The other day, a coworker of mine spotted me heating up my lunch, and she commented, “I’m just so inspired that you bring your lunch to work every day. That’s so much better than eating out.”
I was a bit flattered by the compliment, to be sure, but I was more surprised than anything. Bringing my lunch to work is just something that comes naturally to me now. Being on a budget – and watching my caloric intake – necessitates packing lunches for work.
That’s not to say that I don’t struggle from time to time – especially since I’m currently packing for two: my toddler daughter and myself. Skipping packing a lunch for her is not optional. She can’t run to Dairy Queen or Whataburger if I just decide not to pack her lunch. And, in my point of view, if I’m packing a lunch for her, I might as well pack one for me, too.
However, the tricky part comes when I pack two entirely different lunches every day.
I have a microwave at work, so that helps my situation drastically. For a while, when I was doing Whole30, I would pack a sweet potato, a banana, and some veggies and heat up the sweet potato and veggies in the microwave. Easy, cost-efficient, and healthy. Now that I’m no longer doing Whole30 (or at least am not right now), I more often than not eat leftovers – which are often cost-efficient and most likely healthier than running to the nearest fast food place for a burger, fries, and diet coke.
But for Alice…that’s a different story. I have to pack a lunch that can stay cold, and that is a struggle in general – and it doesn’t help that she’s often a picky eater. I had a friend of mine mention that she used a heated thermos to keep chicken nuggets warm for her toddler. Being someone who for 10 years relied on a microwave to heat up lunch, I saw this as a stroke of genius.
However, I still generally send Alice with cold lunches, and I try to incorporate the following: fruit, diary, veggies, and meat and/or carbs. Because Alice is very picky about what meat she eats (if she eats it at all), I have to vary the meat and the carbs in hopes that she will eat some meat if she doesn’t have to eat it all the time.
For moms, time is critical. Food prep is essential. Every week after I go to the grocery store, I pretty much know what I’m eating for lunch that week and what Alice is eating. While my lunches won’t be prepped on Sunday (I often eat leftovers, as I mentioned), Alice’s generally will be ready every Sunday afternoon.
Toddler lunches are hard – or at least they’re hard when your kid’s favorite foods are cheese and yogurt – and you can’t pack peanut butter due to allergies.
For those of you who are like me and struggle with packing lunches for your little ones, here’s a breakdown of what I packed for Alice this week:
Day 1: Yogurt, cheese, grapefruit pieces, and pretzels
Day 2 and 4: Applesauce, cheese, strawberries, and deli meat
Day 3: Grapefruit pieces, yogurt, deli meat, and pretzels
(Day 5 of this week was a bust, as the family went down south for a work trip.)
As you can tell, Alice gets a lot of repeats. She loves yogurt (ahem, she loves the yogurt with Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” on it), so she gets that fairly regularly – and it comes in a four-pack. She loves cheese, so she pretty much gets a piece of cheese with every lunch.
I usually throw at least one thing in that I’m pretty sure she won’t eat, simply to introduce her to it. Canned carrots are always hit and miss, as are most vegetables, but I want her to see vegetables regularly on her menu in hopes that one day she will like it.
At any rate, packing healthy lunches, whether just for you or for everyone in your family, takes some time, planning, and effort. But, in the end, not only are you saving some serious money, you’re often saving when it comes to your health, too.
What healthy lunches do you pack for yourself or for your kids? Share your ideas!