Lunch ideas!

Every morning, I get up, get ready for the day, let the dog out, then make 2 lunches. My typical formula is [Lunchmeat Sandwich+Salty/Crunchy/Snack-y Side+Sweet Dessert]. Easy, mindless, and, while it's not the best nutritionally, it's way better than going to get fast food, so I've let it slide.

The problem: Both my husband & I are tired of lunch meat sandwiches. I got tired of them a long time ago, and got around it by packing leftovers or some other hobbled-together side dishes that will hold me over until dinner. Josh has more recently tired of them, and because I make his lunch for him, I wasn't aware of it. We talked about it last night and tried to brainstorm meal ideas and didn't come up with much.

Here are the requirements:

My lunch:
- A hot or cold lunch is fine. The only dilemma I have is keeping lunch ideas on hand. I cook for two most the time, so don't have leftovers but maybe once a week. Bread+Cheese+Lunchmeat was easy to keep on hand, but hot lunch ideas will probably take some pre-planning. I had started to keep produce on hand (fruit, carrots, celery, etc) for sides, but have found it tends to go bad before I get through the whole package. Once the garden gets going, hopefully this will be less of a concern. Last summer, I would go out and PICK my lunch in the morning. That was awesome.
- One more requirement for me: No super-processed meals. The Lean Cuisine freezer meals are popular, but I'm suspicious of something so packaged. I'll make the same thing from scratch thankyouverymuch.

Husband's lunch:
- A cold lunch requiring no prep is preferred. He likes to grab his lunch and ride along & eat with his coworkers that are going out to eat, just to get out of the office.
- No raw veggies. There aren't any he likes. Cooked veggies are great, but have to be heated.
- Fruits & fruity stuff are tolerable but not preferred. He's allergic to bananas, but it's the only fruit he really likes. Alas.
- Doesn't like granola bars.
- No peanut butter sandwiches. Allergic to nuts.
- Not keen on salads - pasta, potato, lettuce, etc

Cheese-and-crackers-ala-Lunchables were the only thing we came up with, and I know there must be something better!

What cold lunch ideas* are out there besides sandwiches?! I'm at a loss! Help!

* I told him I should start doing lunches Hawaiian-style & packing a spam musubi or two.... he rebuffed that idea due to the seaweed.

** I check out Just Bento periodically, and am inspired, but don't know if I want to spend that kind of TIME on my lunches. It may come down to that.


Kim said...

For you I would start making extra when you cook so that you have planned leftovers for your lunch. Also make a pot of soup and freeze in individual containers for lunches. I make myself a small lasagna (DH doesn't much care for pasta) and freeze it up in individual containers to grab for lunches. Tons of food freeze well - make a batch of fried rice & freeze, chili, soups, casseroles etc...

Now your DH is more difficult, can he at least use a thermos? Then you could send him chili or soup too. What about getting rid of the lunch meat and try things like tuna, chicken or egg salad? Add onions, olives, celery or what ever he likes. Send lettuce in separate baggie or it will get soggy.

How about just nibble foods - sliced kielbasa, grapes, cheese cubes, pepperoni sticks, crackers etc...kind of like kid food :)

Does he like cold pizza? I know my DH and son do (I hate it eww!) but if he does, you could makes some from scratch and he can take a couple slices for lunch.

The other thing to try, is buy some different lunch meats, if you were buying packaged stuff, try the fresh deli stuff - more expensive but still cheaper than eating out and taste better than packaged too. Buy only enough of each kind for one sandwich, so you don't get tired with the flavors and nothing goes to waste.

Hope that helps some :)

Joanna said...

Kim- Thanks so much for your ideas! I think the solution for me will be cooking extra at meal times, and maybe having a "Once-a-month-lunches" cooking session. For DH, I've considered a thermos or nibble foods. I'll ask him his opinion on cold pizza :)

The deli-meat suggestion is good too- to save money, we were buying the 3-lb lunch meat packages from Costco, which is fine except we really tire of it after a while. This is the problem with shopping at Costco with a family of 2, I guess!

Beth @ The Natural Mommy said...

Are there different varieties of 3lb lunch meats at costco? Could you break the huge bag down into smaller bags and freeze them? Then you could get out a small bag of turkey, and then a small bag of ham... have more variety w/o anything going bad.

I'm at a loss for [your] Josh's lunches. The allergies and preferred cold lunches have me stunted. My Josh takes leftovers all.the.time. He says he gets asked if they're "real" or if he got them at a restaurant. *Happy blush*

But yeah, for him it's either leftovers or pb&j b/c I don't buy the cheap lunch meat since I'm wary of the sodium nitrite.

I like the thermos idea!

Joanna said...

Beth- Good to know I'm not the only one stumped :-P The Costco lunch meat is actually 2 1.5 lb variety packs put together - turkey & two kinds of ham. Separating the varieties and freezing them separately would allow us to still buy the lunch meat but not have to eat it all at once, which would help. Hadn't thought of that. Currently, I freeze 1 pack and use the other.

And, I totally get your point about being suspicious of the processed lunch meat- I know it's better than eating out, but I'd love to find something even healthier and less processed.

Mom2fur said...

If you look around the internet, you'll find lots of 'freeze ahead' recipes, or recipes for Once a Month Cooking (OAMC). Don't let the 'cook everything on Sunday' theme of OAMC throw you. I just use the recipes I like and only spend a little time on it. You could make up what you like, then divide it into individual containers and freeze them.
Here's an idea: brown some ground beef or chicken. Add some taco seasoning and a small can of diced tomatoes. Put some of the meat into a tortilla, add cheese, then roll it up. Then all you have to do is reheat it.
I like Kim's idea for fried rice. This is how I make it:
I scramble an egg or two in butter, then remove the egg.
Throw cooked rice into the pan. Add some vegetables, and meat, too, if you have it. Throw on soy sauce to taste and fry away. Then add the egg back. If you happen to have sesame oil, a few drops of this really makes the rice delicious. I hope these ideas help!

Brooke said...

i make double (or triple) batches of chili and potato soup for my lunches...but for the cold lunches i'm at a loss.

Anonymous said...

Josh-Take cereal. I know you like it:)

Anonymous said...

Mom used to make a lunch for me to take to school. My favorite was an open faced english muffin with spaghetti sauce, mushrooms and melted mozzarella cheese that had been heated it under the broiler for a few minutes. Separated by wax paper, she wrapped them in foil before putting them in my lunch sack. They must have kept well until lunchtime. :-)

Alisse Goldsmith said...

Joanna - I thought this might help you in your quest to find good lunches: http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=227500

JeannaMO said...

My husband is a MEAT eater! He doesn't like lots of veges so when we BBQ or grill, I make extra hamburgers, pork cutlets (like cube steak, but they're pork), boneless pork chops, etc. He will even eat these cold on a bun for a hearty sandwich.

Also, I like to take leftover white rice and add to 1 can of chili. Then I use this in tortillas for burritos - with little cheese. They are excellent!

What about egg salad, tuna salad, bologna salad? I have a grinder and I grind a hunk of bologna and add to that mayo or miracle whip and some sweet relish. This makes a delicious sandwich.

When I pack lunches in thermoses for my kids at school, I fill the thermos with boiling water. Then at the last minute, dump out the water, dump in the leftovers and screw on the lid. It stays not super hot but good. My hubby would probably like a piece of leftover fried/baked chicken and say... some hashbrown casserole in a thermos.

Good luck. I get stumped on lunches too.

Beckie said...

My kids love wraps. The absolute favorite is Italian Chicken in a Garlic Pesto wrap. I buy a pack of split chicken breast with the skin on and on the bone. Marinate it in olive oil, vinager, italian spices and fresh garlic overnight and bake or grill it the next day. Let it cool completely and slice it off the bone and put it in a ziploc bag.

Take one garlic pesto wrap and add as much chicken as you like. We love baby greens in ours but you could use some saute'd onions peppers and mushrooms instead. Drizzle on a little italian or ranch dressing, fold and bag wrap. Really yummy and filling. And since you cooked the chicken, you know what's in it.