We all know what it’s like to scour the internet for inspiration, whether it be a culinary creation, a lifestyle change, or a combination of the two. All too often, we stumble upon “how-to” articles that claim that trying something new will be a piece of cake (think Pinterest).
The reality is that often times it isn’t, but it seems that no one wants to talk about that ugly batch of cookies or their failed squat challenge.
This summer, I decided that I needed to make a food-related lifestyle change of sorts: I needed to learn how to pack a healthy lunch. Yes, I realize that there are harder tasks out there than throwing a sandwich in a paper bag, but I wanted to give my wallet a break and my body a boost.
Lucky for you guys, I’m not one of those people that’s going to tell you that I nailed it. To be frank, I challenged myself for a week, and almost blew the entire thing and then felt like a hero when I finally rose to the occasion. Am I still struggling to make this an everyday practice? YES. Do I have the tools to get there eventually? YASSS.
Reason #1: The economy’s even worse than mornings.
As a wise man once said, “The struggle is real.”
Chances are your first big kid job isn’t going to pay you a six-figure salary right off the bat. At this point, you’re probably old enough to appreciate but reject your parents’ lunch money handouts (or maybe you aren’t).
So no matter how badly you want that Whole Foods combo box for lunch, you can’t (or maybe shouldn’t) go out and buy it every day of the week. Self-help is a beautiful thing.
Reason #2: “I celebrate the body and enjoy good health,” and I also quote Salt-N-Pepa.
*Can we acknowledge the fact that I found a song lyric that explains my second reason for packing a lunch by an artist(s) that can be classified as a food condiment?! DOUBLE WIN*
After reading my first reason behind packing a lunch, you might be brainstorming about all of the cheap fast-food I could resort to eating. You’re right, I could resort to that, but I don’t want to (here are 10 reasons why).
Packing a lunch ensures that I’m receiving adequate nutrition, and it challenges me to get crafty in the kitchen! The more you know, right?
Here’s what it was like for me to go through a week-long, lunch-packing challenge:
Mondays are slow for everyone. I got in relatively early on Sunday evening from an out-of-town trip, and thought packing a lunch and snacks could wait until the next morning.
WRONG-OHhhhthehumanity. $20 later, I had a venti double shot espresso, yogurt with berries and granola, a bagel and cream cheese and a salad to my name.
The first three items were for breakfast, leaving me with one item for lunch. The salad (Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl) was tasty, but was portion sized for a kale-loving field mouse rather than a human.
That left four hours in my workday for me to wallow in self pity and hunger. It was a valiant last minute attempt, but nonetheless insufficient.
YOU GUYS. LEFTOVERS. SAVE. LIVES. This was a “weird” Tuesday for me in the sense that I didn’t head into work until 1:30. That being said, I still needed to pack a lunch.
You might think I had all morning to get this done, but you’re wrong, because I used my fleeting free time to do other productive things, like hit the gym.
I scrounged around in the kitchen and was delighted to find that leftovers would allow me to pack a substantial meal. My lunch consisted of: this leftover pasta salad, leftover chicken teriyaki, and chopped peppers scrambled with leftover corn.
My sister had also purchased dark chocolate almond bark for me, so I threw a piece of that into my lunch too for good measure.
While I managed to successfully pack a lunch, had I gone into work at 9 like I usually do, I would’ve been unprepared.
Moral of the story: Time management is key.
You know what’s better than leftovers? Little sisters who will pick up your desperate phone call in the middle of the day and place an order for pick-up at a sandwich shop. This simple act of kindness is the reason I lived through Wednesday.
I really don’t have an excuse for this one. I literally walked out the door without a lunch and hoped that a miracle would occur.
Halfway through work, I made a call to my sister and begged her to order lunch for me so that I could pick up my sandwich in-between jobs. She’s such a good person that she called Taste Unlimited, and even texted me to tell me that they didn’t have the soup I was hoping for so that I could choose something else.
That day for lunch, I had a ridiculously expensive spread of peach tea, the Freemason sandwich and creamy potato soup. DELICIOUS, but pricey.
This is the part of the story where you’re probably starting to wonder if I’ll redeem myself or if you’ll actually learn anything from my experience. I encourage you to hang in there, and have faith.
I couldn’t bear the fact that my little rollercoaster ride was on a downhill spiral, and I decided I better buck up and do something about it. So, I scoured the internet until I found this tasty quinoa salad, whipped it up, and stuck it in the fridge to take to work.
My wonderful family had also brought home Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que the night before, so I packed that into my lunchbox as well. I really enjoyed the corn and pepper combo I worked with earlier in the week, so I got crafty and added avocado bites, topping it all with salt and pepper and mixing it up thoroughly.
I also found strawberries in the fridge and thought: I deserve these.
I used what I had in the fridge, but I’d like to get to the point where I really think about what I want the night before and have it ready to go without giving it a second thought in the morning.
There has always been something magical about Fridays, and this one was no exception. For lunch, I made (that’s right, I MADE), kale chips sprinkled with garlic salt, pepper, olive oil and parmesan (may or may not have eaten the whole batch -5 before packing them for lunch).
I also decided on a good, old-fashioned pb&j. I used natural peanut butter and blueberry preserves to feel a little fancier. I hadn’t eaten all of my quinoa salad from the day before, so I packed a container of that and topped it off with my favorite veggie combo (plus onions because there’s no limit to my creativity).
I realize this is quite a jump from my two fails of the week, but I really felt that I put effort and commitment into this lunch, and it really wasn’t all that hard to do.
Fun fact: It takes at least 21 days to form a new habit. So what did I learn from my week of lunch-packing?
I learned that even with the best of intentions, people screw up. We have good days, and we have bad days, but it’s better to have tried than not at all. My mistakes in the kitchen ultimately made me better, and if I packed a successful lunch at least once, I can do it again.
I think the easiest thing to do is to find a simple recipe that sounds appetizing and make it at the beginning of the week, or the night before. Use leftovers/whatever’s around to fill out your lunch menu.
If you’re still living at home, or living with a roommate, use your prep time to bond with those people. Find something that works for both parties – that way you’re both set for the day/week.