Budget Lunches You Can Take To Work

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Photo courtesy of piyato / Freedigitalphotos.net

 

Can’t stand the thought of yet another standard salad sandwich of lettuce, tomato, carrot, beetroot and the obligatory alfalfa that all cafes seem to include when everyone picks it off anyway? Or worse yet another soggy sandwich where the tomato has melded into the bread and the beetroot has bled all over the meat and stained it pink no matter its original colour? Or are you sick of the same cheese and tomato toasted sandwich you seem to be having for lunch each day despite its lack of imagination but at least it’s got one ‘vegetable’ so you feel like you’re doing something right?  
 
I’m over them all!
 
I am starting on a program of change, beginning the 25thof February and this means I need healthy and nutritious meals to take to work. I want lovely crunchy salads, and salty crackers, and I want a variety of nuts and dried fruits and interesting cheeses. I want new ideas for what to do with proteins and how to combine these into interesting meals with vegetables and fruits. And I want to do all this without spending too much on lunch each day because I have a savings target that I’m aiming for, so I’m brown-bagging it for a while.
 
It turns out that one of my loyal readers has the same goal as myself, and she’s asked me what can she take to work for lunch so she can save a few bucks as well. So, with this reader in mind, and my own upcoming needs I figured there are plenty of people out there looking for inspiration and variety for lunch. You might be saving money, or saving calories, but the end result is the same.
 

What’s for lunch?

I have actually split the idea of work lunches into two posts. In this post I’ll talk about a variety of interesting lunch ideas and give you links to some interesting web pages I came across. In the next post Mix and Match Salads I’ll give you in-depth information just about salads and the amazing world of salad that I never knew about until I began researching this topic. So, two for the price of one today. And if you think that budget lunches are boring or bland, think again after reading my definition of budget cooking here.
 
You might need to take a few things to work to make budget and healthy lunches such as a few condiments or a plate and a decent knife, but it’s up to you and what you can transport with you, or what is already available in the work kitchen (and that you’re willing to use from the sometimes odd implements). An investment in a few small or flat containers is also a great idea as you’ll want to make sure the wet items are separate to the dry ones, and something that can go in the microwave and isn’t plastic is best.
 

Potato Tortilla

Here’s a really unique idea for a potato tortilla (or as we would call it, an omelette). You could use the omelette by itself, or the potato salad by itself, or take both. Plan ahead though, cause you’ll need to make it ahead and then warm it at the office later (I wonder whether you can warm an omelette in a sandwich press?? – Update from Feb 2016, yes you can, but keep an eye on it as it can change from warm to burnt quickly).
 

Ideas to top a cracker

Maybe you don’t want a cooked lunch and just want crackers with unusual or interesting toppings. This page has the best cracker ideas I’ve ever seen. I love the sound of apple, honey and peanut butter (or make your own nut butter and add that) and I really want to try the mozzarella and avocado topping. I’m salivating already, aren’t you?

Pumpkin and apple wrap

Now this recipe uses butternut pumpkin (called butternut squash in the U.S. where this recipe is from) and apples. He roasts them and uses them as a side dish with his Thanksgiving dinner, but I began to think about other ways to take advantage of the great flavours of this dish. How else could you use roasted vegetables and make them into budget lunches? I’m thinking that by smearing hummus onto a wrap, maybe a nice wholegrain tortilla, and adding the above you could heat it in the sandwich press at work and it would be really tasty and healthy. Add something like haloumi or feta cheese for a saltier taste and raisins or craisins (dried cranberries) for a sweeter taste. You could also add this to some salad leaves and add some precooked and shredded chicken and it would make a lovely salad too. The possibilities are almost endless.

Salad in a jar

Here is an interesting idea, and one for those of you out there who need gluten free meals. Alternatively this could be for those of you who want to reduce their wheat intake like myself, or for those who are interested in expanding the variety of grains they do eat. It’s a salad in a jar, and a really interesting way of making and taking a salad to work. The only question I have is: how do you eat it? Do you upturn the jar into a bowl and mix, or do you just eat through the layers of the jar? Well, anything goes as it all depends on what you like.
 
Brilliant idea, but don’t be limited to only a salad in a jar. Why not trail mix in a jar layered like this? Or fruit salad and yoghurt layered like a parfait or trifle? How about porridge and fruit layered up for when you need breakfast at work too (like when you do bootcamp at 6am and only have enough time to shower before catching the bus – sadly not me, I like my sleep too much). Maybe you’re just like me and need breakfast a while after getting up so this could turn into a great idea for taking breakfast to work so you still get a healthy meal, or even a picnic breakfast on the weekends too! Cool huh?

Double Broccoli Quinoa salad

Again this recipe uses quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) but you could easily substitute in white or brown rice, pasta, barley, faro, couscous, crudités, etc. I particularly love the idea of the double broccoli in this recipe and I figure it’s a fantastic way to use up the broccoli when you’ve bought too much or it needs using up (for instance when you have an aging head of broccoli it becomes the pesto and the fresher head becomes the florets for the salad). You could also swap the cream for Greek yoghurt, plain yoghurt or sour cream depending on your taste or whichever you’ve got in the fridge to use this week.

Easy savoury muffins

With a name like ‘I Ate Brisbane’ I just had to take a look at this site. And I’m so glad I did. Here are some really easy muffins that you can make ahead and then reheat at work, or would probably taste awesome just by themselves. And the variations could be infinite. I checked out the savoury section of my muffin book to look for other possibilities and thought these ones would be worth a try (just by changing the veggies and cheese combinations in the recipe from this website):
          sun-dried tomato, cheese and olives
          capsicum, chilli and corn
          double corn (add polenta and corn kernels)
          cottage cheese and chives
          goats cheese, pumpkin pieces or puree and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on top
          sweet potato, chilli and feta
Don’t forget you can also add things like bacon and sausage or luncheon meats if that suits your tastes.

Interesting sandwich ideas

I was flicking through an old issue of the Healthy Food Guide today while relaxing in the amazing atmosphere of the Hyatt Hotel’s tea room and found some really great recipes in it. Thanks to the magazine I now have my menu plan worked out for the coming week (check out my tips for menu planning here). When I returned home this evening I decided to check out the website too. To my surprise it’s got all the articles and recipes ready for me to use. Fantastic! This is going to be another site I use regularly now I’m aware of it.
 
So, in the search for lunch ideas to take to work I searched their lunch section and what do you know, I found a page full of fabulous ideas for what to put on sandwiches. So, if after all the ideas above you just feel like a sandwich, but want to make it awesome instead of dreary, check out this variety of sandwiches you could be having. There must almost be one for each day of the week for about 6 months! Ha, got you sorted for sandwiches then, yeah?

Rice and Tuna Rissoles

Okay, my last idea actually comes from a recipe I was making a few weeks ago. I was making some rice and tuna rissoles when I combined a tin of flavoured tuna with some grated cheese and some corn kernels. I stopped at that point in the recipe and took a look at the mix I’d just made. Now I think this is the perfect combination that could go on crackers, or you could even use it sort of like a dip with fresh vegetables like carrot sticks and what not, or you could even use it as a sort of tuna spread for your sandwich (I’m thinking kind of like that liverwurst spread stuff but way better). Easy! You could make various combinations on the same theme depending on the flavour of tuna you like, or by adding different finely diced veggies to the mix.
I hope that I’ve given you some great ideas for what to take to work for lunch. There are some really interesting ideas I want to try myself. I love the idea of the savoury muffins and they would be a great accompaniment to soup in winter. And I want to try crisps in a tortilla just for the hell of it. but the idea of fruit and yoghurt in a jar has given me a great idea (in a smaller version) for afternoon tea too.
 
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post. Please leave me a comment if you’ve tried any of these ideas or if you can think of a different variation that you’d love to share with everyone. 

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