Monday, August 22, 2011

Lunch to Go

School is starting and lots of us are loading up a lunch to go; to work, to school and wherever else. )This photo was from a lunch I packed for a camping trip earlier this summer in the Catoctin Mountains.) The truth for many of us, is that going home for lunch is not a feasible option. So aside from the go-to items like sandwiches, what else should you pack?

Here are some ideas to mix things up from the same ol' routine.

Yogurt or Cottage Cheese Pack some plain yogurt or cottage cheese and jazz it up on your own with a drizzle of brown sugar, a dot of good jam, some chopped fruit or some granola. Or go heavy on the fruit or vegetables, flavor the yogurt with some spices and use it as a dip.  Great source of protein.
Eggplant with Yogurt and Dill
Yogurt Romanoff Sauce

Bean or Grain Salad You can make this any which way you love. Take a grain or a bean, add a simple viniagrette, and stop there or continue adding anthing that sounds good from nuts, chopped fruit or vegetables, leftover vegetables (grilled or roasted are fantastic) and herbs or greens- whatever you like. Or just go for refried beans as a dip (I know there are many of you out there with 25 lbs. of refried bean flakes in your garage waiting to be used. Bring them back to life and pack them to go.) Just add in some whole grain dippers. Here are some of my favorites:
Basic Black Beans + Corn Salsa
Black Bean Dip
Black Eyed Pea Salad
Red Potato and Green Bean Salad
Simple White Bean Salad
Bulgur Salad

Homemade Crackers I am aware that this sounds crazy, but it is not. Crackers are easier to make than bread and faster than cookies. Really. Add something to top them with fruit cheese or along side a salad or soup and it is a great lunch- and unlike a sandwich they won't be soggy.
2 Cracker Recipes

Nut Butters and Hummus Toss in a container along with something to dip, apples and nut butter, hummus and crackers and red pepper slices. Anyone remember ants on a log? Go with whatever strikes you or you have on hand. I also run a tight ship on nuts at our house since my daughter is allergic, so I also recommend sunbutter made from sunflower seeds, it is delicious and a great alternative.
Homemade Peanut Butter

Trail or Snack Mix Make your own combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. I have really been loving roasted pumpkin seeds lately. This one is great because you can just keep a bit of it at your desk or in your bag for whenever- it will keep beautifully for sometime.

Hard Boiled Eggs- Maybe you love them for breakfast, but never take the time to make them. Prep in advance and boil several and enjoy them throughout the week. Make a egg salad or just have them plain with bit of sea salt and pepper. Or go all out and make yourself deviled eggs. Just make sure you have a system to identify the boiled ones from the raw ones. My dad made a tragic lunch mistake once, by trying to crack and peel an unboiled one on his desk at work.

Leftovers I found out that my son doesn't always care about temperature and loves burritos so much, he is happy to eat them at any temperature. Same goes for pizza. And there are lots of pastas that are great cold as well as hot. Somethings are great re-invented into a wrap, sandwich or salad. Don't overlook last night's dinner.

Fruit and Vegetables What is in season is always great. But other viable options include dried,  freeze-dried, and frozen. If you have homemade applesauce, use it. Fully cooked frozen edamame- we adore it. It is a lunch box staple around here. And if you worry about bruising your fruit- pack it in its own plastic container.

Popcorn and Kale Chips I love a good crunch. Homemade popcorn are kale chips can be cooked in large batches and enjoyed for the week and seasoned to your own taste. Or if you do have access to a microwave- hot popcorn is an excellent and economical option. Just follow the tutorial here- I've done it, it is easy and cheap.
Kale Chips

What other options do you pack to go?


  1. perfect timing. just got back from vacation and have the new school year on the mind. I have been thinking a lot about packing lunches and this is a wonderful jumpstart post. thank you sandra!

  2. We were just having this discussion at home yesterday as we prepare for the first day of school. We tend to stick to the ever boring turkey sandwich and my 7-year-old informed me she is SICK of them :( Poor thing. Thing is, she isn't a very adventurous eater. Anyhow, we are hoping we can break the turkey sandwich cycle and find better options for packed lunches. Your post is a great start. Thanks!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.