What budgeting and packed lunches have in common

Life’s busier now than it’s ever been.  We’re all on the go so much – and our schedules are often varied from one day to the next. So, I get that getting out the door is hard enough, without adding a packed lunch every day. But I think there are a few tips to make the process a little more inspiring. 

Firstly, don’t underestimate the value of creating a tribe. Be vocal about what you’re doing. You’ll find there are others in your direct circle who want to make the same changes as you do.  Wouldn’t it be perfect if you could cheer each other on?

Now you’ve got your tribe – collect your ideas. Not recipes. Remember, it’s got to be easy or it won’t happen. Go with what you know – but don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. If you get it wrong – there’s always tomorrow’s lunch to try again. Tell yourself consistently that you love food – and preparing new things is exciting. Say it long enough, and you’ll start to believe it.

Print your ideas and put them on the fridge. Keep the document on your computer so you can amend and update as you work out what works best for you.

Cook more than you need for dinner. Leftovers always taste better than they did the first time around!

Women chopping vegetables

Here’s a list of my favourites:

  • Roasted vegetables with a crusty baguette, olive oil and reduced balsamic.  You can buy reduced balsamic from the condiments section (often called ‘finishing vinegar’ but it’s just as easy to make.  Good quality vinegar and brown sugar in the microwave till it starts to thicken.  Syrupy goodness that lasts forever. Or would, if it wasn’t so good. The veggies can be whatever’s left in your crisper at the end of the week, and you don’t need to do anything special with them. Just cut to a similar size (smaller for the harder veg like carrots and pumpkin), toss in salt and olive oil and roast at 200° until golden.
  • Gado gado. Satay sauce (which freezes so you can make one batch and freeze in portions), served with whatever you want. Rice if you have a microwave where you lunch to heat food.  Otherwise, crisp vegetables like grated carrot, beansprouts, snowpeas, blanched broccoli and grapes.  Brown rice is great cold, and you can cook extra to toss through your salad the next day too.
  • Fried rice. Everyone loves it and you can eat it cold. This is another excellent dish for using up whatever’s left in your fridge at the end of the week.
  • Savoury muffins. You don’t need a recipe to make these – just take whatever cheese/cooked meat/cooked vegies you’ve got in your fridge, crack a couple of eggs over the top and bind with some cooked pasta.  To make them gluten free, use gluten free pasta, or blitzed cauliflower and almond meal.
  • Quinoa fritters. I love these super green – parsley, mint, oregano and dill.  Garlic, ricotta and parmesan, mix it all through your quinoa, crack an egg or two over the top and bind with a little flour (use gluten free flour to make it gluten free). Make enough for multiple lunches and keep them in the freezer.

And some easy (almost) grab and go:

  • Rice cakes or cruskits with avocado and vegemite
  • Crackers served with dip, carrot and celery batons, a chunk of cheese and some olives
  • Salad. The best lunch of all. Just remember, if you’re making it ahead, take the dressing separately. The secret to a good salad is texture, so nuts are your best friend. Or crispy croutons. And don’t be afraid to use some fruit – pomegranate is great in a salad, so is pear or apple (you could pour the dressing over the pear or apple only, to stop it going brown).
  • Take a protein shake. Not every day, diets are sad and life’s too short.  But every once in a while, it’s quick, easy – and let’s be truthful, most of us carry at least a few grams we don’t need.

Girl with eggs on eyes

And as promised – sandwiches that rock the house. Believe it or not – there are rules to making a good sandwich

Butter both sides of the bread so it doesn’t go soggy.  If you’re using tomato or cucumber, make sure you salt it.  And don’t let either of them touch the bread if you can help it.  Salt makes food weep, so they’ll start crying half way through your morning and wet bread has no friends.  If there’s something extra soggy (like beetroot) try to use cheese or some crisp iceberg lettuce against the bread to minimise sog-factor.  That’s it.  Follow those simple rules and your sambo will be the bomb-diggity.

My taste-buds may sing a different song to yours – so I don’t imagine for a second these suggestions are right for everyone.  But if you’re buying lunch out more than you think you should, I encourage you to make a list and give BYO a go. Your wallet will thank you, and I bet your waist-line will too.