Like many college students, I live in constant fear of being hungry. Campus snack options aren’t cheap and there is nothing worse than that long, brazen stomach growl in a quiet classroom, the one that causes your award-winning professor to stop, clear his throat, and then politely ignore what just happened.
Because I like to eat lunch at lunchtime, and I like my food to taste good and cost little, I pack my lunch almost every day. (Please note: this is not a reactionary habit based on my inability to find people to sit with at campus cafés; although, those places are intimidating at peak hours and I admit that I tend to avoid them.)
Of course, we are college students and don’t have a whole lot of time to prepare gourmet meals on a daily basis. As a result, I’ve established a repertoire of easy lunches that take less than five minutes to prepare and do not, I repeat DO NOT, sacrifice flavor.
The key to making packed lunches a seamless part of your routine is having all your ingredients fresh and on-hand. I’m going to be totally BASIC for a second and say that the one thing I always have in my kitchen is an avocado. Don’t judge me though. The best dishes are rooted in simplicity. And this is good for us lazy, time-crunched, food-fiend students.
I’m pretty confident that every one of you can master the avocado sandwich, and a kickass one at that. The key to taking this sandwich from average avocado toast to a really freaking good noontime pick-me-up is to have ingredients that are fresh and good quality. I’m a firm believer that less is more, so splurge on a few ingredients and pay the premium when it makes a difference.
An avocado sandwich has infinite variations, and deciding which variation to make is easy: just stick your head in the fridge and see what there is to choose from.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
2 slices grainy, seedy wheat bread
1 ripe avocado
Dijon mustard (I’m a snob and would venture that this should really be Grey Poupon)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (Seriously, it makes all the difference here)
1. Lightly toast your bread.
2. Meanwhile, slice fixings and wash and dry any veggies you are using.
3. When bread is toasted, spread mustard on one side of bread and pile on ingredients.
4. Add salt and pepper, wrap in tin foil or bundle in wax paper and pop it in Tupperware (I do this when I make an open-face).
What you can add:
- Cheese (I recommend an extra sharp white cheddar or hunks of flaky parmesan)
- Last night’s leftover poached chicken
- Smashed chickpeas
- Sliced tomato (Pro tip: avoid placing tomato directly on bread to avoid sogginess. Sandwich building is an art, people)
- Lettuce of choice
I love avocado on toast, but when this starts to get dull (and eventually it will) it’s good to have a backup. Quinoa bowls are a delicious and refreshing change of pace. Prep time is slightly longer, but you can make a big batch that will last you multiple days. By my imprecise calculations, your time spent in the kitchen turns out to be about the same.
Once these items are in your kitchen, all you’ll have to do on Sunday night is spend 20 minutes chopping, steaming, and mixing and voilà! you’ll have quinoa for days.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
1 cup quinoa (to keep in fridge for later in week)
2 cups cooking liquid (water or broth)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Mustard or honey, to taste
1. Add quinoa to saucepan and pour in liquid. On high heat (uncovered) bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes
2. While quinoa cooks, make vinaigrette in the bottom of your bowl or jar. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and honey and/or mustard to taste.
3. Toss salad components together with desired amount of quinoa and sprinkle some pepper on top.
What you can add:
- Chickpeas (yay protein)
- Green vegetables (I particularly like steamed broccoli or sautéed Brussels sprouts)
- Non-green vegetables for color
- Dried cherries or fruit of choice
Some weeks are just busy. During midterms, it’s easy for good eating habits to go out the window. During my busiest weeks, throwing together some hummus with baby carrots and Wasa multigrain crackers usually does the trick.
If you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own hummus, but odds are you’re too busy if you opted for this quintessential on the go meal in the first place. Trader Joe’s or Baltimore’s local Wild Pea hummus are great substitutes in a pinch.
Fear your hunger no more. Now go stock up at the grocery store, and tell me that wasn’t easy.
Want some more lunch inspiration?