What are your favorite cheap, healthy bag lunches?
September 6, 2004 10:53 AM   Subscribe

PackMyLunchFilter! I have spent years trying to find healthy, quick and inexpensive brown-bag lunch items (I can cook and I'm willing to try anything) that I can rotate at school and work. What are your favourites? Bonus points for those who do it on a university-student budget; I'm above Kraft Dinner, but certainly not able to pack smoked salmon every day.
posted by dflemingdotorg to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Hummus and carrots, wraps with chicken and veggies, etc. Martha Stewart has GREAT lunch packing recipes.
posted by annathea at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2004

Something my friends at work enjoy a lot are my roll-ups. They are light and very tasty.

Lightly spread a thin slice of deli ham, turkey or roast beef with some jalapeno ranch dressing (basically just ranch dressing made with a package of ranch dressing mix, non-fat milk, lite mayo, and lots of bottled, pickled jalapeno peppers diced.) Place a couple of slices of cucumber and/or alfalfa sprouts at one end and then roll up the meat. You can also use cream cheese in the middle.

If you have an asian market handy, see if they carry rice paper wrappers. These are wonderful-- cheap and low calorie and they store very well. When you are ready to use them just dip in a bowl of hot water for 10 seconds. Then you can make a thai spring roll by using an asian-type salad dressing with your meat and/or vegtables. I like roasted chicken slivers, cucumber, broccoli and red peppers with a miso-base sauce.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:56 AM on September 6, 2004

You may find lots of good suggestions in previous discussions about healthy lunches, preparing food in bulk, and eating healthier on a small budget.
posted by Danelope at 11:58 AM on September 6, 2004

Martha Stewart has GREAT lunch packing recipes

Links? I looked and most of her lunch recipes seemed home cooking based. They would be awfully soggy if you brown bagged them.
posted by srboisvert at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2004

If you're willing to make some things ahead, lunches can be a great, inexpensive meal. My favorites (self links abound):

1. Make soup on Sunday. All you need is a good thermos. Pop a portion of soup in the micro, pour it into the thermos, and you're ready to go. A couple easy recipes: Dhal Soup, and Corn Chowder.

2. Bento boxes. Nori rolls are dead easy, and very cheap and versatile. Bean dishes, leftovers, eggs, veggies, tons of things can go in a bento box, and they encourage variety and nutrition.
posted by frykitty at 12:04 PM on September 6, 2004

I love tuna salad for this - get a bunch of canned tuna, drain it and throw it in a bowl, add just enough mayo to turn it into a roughly uniform pinkish sludge, then throw in whatever flavors you want (I'm partial to horseradish, mustard, and capers, but it's entirely up to you - if it smells like it'd work in tuna salad, throw it in). You can put some chopped-up celery or parsley in there if you like.
Then just make a bunch of tuna salad sandwiches on your favorite kind of bread, plastic-wrap them, and stick 'em in your fridge until you find yourself in need of a sandwich (like in the morning when you're looking for something to throw into your brown bag).
posted by wanderingmind at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2004

I make tuna wraps, slightly easier than wanderingmind's suggestion, you need a package of cream cheese, two cans of tuna, some tortillas. Mix it together and spackle it on the tortillas. I add chives, garlic and corn to mine, takes about 10 minutes and makes three lunches worth for me.
posted by sciurus at 12:30 PM on September 6, 2004

tuna is easily the winner in the sack lunch race. Although I would just bring a can of tuna, a diet coke, and an apple.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2004

Bring a little bottle of good olive oil and nice salt to work. Apply to homemade Eye-talian or Fronch bread. Yum.

Or a bit of nice cheese.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2004

Does anyone outside of California eat jicama? It's a mildly-flavored, crunchy vegetable that goes well with everything.
posted by SPrintF at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2004

It seems like more than half the people in my office bring meals from home. The most common lunch I see is a curry of some kind and a pot of rice. These will probably require refrigeration, so as a brown bag lunch it might not be a perfect choice if you don't always have somewhere to stash it.

I haven't really done much of the bag lunch thing since I was a kid, but when I do find myself bringing food, I try to make it something more picnic-like than a sack with a sandwich which seems mildly depressing to me. Approach this problem as though planning for a marathon sequence of picnics rather than bag lunches.
posted by majick at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2004

SPrintF - I eat jicama, but I am from California and don't eat much of it here in Missouri because I can never find any that isn't way past its prime.

srboisvert - Recipe Finder, I recommend looking up the salad, sandwich recipes and looking up lunches and snacks under "Cooking with your Kids". I do not have kids, however, everyone eats food, and if you ignore the presentation suggestions the recipes are perfect for brown-bagging.
posted by annathea at 2:05 PM on September 6, 2004

The 4H Sandwich:
Hummus, Horseradish, Ham, and wHolemeal bread.

Also, if there is boiling water in the area, there's always the billion and one types of instant noodles. Especially if you live near a Chinese supermarket.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:51 PM on September 6, 2004

I like sandwich rolls made on Lavash. My mom always sent me to school with PB&J wrapped in the stuff (which she always called "swedish flat bread"), but I've since used shredded cheddar, sour-cream, and avocado, or cucumber, tomatoes and cream cheese. You could use about anything.
posted by maniactown at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2004

I bring bag lunches to work 2-3 times a week. A few things that I have tried that seem to work well:

- Lots of little bags of food. I got a few boxes of those mini-sized ziploc bags and fill them up with pretzels, peanuts, chopped vegetables, M&Ms, grapes, sliced apples, sliced cheese, a few globs of hummus, peanut butter, whatever, and keep them all in the fridge. When I get ready to pack and go to work, I can toss in one "main course" thing [like a sandwich, or some lasagna, or a burrito, or some other reheatable thing] and a few little bags of miscellaneous protein and veggies.
- Yogurt adds protein and if you mix something crunchy in [nuts, granola, tvp, flavoring, fruit] it's almost a meal.
- Risotto is a very flavorful meal that can expand to fill whatever veggies and meats you have available. People think it's hard to make, but it's not so bad. You can make a week's worth [more if you freeze it] on a few hours and it's rich savory food which doesn't need too much refrigeration and/or reheating depending on tastes and it's fairly cheap. Here's my recipe
- Good cheese, good bread, good fruit. Under the principle that it's better to spend a little more money on something you'll eat and enjoy than tossing money into fast food or pre-packaged crap, compare prices and try to not just eat cheap for the sake of cheap, but save where appropriate and spend where it matters.
posted by jessamyn at 4:31 PM on September 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

weird fruits. Star fruit, , physillus (or whatever they're called), mango slices, those brown grape sized things with the pink middles. Find a shop that sells every fruit known to man, and pick something new every week.
posted by seanyboy at 4:51 PM on September 6, 2004

I'm on the lookout for some sort of insulated tupperware for leftovers, because the thermose has such a small mouth it gets to be difficult shoveling solids in there.
posted by mecran01 at 5:57 AM on September 7, 2004

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