Creative ideas for healthy, portable brown-bag lunches?
March 3, 2004 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any creative ideas for healthy, portable brown-bag lunches? I'm way sick of peanut butter and jelly!
posted by catfood to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Anything you can put in a sandwich, you can wrap in a tortilla. They're more compact than a sandwich and they're more fun to make.

I like putting cheese on a tortilla, warming it up until the cheese melts, slapping turkey on it and a leaf of lettuce and wrapping that up. I'll usually make two for lunch or three if I'm going to share.

That's actually another good idea. At one job, a coworker and I took turns making lunch for each other. We'd make enough for two and then take turns bringing lunch in. I was Monday and Wednesday, she was Tuesday Thursday. (Friday, we'd buy lunch at the cafe). She always came up with great meals, and it was a suprise to see how creative she could be on a budget.
posted by ColdChef at 6:05 PM on March 3, 2004

Does brown bag mean no office microwave? I've been bringing lunch to work for a while and there are a lot of things that pack well the night before that don't suck for lunch: frozen fruit that will thaw out enough to be a good fruit salad, things you make in bulk that cuts up easily like lasagna and casserole are good if you can heat them somehow. I've been wowing them around the office by bringing saffron risotto to work all week. it's a pisser to make but if you divide that time by five meals it's no big deal, and tasty. Sometimes you can go the kid route and pack a lot of little stuff that adds up to a meal: raisins, nuts, crackers & cheese, yogurt, trail mix, an apple, tortilla chips and salsa, sliced fruit or veggies. Put them all in little containers and when it's lunchtime you have seven different things to choose from. Chicken breasts that are cooked the night before are savory when sliced and put on bread. Toasting the bread beforehand [or just packing the meat separately] can prevent Brown Bag Sog.

The key to my lunch habits are making enough of something over the weekend and just storing it. Invest in tupperware and ziplocs or your equivalent. Buy some travel silverware and bowls-with-lids, get a case of whatever you like to drink and only bring it with you to work, don't suck it all down at home. And, of course, Powerbars are good in a pinch. They are usually spendy but we have a dented can store in town where they are 25 cents. They are a good backup if the smart lunch plan falls through. I also do the "buy lunch one day" thing just to give myself a free pass one day when I just don't feel like making or carrying lunch.
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 PM on March 3, 2004

-pita and hummus (particularly Cedar's, particularly tomato basil)
-chop tomato and onions, grate cheese, put in tupperware. toast/microwave on bread.
-unsalted tortilla chips and homemade (easy, honest!) salsa
-hard-to-destroy fruits (apples, oranges).
posted by whatzit at 6:38 PM on March 3, 2004

I often take a salad. Salads can be very satisfying if you add things like a sliced hard-boiled egg or chunks of baked chicken or what ever you have in the fridge. The trick for making it portable is to get a tiny container for the dressing and put it the dressing container within the salad container, which should also be large enough to hold your fork.
posted by orange swan at 7:59 PM on March 3, 2004

You can fit a small tupperware container in a brown bag, right?

The base of the best diet I know of is a grains and legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas) with high quality oil (olive, sesame, canola....), antioxidant rich bits (garlic, onion....) and assorted high-protein chunks.

But the grain/legume combo is the sine qua non.
posted by troutfishing at 9:03 PM on March 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

Er...the base of good, nutritious eating, I mean.
posted by troutfishing at 9:05 PM on March 3, 2004

Leftovers from dinner work well for me, provided of course that they survive me getting peckish before bedtime.

Cold meat/smoked fish/chicken, rolls and salad.

Calzone, pasties, samosas, other variations on the baked parcel theme.

Banana + yoghurt + apple + small tin of tuna + crackers.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:47 PM on March 3, 2004

I hate bread for brown bag sandwiches, so I use Trader Joe's sprouted grain raisin bagels with a piece of Tillamook sliced cheddar and turkey ham. I premake them for the week and freeze them in ziplock bags. Makes lunch making much less of a chore! One half bagel sandwich a day with diet soda and fruit is what I always have for lunch.
posted by Lynsey at 10:36 PM on March 3, 2004

These are excellent cold. In fact, it's my lunch for tomorrow.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:48 PM on March 3, 2004

occasionally (and oh so shamefully!), i also enjoy buying prepackaged children's snack food. you know, the super sugary fruit chews or biscuits with icing... there's something oddly refreshing about including a small treat in your lunch bag.

although i normally eat things like homemade vegan energy bars or fresh fruit or quinoa with vegetables, i personally find dunkaroos to be one of life's small delights.
posted by lumiere at 11:30 PM on March 3, 2004

God you people are so healthy it makes me sick.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:56 AM on March 4, 2004 [2 favorites]

My brown bag, errrrrr, plastic grocery bag lunch today is PBJ, brownies, and some babybel cheese. Usually I throw in an orange but I'm out of them right now.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:41 AM on March 4, 2004

Take a nice hearty wheat grain, with your choice of sliced cheeses, chicken, and assorted veggies and george forman it.

Now you're the envy of the lunch bucket crowd!
posted by jazzkat11 at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2004

My wife makes a load of chili over the weekend, puts it in ziploc containers, and freezes them. Throw it over pasta. Eat!
posted by adampsyche at 8:53 AM on March 4, 2004

What Flanders said.

I like a portion of a baguette of French Bread and a big chunk of Brie cheese. For dessert, grapes. If you aren't working the grapes can be found in red wine.
posted by caddis at 9:45 AM on March 4, 2004

Step 1: Get a food jar.

Step 2: On the weekend, make a big batch of something wonderful (today I'm having veggie stew, but I often have a bean dish). Freeze it in appropriate portions.

Step 3: In the morning, heat your portion until it's very, very hot, then put it in the food jar.

This will stay warm until lunchtime, with no work micro hassles.

I started doing this a few months ago, and have never looked back. All other lunches pale in comparison.
posted by frykitty at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

I knew a guy in college who would buy a long baguette every day and a few dollars worth of cold cuts / lunch meats. He'd cut the thing down the middle, steal some butter from the cafeteria, and lay the meat in there. Now, this would literally last him all day, this metre-long sandwich, and he'd always be eating it at odd times. Once every little while, he'd reach into his bag, pull it out, take a few bites, then put it back for later.

But personally? I'm all for the homemade tortilla thing. Some chicken breast, cheese, a few other interesting bits (depending on your mood). If you have a nuke-box at work, then heat it up. And if you're like me during the week, feeling lazy when it comes to preparing lunch, then just make them all on the weekend and freeze them. So easy!
posted by antifreez_ at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

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