Salvation from Super-Sizing!
January 26, 2007 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Lunch time! Calling all Mefites for any and all suggestions of successful brown-bagging!

So right now, lunch hour at work means a drive up to all the fast food spots that have sprung up around a nearby off-ramp. After only a week at this job, I'm already disliking the toll this is taking on my wallet and health. There has to be a better way!

So I'm looking for any suggestions you might have on affordable, nutritious, portable meals. I'm not a picky eater by any account, so don't hold back on account of my palette. The only things to take into consideration while making suggestions is that I cannot cook meat beforehand at home, though cold cuts and the like are okay. Microwaves and coolers are available to me at my job.

Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to trying out dozens of mobile MeFite meals!
posted by EatTheWeek to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
I just got a Mr. Bento for Christmas, and it is rocking my world--I can pack a lunch with last night's leftovers, some frozen veggies, and some fruit. I'd tried to break my fast food habit before, but it took a Mr. Bento to make it possible.

Lots of my coworkers take Lean Cuisine meals or the like, stash them in the fridge or freezer till lunchtime, then microwave them. But that's not much more economical than fast food.
posted by Jeanne at 7:33 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here are some previous threads on this topic with lots of good suggestions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:49 PM on January 26, 2007

Well of course the easiest thing is sandwiches. I always make lunches the night before with either some leftovers, a sandwich (deli meat is better for you on the sodium side than other meats, and in my opinion tastes better... so like, Lebanon bologna with some cheese... MmMM) fruit is good with this, or veggies (carrots, broccoli) or BOTH! :)
My fiance has a guy who works with him that takes a loaf of his favorite bread, a jar of mayo and some lunch meats, marks his name on them and then keeps them in the fridge at his work.. then he can make one fresh each day. I love that idea.

Yougrt with granola is easy and tasty

I like Lean Cusine and it is cheaper at a Super Walmart

I second a Mr.Bento... although I dont have one, I damn well should.

Things like soups and chilli can be made over the weekend, frozen in separate little tupperware containers and then taken each morning. They are easy and go a real long way.

Good luck!!
posted by ForeverDcember at 7:52 PM on January 26, 2007

Also, soup is awesome for lunch and you can make a big batch at the beginning of the week and just coast from there.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:52 PM on January 26, 2007

My favorite is edamame- I have these little microwaveable trays from Sam's. They even came with little packets of sea salt. 3 minutes in the micrwave and you're done- filling, easy and healthy.
posted by MadamM at 8:30 PM on January 26, 2007

I bought some covered plates and often take leftovers from the night before. I also take pocket sandwiches and fruit. The great thing about the covered plates is that you can wait until you get home to clean them, since you can slap the cover back on. I also bring toast with jelly for the morning (make two pieces and stick the sticky sides together) and a snack for the afternoon, so that I'm not tempted by the convenience store potato chips and candy.

I also have a couple of 2 cup Sterlite brand containers (most grocery stores carry them) for messy things like chili and soup, and stacks of the cheap ziplock 2.5 cup containers for everything else.
posted by found dog one eye at 8:34 PM on January 26, 2007

Maybe a fairly simple turkey wrap? You can put lots of healthy things on that. Bagel sandwiches are also tasty - or you can put cream cheese on them. Or you can put cream cheese on your bagel sandwich. Mmmm. Fruit bars are handy, too.
posted by skilletfish at 9:25 PM on January 26, 2007

I make extra of whatever I am making for dinner, and keep a lot of quick, easy side dishes around(chopped bagged romaine for salads, crackers and deli cheese, rice cakes, breakfast bars, popcorn, etc). The actual food doesn't matter, if you have the right lunchbox. Disposible, literal brown bag lunches have so many limitations-what if you want to take a side of salad dressing? Are you going to put it in a ziploc bag? How about biscuits and gravy-how to keep the biscuits dry and the gravy contained? With the right lunchbox, you can pack ANYTHING. Real, everyday food, not just sandwiches.
If you have a microwave and a cooler, you don't need a Mr. Bento(you don't need it to stay hot). A limitation with covered plates/divided tv dinner style tupperware is that if you have a cold salad in one compartment and lasagne in the other, how are you going to microwave that lasagne?
I am a huge shill for Laptop Lunches. You don't need the whole system, just the basic set. Here are two examples of lunches I have packed in my beloved bento. If you want to stick anything bulky in there, you can remove some of the compartments. They stand up to tomato stains and microwaves. I carry the lunchbox 1 mile in a purse home from work and it's never busted open on me; all the food stays in it's compartment, and if it's something soupy, you just use the container with a lid. I don't have enough time to eat a real breakfast before I go to work, but my lunchbox has room to pack something for both my first break and my lunch break.
The Vegan Lunchbox has about a million more photos of Laptop Lunch meals.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:47 PM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like to graze all day, so I take lots of zippered baggies and small tupperware-type things to eat out of.

* cheerios (about 1 c.)
* baby carrots (about 1 c.)
* 3/4 c. yogurt
* 3/4 c. tomato soup
* toasted cheddar cheese sandwich
* apple
* orange.

I like to bring at least two fruits and a vegetable (apple, orange, carrot), something starchy for snacking on (cheerios in a baggy), a main meal focus (sandwich and soup), and something smaller than a main meal but heavy enough to shut up my stomach (yogurt).

Other options for fruits and vegetable
* celery
* broccoli
* spinach
* banana
* pear
* berries
** take your pick

Other options for starchy
* crackers
* potato chips
* popcorn
* pretzels

Other options for main meal:
* Leftovers from last night.
* Heavier sandwich.
* Pasta & sauce
* Tortilla wrapped around various yummy ingredients (vegetables, protein, sauce, cheese)

Other heavier snacking items:
* Cheese
* Peanut butter (perhaps packaged with celery or an apple)
* A boiled egg

I'm eating about 1,800 calories per day, so adjust up or down depending on your food intake needs.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:30 PM on January 26, 2007

A microwavable chicken pot pie is only about 89 cents (Swanson's, on sale)... It's warm, it fills you up and you can eat "healthier" at supper.
posted by amyms at 11:21 PM on January 26, 2007

Yep, sandwich. Wide slice of french bread cut in half horizontally(think sub sandwich) + deli meat + whatever other toppings you want = easy, quick, delicious, and it's simple to make exactly as much as you want. For variety you can get different kinds of bread (probably available at whatever grocery store you frequent, and if not, at a bakery), different kinds of meat, different toppings.

Things that will make your sandwich experience better:

If you use mayonaise, mustard, relish, whatever, keep it separate; otherwise the bread gets all soggy and nasty by lunchtime. You might be able to find condiments in those little packets in the picnic/camping aisle (and you can get big boxes of them in some bulk clubs like Costco or Sams). If not--maybe get a few small tupperware tubs, put the amount of condiment you think you'll want in them every day, and bring a knife or something to spread them onto the sandwich.

Tomato slices should also be kept separate unless you like soggy bread--either that, or bring the tomato to work whole and slice it there. Pickles probably also fit into this category, although since I don't like pickles I don't know for sure.

Salt, too--if you add it when you make your lunch, it will have soaked in and be less detectable by the time you eat. You can get a cheap camping/picnic saltshaker and keep it in your desk(or just bring it every day). I don't know whether pepper soaks in, but you can get a cheap camping/picnic pepper shaker to keep in your desk, too.

Something nobody's mentioned yet: baked potatoes! Microwave a potato beforehand, open it up and mix the toppings in, then wrap it in foil or put it in a plastic tub and take it to work and microwave it for thirty seconds or so when you want to eat it. You can make it the night before and refrigerate it; it'll be fine. The healthiness of this option depends on what toppings you put on it, of course. (You can use other kinds of meat instead of bacon bits, by the way, and it's delicious.)

You can get a pre-cooked deli chicken from the grocery store(about $5), carve it up, and take it to work a few pieces at a time.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 11:46 PM on January 26, 2007

For my lunches I often eat leftovers from dinner...since my husband won't touch leftovers it's nice for both of us. I also pack cereal quite a bit, with milk in a Tupperware beverage container or a Thermos. Most of the people at my job either bring frozen dinners, like Stouffers or Lean Cuisine, or leftovers from their previous dinner.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:31 AM on January 27, 2007

I got totally burnt out on sandwiches after years of them, and what I do now is I keep a bottle of salad dressing in the refrigerator at work and bring a salad every day. For protein, I keep a container of cheese (individually wrapped wedges of brie or "Laughing Cow" work well for this) in the refrigerator and a box of some kind of healthy whole-wheat crackers in my desk. For a while I was alternating the cheese and crackers with hummus and pita chips, but I was starting to take hummus for granted, and that made me sad because I love it so much. Fruit and maybe an individual thing of yogurt rounds it all out. It's not hugely filling, but it's healthy, and I don't like to be stuffed to the gills at work anyway, because I get sleepy enough in the afternoon as it is.
posted by infinitywa1tz at 9:42 AM on January 27, 2007

Is there a Trader Joe's anywhere in your area? The store opened in my town a couple of years ago, and my office fridge has been full of their wonderful, low-cost ($2 or $2.50), prepared meals ever since. I don't know what anyone in my company ate before TJ's. I like the frozen meals, the cans of filling and delicious soups (like lentil, black bean, or chilli, for $1.50), and the little boxes of Indian food (I think the brand name for these in other stores is "Tasty Bite" and they're in the canned food aisle). I am really into eating healthy but I'm also busy and broke, and I swear by Trader Joe's.
posted by sauris at 10:33 AM on January 27, 2007

i have this same problem and have tried soups, sandwiches, etc. recently i've been happy with the following solution: bananas, oranges, and nuts. first i eat a couple of oranges, then one or two bananas combined with as many salted/roasted almonds as i feel like eating. occasionally i'll spoon some peanut-butter on the bananas while eating them.

no refrigeration necessary, surprisingly filling, quick, easy, cheap, healthy.
posted by jjsonp at 10:54 AM on January 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

left overs of all kinds - i always cook more veg than i need and then use that in lunch the next day. you can add salad stuffs, tuna, cold cuts, eggs or whatever takes your fancy. no need to heat up even - just add salad dressing or mayo.

a tightly sealing container is key though - otherwise you will end up with your lunch everywhere but inside your tummy!

and portable fruit like apples or a small container of non-portable fruit like grapes, berries.

also normally carry a small plastic container with walnuts and dried fruit like cranberries for when i find myself desparate for a snack or had no time to make lunch or am working late...
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:58 AM on January 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all these wonderful suggestions. Just reading this thread is making me hungry!
posted by EatTheWeek at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2007

My personal favorite is:
I pack this stuff and make a sandwich out of them at lunchtime. I pack the ingredients instead of a premade sandy so that it's fresh when I eat it. This sandwich needs no condiments and is always the envy of my coworkers.
posted by Count at 1:10 PM on January 27, 2007

Grocery stores will often sell bags of pre-cooked frozen meat for salads, either in the deli meats or the frozen food section. Buy a baggie, and make wraps the night before (rice, etc.)
posted by SpecialK at 9:42 PM on January 27, 2007

An easy way to spice up your sandwiches is to vary the spreads. I like to mix pesto (regular or sundried-tomato) with mayonaise. Try different mustards (also mixed with mayo if too spicy for your liking). Hummus is also delicious. Guacamole is good too.
posted by radioamy at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2007

Re spreads: I invented the miso-and-refried-beans-on-toast sandwich last week. It was actually good.
I look forward to trying out dozens of mobile MeFite meals!
posted by EatTheWeak
Next up on the Sci-Fi Channel: To Serve AskMe.
posted by eritain at 5:42 AM on May 1, 2007

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