Quick & Easy Lunch Ideas

Like I’ve said before, I’m pretty OK at this whole bring-your-lunch-to-work thing.

So we’ve already covered the basics of successfully packing your lunch for work. Today I thought I’d share my 3 best quick and easy packed lunches.

These may not be the fanciest or most impressive lunches, but they are my go-tos when I’m really busy at work—and they get the job done. “The job” being feeding me mid-day so I don’t pass out from hanger.

Leftovers

This is probably the most “duh” of all lunch ideas, but bringing leftovers from the night before is cost-effective and helps prevent food waste. However, when bringing leftovers, make sure they will either reheat well or be OK chilled from the fridge—so, maybe avoid salads that are drenched in dressing.

I like to throw leftovers from the night before over some greens and make a salad. Confession: I stole this idea from a coworker. I have no idea why this never occurred to me, but it’s genius. In the photo above, we had grilled chicken kebabs for dinner, and I had an extra one that I put over mixed greens with some Tessemae’s ranch dressing for lunch the next day.

The Mindless Salad

A “mindless salad” doesn’t really have to be a salad—it’s just a very quick lunch that you will almost always have the ingredients on hand for. So for me, this is a salad: Arugula, dried cranberries, walnuts, chicken, and homemade dressing. It’s delicious and takes less than 5 minutes to throw together the night before.

I buy all of these ingredients at the grocery each week because I know more than likely, there will be one day where either we don’t have leftovers or I am uninspired to meal prep. To make it easier, I buy organicgirl baby arugula, which is prewashed, and Applegate Naturals precooked chicken breast. Sometimes I actually am not lazy and grill a chicken breast to have on hand, which saves a LOT of money, but having the precooked is a great backup.

Look in the Fridge

This last option is less of a planned meal and more of a strategy for utilizing whatever you have available in the kitchen. For each lunch, having a good source of protein and some greens is essential. If I’m out of almost everything, I can usually scrape by with a few staple ingredients.

Hardboiled eggs are easy to make in advance, especially if you have one of these egg cookers. At one point I thought an egg cooker was an unnecessary appliance, but then I realized the worst thing about hard boiling eggs is standing at the burner while they cook. Now I can make some eggs the night before without having to sit and watch a pot boil.

Sweet potatoes are another ingredient I usually have on hand—plus, they keep well so if I end up not using it, I can save it. The easiest way to cook a sweet potato is a tip I learned from Fed + Fit: Poke your holes in the potato with a fork (I usually do 4 lines of 3 holes with a fork), wrap the potato in a damp paper towel, and microwave for about 8 minutes (for a medium-size potato—adjust time according to the size). This is great for last-minute lunch packing the night before, because again, I just have to pop it in the microwave and not worry about it.

Lastly, like with leftovers, when in doubt, throw your food over some greens. I buy a few tubs of prewashed greens at the grocery each week, which come in super handy for these emergencies.

All that to say, plan ahead when you’re at the grocery store to have a few things on hand for emergencies—whether it’s a carton of eggs or some packets of tuna. Keep a few bags of frozen veggies in the freezer. ALWAYS buy some greens. Then you’ll have all the fixins for a last-minute lunch. Even if it’s not the most delicious, you managed to save a few dollars and eat something healthy and well-balanced. ❤

Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

As I was typing up my first post in a while, I was thinking about what kind of things I wanted to share on here. I started keeping a note in my phone with possible topics. Because while I love reading “day in the life”-type posts on blogs, they get kind of repetitive. Even more so when you’re a creature of habit, like me. Posting the same breakfast, lunch and snacks plus work synopsis would wear pretty thin pretty quickly.

One of the first ideas that popped in my head was tips on packing your lunch, because that is something I kind of have on lockdown. Packing a lunch bag for work (or school or whatever your current life situation is) is one of the most effective things you can do to make healthier choices throughout the day AND save some money. So here we go!

Tip 1: Get Your Shit Together the Night Before

Pardon my French, but this is THE most important thing when getting my lunch (and life, for what it matters) together. I am not a morning person (which if you know me at all, you know that about me), and I can think of the instances when I’ve actually packed a good breakfast + lunch + snacks the morning before work on like, one hand. So now I make it a point to put everything together the night before—and honestly, it usually takes no longer than 5 minutes. Then I can snooze in the morning and not worry about having nothing to get me through the day at work.

Tip 2: Get a Really Nice Lunch Bag

I got mine at TJ Maxx for less than $20, but you can find it on Amazon here. I love it because it’s big enough that I can get A LOT of stuff in there, but small enough that it can still fit in the fridge at work without taking up an obscene amount of space. It also has some nice outer pockets where I keep utensils, stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, etc.

Tip 3: Invest in a Few Reusable Containers

(I didn’t have any clean containers, so I used the ones with my lunch in it for tomorrow. Cooper was pretty interested haha.)

For years I used Gladware or other plastic containers, but I recently got a set of 4 Pyrex containers so I don’t have to worry about anything leaching into my food, especially if I put it in the microwave. I can’t find the exact set I got online, but here’s a similar one: mine has a 4-cup bowl, a 2-cup bowl, and two 1-cup bowls. I got them at Target for less than $20 (and they seriously go on sale all the time). I also got a set of these 4 ounce Ball jars, which are perfect for dressings or dips.

Lunch is usually a salad that I put in the largest bowl, and then I bring berries or some other fruit in one of the smaller bowls. The 4 bowls in this set plus the 4 ounce jars are basically all that I need. And, pro tip: If you are able, wash your containers at work, so you’ll have them clean when you get home—just throw everything together for tomorrow and you’re done!

The other thing I’ve started using recently that I really like are these reusable zip bags (like Ziploc, but you can reuse them). I used to use a TON of Ziploc baggies, and I started getting really convicted about how wasteful that was. I found this set of 5 online (3 sandwich size, 2 snack size) and am in love with them. They are BPA-free, freezer-safe, and I just wipe them out with some soapy water and a paper towel, then air-dry them overnight.

Tip 4: Overpack Rather Than Underpack

So ideally, pack the right amount of food, but I would much rather bring too much and then bring it home with me or leave it at work for the next day than not bring enough and be hangry all day or looking for change to use at the vending machine.

Most days, I bring my breakfast, lunch, and then a snack for midmorning (which I sometimes skip) and a snack for midafternoon. Breakfast is usually turkey sausage with a banana and almond butter (which I buy in pre-portioned packets, so I don’t go overboard with the AB), and lunch is either leftovers or a salad. I try to bring snacks that are healthy, filling, and portable. Most days I bring 2 cuties, a sandwich bag of baby carrots or some other fresh vegetable, and a Larabar. If I know I won’t be heading home right after work, I might have some grapes or jerky to hold me over till dinner.

This is based on years of research, fyi. Figuring out how much food to bring, plus what kind of food is filling without making you feel miserable, is a lot of trial and error.

Tip 5: Extras and Nice-to-Haves

OK, now we’ve basically covered what I consider are the essentials of a good packed lunch. Now we arrive at the things that are nice to have, but really up to you. A couple things I really love:

  • A good water bottle. I actually bring 2 big water bottles to work every day (each 32 fl oz) to cut down on buying bottled water from our vending machine (I’m really into recycling right now, guys). I still usually have to buy maybe 1 or 2 bottled waters each day, but it’s much better than before.
  • Reusable utensils. I came across these bamboo utensils while I was poking around online and they look pretty neat. The ones I keep in my bag are just plastic, maybe Tupperware. Honestly, I mostly use them when other utensils are not available—I should stop doing that.
  • Coffee tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold. I am obsessed with this Healthy Human tumbler I got. It for real keeps drinks cold for 24 hours (or after an entire day in 90 degree heat, in the sun, in a car with black interior). Plus it’s so pretty.

And that’s all I got! Let me know if you guys have questions or would like to see more of these types of posts. Oh, and have a happy and fun long weekend! ❤

Save

WIAW: Leftovers Galore!

Hi and happy November! Seriously, how did we get to November already? Although the weather in southern Indiana doesn’t seem to have gotten the note—it’s been in the 80s the last few days.

Things around here have been pretty calm—I’ve been getting a lot of stuff done at home and have spent a lot of time watching TV lately haha. I’m currently typing this post up as I’m watching Game 6 of the World Series (go Cubs go!). I’m also watching lots of episodes of Last Week Tonight via HBO Now, and I finished The Jinx on Sunday. If you were a fan of Making a Murderer and have access to HBO on demand, do yourself a favor and go check it out.

Enough about my TV guilty pleasures—let’s get to another WIAW.

img_4017

This looks like the most unappetizing breakfast. I didn’t realize that until I looked back at my photos. But it was so good, thanks to Justin’s maple almond butter and these turkey sausages that I’m still loving. I grabbed a banana because they were looking like they were almost done, and picked up an iced coffee on my way to work.

Lunch was leftover chicken fried rice that I made Sunday night for dinner.

img_4019

This was white rice, onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, peas, chicken, and pineapple. Plus lots and lots of coconut aminos.

And an apple on the side for dessert.

img_4018

I was feeling really low motivation at work, so I went to the gym on my lunch break. I’ve been really trying to throw my gym bag in the car every day, just in case I get the chance to go. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes I skip. I made up this quick functional workout before I left the office and really enjoyed it!

15 min functional workout

I warmed up with 10 minutes on the elliptical, completed this quick circuit workout, and then cooled down with some stretching. I’ve been really interested in functional workouts lately—I might do a longer post on this in the future, but here’s a quick overview here.

After lunch, I got back to work and had some afternoon snacks: an unpictured Larabar (peanut butter cookie) and baby carrots.

img_4020

Plus some leftover food from our office Halloween party on Monday: a fun size Kit Kat, 2 bites of cookie cake, and a handful of this puppy chow I made. Beware of the puppy chow, it’s so good, but you have to buy a jar of Biscoff…which if you’re me, means you’ll gorge yourself on spoonfuls of it until you get yourself together and throw the jar out. And then take the trash out. Because who knows—you might be crazy enough to get it back out of the trash and finish it off. (Kidding.)

Dinner was leftovers from Monday night.

img_4022

Lettuce tacos (filling was ground beef, tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, mushrooms + spices) with some corn tortilla chips.

img_4023

And a strawberry popsicle for dessert. Because why not?

wiaw-new

That’s it for this week’s installment. Thanks so much to Peas and Crayons for hosting these weekly WIAW gatherings. I hope you all are having a wonderful week filled with lots of good things! ❤

Save

WIAW: Photos of Meals Eaten at My Desk

Hello and how are you!? I mentioned this in my last post, but the last few weeks have been…weird. We have just been out of routine around here, so that’s kind of thrown off my blogging and hobby motivation.

I’m typing this up as I’m watching pre-third presidential debate coverage (ugh) and before I finish up some work things. Since it’s Wednesday and I actually remembered to take photos of (most of) my meals yesterday, I thought I’d link up for another fun edition of WIAW.

img_3977

OK, so I’ve been reading Cassy Joy Garcia’s book Fed & Fit lately, and it is so good. I just love her energy and perspective on health and nutrition—she’s so positive! On Monday, I cooked up a batch of her plantain protein pancakes to freeze and take for breakfasts, and I’m in love. I had 2 pancakes, some of these turkey sausages (also so good), and a side of raspberries. Plus the usual iced coffee with almond milk.

img_3978

Lunch was premade at home on Sunday: one chicken sausage fried in coconut oil along with one golden delicious apple, half a sweet potato, cubed and roasted, and a cup of Brussels sprouts sautéed in coconut oil. I got the idea from this recipe I found on Pinterest. I made 2 servings on Sunday and stuck them in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go lunch.

img_3980

This was my first afternoon snack of the day. I found them in the gluten-free aisle at the grocery store this weekend and decided to pick up a few. I’m glad I did! They reminded me of a fruit roll-up or fruit leather, so BOLO if that’s your thing.

(Note: Since I worked through lunch yesterday and ate almost all my meals at work, I tried to take photos in different spots around my cube. Just trying to keep it interesting for you.)

img_3981

Second afternoon snack of the day: Red delicious apple + Justin’s classic AB. Because it’s fall.

I also had an unpictured snack of baby carrots—this is the part where I started forgetting about taking photos. 🙂

I had a chiropractor appointment after work and then plans with friends yesterday evening, so I went home in between super quickly to take care of the dogs. My “dinner” was an Udi’s gluten-free chocolate muffin and a handful of tortilla chips.

img_3984

So filling (not) and delicious (yes). A few of my girlfriends and I ended up going out for drinks last night, and when I got home I snacked on a strawberry popsicle as “dinner, part 2.”

And that was it for the day! I hope you all are having a wonderful week (we’re halfway through!). If you’d like to check out other WIAW posts, you can visit here. And make sure to check out the OG WIAW, Peas and Crayons.

wiaw-new

And if you’re watching the debate tonight, take a few deep breaths and have a glass of wine maybe. ❤

Save

WIAW: Tuesdays That Feel Like Mondays

Hi! I hope you all had a lovely long weekend (if you were lucky enough to get a long weekend) and are feeling rested and ready to go! My poor friends and boyfriend hear this all the time, but I’ll say it here too: When you have a Monday off from work, the week feels longer. Fridays off, the week feels shorter. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

In true Tuesday/boosday fashion, my day started off with me sleeping through my alarm. I’m an avid user of The Rock Clock, but I think its service to me is over. This is the third time in the past week that the alarm has TURNED OFF because I didn’t turn it off first. Because I didn’t hear it! The Rock Clock, this is a failure. How can you call yourself an alarm if you turn off after X amount of minutes?

So the day started off on a bad foot.

img_3857

All of my bags. Minus my gym bag, because I foolishly thought I would work out at home after work. Ha! Didn’t happen.

Miraculously, I got to work relatively on time. But breakfast was a drive-thru classic: oatmeal and iced coffee.

img_3858

Eaten at my desk + half a pack of Justin’s almond butter to give the oatmeal a bit of staying power. FYI, my iced coffee order is just iced coffee with skim milk. Perfect.

I eat lunch every day around 11am. 1. Because I’m usually hungry at that time and don’t have a morning snack. And 2. Because I have been using my lunch breaks to go to the gym (minus today, when I went home and hung out with my dogs). I can’t work out on a full stomach—I feel like I want to hurl the whole time (TMI, sorry!).

Today I had my classic lazy-girl lunch: An Amy’s vegan, gluten-free burrito over some greens to give it some color, plus a big ol’ handful of red grapes because I can’t get enough of them lately. Pro tip: Buy a few lunches every week that will make it easy to throw in your lunch bag. I know there will be at least a couple days where I’m too lazy to meal prep or I’m out too late at night, and throwing one of these healthy-ish burritos in my bag makes life so much easier. No shame.

img_3861

My lunch held me over reasonably well, so I waited to have my afternoon snack until around 3pm.

img_3862

A peanut butter cookie Larabar with baby carrots and hummus. (I didn’t eat the plum because it was suspect. Sadly, I think plum season is over in southern Indiana.)

I work until 5, and when I got home I was pretty hungry. I was flying solo on Tuesday night, so I whipped up an old standby: scrambled eggs with pepper and hot sauce with an Ezekiel English muffin and cream cheese on the side.

img_3863

At home we eat mostly paleo-ish (I’ll talk about this in a future post), but I’ve been eating vegetarian for breakfast and lunch lately. My boyfriend is not a fan of breakfast for dinner (break my heart, why don’t you!), so I never get to have scrambled eggs in the PM. 😦

Dinner was quickly followed by a strawberry popsicle while watching The Mindy Project on HuluPlus.

img_3865

After dinner, I did some stuff around the house and then met up with a friend at my favorite local watering hole for a drink (or 2). Vodka sodas with lime FTW.

img_3866

I was out later than I planned, but we had a really good time catching up. As soon as I walked in the door, I had a handful (x2) of these amazing vegan chocolate chips.

img_3867

I then took care of the doggies and sat down to type up this post. And now I’m ready for bed! The glamorous life of a 30-something who works full-time, right?

wiaw-new

If WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday, for the uninitiated) is up your alley, as it is mine, you can check out the post link up here.

Have an amazing Wednesday, all! We’re halfway through this week already! ❤

Save

Save

Save

Save

A Day in the Life: Back to School

Hi! I hope you are all getting ready to enjoy a nice long Labor Day weekend. I took a vacation day on Friday, and I’ll be busy doing a mix of projects, schoolwork, and having some R&R time.

I’ve been meaning to check in on here for the last few weeks, but, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I started classes last week. That first week of getting into the groove can be killer—I always feel like I have to relearn how to balance work, school, fun, and my personal time. I’m pretty excited for this semester and the classes I’m taking. And best news—this is my last year! I actually filled out graduation paperwork this afternoon. 😀

One of my favorite blogs (and one of the first blogs I started following) is Carrots n Cake. She does this semi-weekly feature called A Day in the Life, and I thought it would be fun to try over here. I also originally intended this to be a WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) post…but then I forgot to take a picture of dinner, and now it’s Thursday—so obvs not happening.

But first things first: I got a lot of my hair chopped off.

PicMonkey Collage

That’s the before and after. OK, and now that I’m looking at it, it doesn’t look that drastic. But to me it was. And my hair feels so. much. healthier.

A Day in the Life: Tuesday, September 1

6:00am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:18am Actually get up. Head to the kitchen to make breakfast.

IMG_3023

3 scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil (topped with black pepper and hot sauce), a big ol’ peach, and water.

6:45am Get ready to face the day!

7:15am Head to class at 8am, but stop for iced coffee on the way. (Duh.)

IMG_3026

Iced coffee + skim milk.

8:00am Class (stimulating PowerPoint lectures included).

9:45am Head out for my first Couch to 5K run.

IMG_3027

I have not run in several months. Starting last fall, I kept getting injuries in my left leg when I was running, and even though I love running, I just stopped. But lately I’ve been really missing it (plus, fall is like the best running weather, ever), so I decided to eat my humble pie and start really reallllllly slowly. The first run is a 5-min warmup, 20 mins of alternating 1 min run/1.5 min walk, and 5-min cool down. It was really good, but I have the most killer blister on my left ankle (TMI?).

10:15am Clean up and make a smoothie for a snack.

IMG_3028

This was 1 cup of almond milk, ice, and a packet of Amazing Grass Green Superfood. I found out about Amazing Grass through my blog crush, and it’s really good. You can actually order a sampler pack of several of their supplement powders (plus that cute little bottle above) for like $10. Check it out!

10:30am Settle in for a couple hours of schoolwork.

12:30pm Lunch and chit-chat break, followed by more schoolwork.

IMG_3030

Today I had an Amy’s burrito (gluten-free and dairy-free) over some mixed greens, plus a sliced apple with almond butter and chocolate chips. Oh, and a McDonald’s Diet Coke (Transparency!).

3:00pm Back to class (this one included a PowerPoint, but was much more interesting).

4:45pm Home to grab essentials for dinner and let little Dora out.

5:30pm Arrive at boyfriend’s house, light the grill and throw fries in the toaster oven. This is where I failed to take any more pictures for the day, but we grilled these amazing chicken sausages and had sweet potato waffle fries on the side.

After dinner, we watched some TV and caught up on our days. #theperfectcouple

10:00pm Home for the night. Talk with the roommate for a bit and get ready for bed.

10:30pm Get in bed, read for a bit (this), and hit the lights.

So that’s a typical school day right now. I think I might try to do a work day or weekend episode of these too, if you’re interested. I am super nosy and love reading these things, plus it’s nice to get ideas for meals or snacks or what have you.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me in this. I hope you all have a safe and happy Labor Day, and hopefully I’ll check in again on here soon!