melted butter, honey, and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture. Whisk until most of the floury lumps are gone. Do not over-mix.

Spoon batter into greased pan. Bake for 45 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.


It's sweet but not overly so. Some slices of that with something on the side -- apple slices? -- would get you through the afternoon. I take it camping; it doesn't need to be refrigerated.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:56 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, peanut butter and jelly is the obvious one. But other things that come to mind are protein/granola bars (I make my own bars in big batches with nuts, coconut, peanut butter and dried fruit). Fruit, both fresh and dried. Roasted chickpeas.
posted by inertia at 11:56 AM on January 28, 2014

Lentil salad! You can use parmesan or another hard cheese if feta is a no-go. Bring a multigrain roll or two.

I say this literally every time, but peanut and/or sesame noodles. Add in tofu if you like tofu. Add in chicken strips if you have a cooler. Or basically any pasta salad with an oil base (no raw garlic with oil though.) Tortellini with oil and fresh herbs; ravioli with walnuts and cheese.

If you have a cooler: frittata! Add in anything: potato (Spanish style,) roasted vegetables, cheese, meats, herbs...basically anything. Fine at room temperature, and nice with salad on the side. (Or roasted vegetables, which I suspect would be easier to eat quickly.)

Peanut butter and jelly is good; almond butter with pear slices and nutmeg is even better. Or peanut butter and bananas, to go really old school.

When it gets a little nicer and the tomatoes are good again, gazpacho? A nice big thermos of gazpacho, some sliced cheese and meats, a roll, all cut up in advance so that you can eat it on the go.

Falafel: in sandwiches, on salads, especially nice with caramelized onions and savoury tomato jam or minted yogurt.

What do you usually get when you eat out? Are there any particular flavors or styles of thing that you prefer? Types of foods: things in bread like dumplings/samosas/empanadas, things on bread like sandwiches, soups, hamburgers...?
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:14 PM on January 28, 2014

Jetlagaddict: I've been eating fast food but that's out now. Asian food is probably my favorite (Japanese [no sushi - super sad face], Thai, ramen, noodles and the like), but I'll eat just about anything. Particular flavors I don't like: cinnamon in strong amounts, fennel, caraway, rye. Anything else is a go, more or less.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 1:40 PM on January 28, 2014

Ooh, do you like vegetarian sushi at all? Because it's not quite as good an investment of time: amount produced as other things, but vegetarian sushi can be interesting, really easy to make, and it keeps pretty well over night/at room temperature! Avocado, shitake mushrooms, regular old lettuce, mache, carrots, scallions-- there are a lot of variants and I'm not going to lie, I've totally eaten sushi in the car with my hands before when I didn't have time for chopsticks. You can even get jars of wasabi and pickled ginger to put in little tubs to take with you.

You might really like noodle salads made with soba noodles though, if sushi wouldn't work out. Thai food also has a lot of salads that I love at room temperature, but I've never tried making them at home-- like som tum or larb gai.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2014

Is there a reason you're ruling out all the standard variety of cheap and tasty variety of lunch things: sandwiches, wraps, salads, bento box foods etc., etc.?
posted by turkeyphant at 2:11 PM on January 28, 2014

I think that I've said this in about seventy-three threads now, but my default for situations like this is chickpeas and couscous.

For a single serve, dump about 1/4c couscous into a tupperware with 1/3c water and a drizzle of olive oil. Add frozen spinach (a handful or two), 1/3 to 1/2 a tin of rinsed and drained chickpeas, and whatever flavoring you prefer--I like garlic powder, thyme, and some chopped preserved lemon, but you could use whatever sounds appealing. Sometimes I put cheese (feta or parmesan, usually) on as well. Then you ignore this until it's time to eat, and either eat it as-is or heat it up in a microwave for a few minutes. It's tasty and adaptable--if you've got leftover roasted veg or whatever, you add those, and you can mix up the seasonings. It also takes me literally two minutes to go from "no lunch packed" to "lunch ready to go".

Also, butter bean salad. Rinsed and drained butter beans, feta, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, lots of thyme. Chopped cucumbers or roasted red pepper if you want. Consume with pita bread.

I think that what I'm saying here, really, is that with enough lemon juice and thyme, basically anything becomes delicious.
posted by MeghanC at 2:40 PM on January 28, 2014

Turkeyphant: sandwiches/wraps that would include lunch meat are out because I am pregnant. The preservatives in deli lunch meat are not recommended for pregnancy.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 2:48 PM on January 28, 2014

Make a great curry and bunch of rice, wrap it with a good portion of rice in a tortilla. Enjoy hot or cold.
posted by advicepig at 2:52 PM on January 28, 2014

This is a method, not a recipe, but would you consider something like a Mr. Bento? It's basically a big thermos with stacking bowls inside that lets you pack hot food and keep it hot. That way, you could use dinner leftovers or whatever you want, and still have a satisfying meal.
posted by spelunkingplato at 4:52 PM on January 28, 2014

Mac and cheese?
posted by kathrynm at 6:06 PM on January 28, 2014

This is what I had today, and it's one of my favorites...

1. Make up a big batch of sexy broccoli
2. Pour a generous helping of said broccoli over brown rice
3. Dump on top a large handful of roasted salt peanuts
4. Douse with as much Frank's Red Hot as you can handle

You can make it in large batches, and the broccoli is one of those recipes that gets better the longer you let it sit. It needs no refrigeration, although the rice gets a little chewy if you serve it below room temp. It's healthy, delicious and cheap as dirt. Enjoy!
posted by slogger at 9:04 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

ThaBombShelterSmith: "Turkeyphant: sandwiches/wraps that would include lunch meat are out because I am pregnant. The preservatives in deli lunch meat are not recommended for pregnancy"

I understood that from the question. There are thousands of possible sandwiches, wraps, salads, bento box foods that don't include lunch meat. In fact, they make up the the vast majority and since you're making them and these foods are infinitely flexible, you can just not put things you can't eat inside.
posted by turkeyphant at 6:49 AM on February 10, 2014

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