Friday, October 19, 2012

Packing Heat - Planning Ahead Makes Lunching Easier!

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When I pack a lunch for Z, I almost always pack one for myself as well, even though in most cases I don't need a packed lunch. I could just go home and make myself something while she's at preschool. But since I often forget to feed myself, or cave in to my desire to have a Sweet Tea and just go to McDs on the way home, having a lunch packed means I eat better that day.

It's fairly time consuming, though, to get out my spinach or lettuce each night. And wash just enough for that salad, since I don't go through greens quickly, and I don't want to get them all wet so the rest goes bad faster. Who knows when my next salad will be?
Plus chopping up the carrots or whatever else I toss in there. Even opening and closing the dressing bottle and bag of nuts adds a little time, and gets tiresome to do again and again.

I've seen some people say that they can prep their salad fixings for a whole week, so I decided I'd try that for myself! Only I just did four days, so I could be flexible - I could either cave and go out one day, or else just make a fifth salad later for Friday.

Chop Chop!: First I chopped up a head of red lettuce (I prefer spinach, but it's what I had from my CSA share,) and a mini head of purple cabbage (also from my CSA.) I tossed them together in a large bowl.

I like the crunch and color that carrots add, so I chopped up two skinny ones. And since I had a plethora of summer squash, I went ahead and chopped one up to add in as well.

Getting Dressed: My favorite dressing is Raspberry Vinaigrette. I like the vinaigrettes because I enjoy a little tanginess, but most importantly it is thin so it coats the salad easily. With thicker dressings I find I either have to gloob more on, or else have dressingless bites, which I do not enjoy. And in the EasyLunchbox it isn't as easy to toss my salad to distribute the dressing evenly, so the runny vinaigrette does half of the work for me!
I got four Smidgets ready to go with my dressing. I usually use less than the "serving size" of 2 Tbsp, for even less sugar and fewer calories! Woop! I like the Smidgets for this, even though they're kind of annoying to open and close because they take up less space. I don't need so much dressing, so it's hard justifying using a larger container.

Dry Humor: I enjoy raisins in my salads to add sweetness and chewiness, and I like something crunchy, like almonds or sunflower seeds. Lately I've been using dried soy beans, since they add protein, which my veggie-heavy lunches have been lacking most days. And chia seeds make a nice addition too. Extra fiber and protein, as well as Omega-3s and Calcium! Even just a tablespoon adds a nice chunk of nutrition, and I barely even notice that they are in there.
But if I just toss them into the salad to sit even overnight, the crunchies get soggy and the raisins start plumping up. So I use my Mini Dippers to keep them safe and dry! I don't have to be as stingy with my mix-ins as I am with my dressing, so the air-tight Mini Dipper is the perfect size to add a bunch of crunch!

Tightly Packed: I packed these up on Sunday, while Hubby watched the girls. This was extremely easy to do with my EasyLunchboxes, since they come in packs of four anyway, so I had enough to do this with, plus they stack really well. I didn't have to try and play Tetris with different sized boxes and containers.

The smaller compartments were left empty, so that I could tailor each lunch to utilize the scraps from Z's lunch each night while packing, as well as change it up so that each lunch was not identical. I also added chopped fresh fruit each day, since I wasn't sure how long it would last chopped up in there.

Here's one "finished product" - I ended up adding chia seeds in with the soy beans and raisins in all of the salads, since I had just gotten them.
For this lunch I added blueberries on top, with cherry tomatoes and backyard blackberries as my sides.
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A few mistakes I was able to learn from:
Pack the fork inside each box, or keep a pile of forks in the fridge with the stack of boxes! I forgot to bring a fork the first three times! Even after forgetting once, I still forgot again and again! It was embarrassing! Luckily I was able to buy a Sweet Tea and get a disposable fork from the nice lady in the drive-thru Monday, buy more of my favorite little BPA-free utensils from Dollar Tree Tuesday, and swipe a disposable fork from the co-op preschool Wednesday!

Also, for some reason my squash couldn't go the distance. Monday's was okay, but by Thursday they were just piles of goo. It was disgusting. They smelled and tasted okay, but they gave me some digestive issues. I'm not sure if it had just been an older squash to begin with, or if cut squash doesn't last that long. So maybe chop and add that in daily?

Lettuce is What FOOD Eats!: Even if salad's not your thing, there's a variety of lunch prep you can do all at once for a whole week of school or work lunches. You can chop carrots, celery, and cucumber; cut cheese nibblets or slice cheese (and cut into cute shapes, if you know what themes you'll want that far in advance;) make and freeze sandwiches (you can also cut those before freezing, if you had wanted to make cute shapes. Just pack the sandwich in the lunchbox in the fridge the night before so it can start thawing. Even if you forget, if you don't send an ice pack, it should thaw by lunchtime.) Noodles and rice also store nicely in the fridge or freezer if you make a larger batch in advance.

If you want to be really snazzy, you could make up a variety of dishes and freeze them in individual-sized portions using muffin tins. I was inspired to pack a week's worth of salads after seeing all the fun and healthy foods planned in Just a Bunch of Momsense's Make Ahead Lunch Prep and Beneficial Bento's Weekly Food Prep.

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  1. Love your salads! I like the idea of packing them for the week :D

  2. I can't tell you how many days I make a beautifully balanced lunch for my son and neglect to take care of myself. What's with us mothers!? I am going to try this.

  3. Did you wash the lettuce first? How did you avoid the lettuce-is-wet-and-going-bad issue?

    I love the idea of only having to THINK about what I'm going to eat for lunch once a week.

    1. My produce comes pre-washed from an organic farm, so I rarely need to pre-wash, but sometimes there's still dirt in the bottoms of the stems. So if I had a salad spinner, I would have used that. I just rinse in a strainer basket and shake off as much as I can and hope for the best! My lettuce and cabbage lasted well, but the squash died by Day 3. >.<

  4. I need to do this for my husband's lunch -- hmmmmm. I think I have a project for the weekend.


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