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Looking for ideas for fast and portable food

Recently I’ve been struggling with trying to find time to eat. I am a university student who works two part time jobs and a few times a week have 12 hour days with no more than a 10 minute breaks to both eat and get to my next location.

I’m also a vegetarian for dietary reasons and on a classic university student budget (AKA – I am pretty broke) It’s unfortunate because I adore cooking and really good food!

I know it’s a challenge but do you guys have any ideas as to what on earth I can eat besides a pb&j sandwich?

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  1. How do you feel about eating food cold that is traditionally served hot? My friend John actually prefers a cold pizza slice even when he can easily heat it up. I've also seen him scarf down cold lo mein noodles with gusto. He did this on a train once, coming back from Philly. He used chopsticks with grace and ate right out of the container. I think he made everyone on the train hungry!

    1. On days when you DO have time, make a huge batch of rice and freeze it in ziploc bags. Buy cheapo canned beans and seasoned tomatoes. You can even cook them together and freeze them in one or two-cup portions. Then you can easily have rice and beans even in short breaks. Cheap and nutritious.

      Hard-boiled eggs are cheap, healthy, portable. What do eggs cost nowadays, like $1.50 a dozen, tops? A couple hard-boiled eggs, an apple, and cold rice and beans (all of which you chucked into a lunch bag before you left for work/class) is a pretty darn good meal. You can wrap the rice and beans in a tortilla if you need more portability.

      Wraps are a great solution. Any flat bread, filled with any protein, veggie, cheese, or some combo. Eat with an apple, banana, orange, or whatever. Fruit is highly portable.

      And listen, don't knock the pb&j. Think of it as a template for other deliciousness. Replace the pb with hummus or spreadable cheese, and the j with red peppers or cuke slices. Or bananas instead of jelly. Or whatever.

      1. When I was a broke student I used to rely on bagels (I thought they made sandwiches more interesting). Toast 'em, smear them with a little bit of cream cheese and load them with veggies, or use pesto, tomato and fontina and put them under the broiler. Pasta salad is also very portable and cheap and you can make delicious vegetarian versions (plus you can switch up the ingredients so you don't get too bored), ditto fried rice. Wraps are a another meal that can be as versatile as you want without breaking the bank, and if you make your own and control the size you can ensure that they're managable on the go. Plus these are all things you can assemble the night before and just grab on your way out the door. The answer from givemecarbs was great too. Turning takeout into multiple meals makes it an inexpensive option that lets you add even more options to your diet.

          1. Hummus can be a great source of protein, is cheap and easy to make, and lasts in the fridge for awhile. You can even add in roasted eggplant (for "baba ganouj"), roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, artichokes, or fresh chives. You can eat it on seeded rye, on vegetables, or on pita bread.

            Cold salads are another option:
            - Italian cold tomato salad, with red onions, parsley/basil/herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and eaten alone or served on crusty bread (can add a slice of fresh mozzarella).
            - Potato salad (with red potatoes, red onions, black olives, garbanzo beans, olive oil, herbs, balsamic vinegar instead of mayo, etc.)
            - Eggplant "appetizer" (fried eggplant cubed, and tossed in a pan with a medium onion, 3 stalks chopped celery, dry white wine (optional), red wine vinegar, a little sugar, tomato puree, olives, and capers, left to sit for at least 30 mins to a day and served at room temp.). It keeps for two weeks.

            The following three recipes don't even require cooking -- just chopping, tossing, and storing:
            - White mushrooms chopped and tossed with red wine vinegar, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, and refrigerated and eaten the next day (up to 12 days).
            - Bulghur wheat salad ("taboulleh") made with chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, lemon juice, and olive oil.
            - Garbanzo bean salad made with two 15oz cans of beans, one 4oz jar pimientos, 1/2 a red onion, extra virgin olive oil, a little lemon juice and red wine vinegar. This one stays 10-12 days, too.

            Hope these help-

            1. I think a quinoa salad would totally fit the bill. You can make a bunch of it ahead of time and eat off of it all week, and it's not to expensive because the quinoa doubles when you cook it. Plus, it's high-protein and healthy. Try this:

              1 c. raw quinoa
              2 big handfuls rinsed baby spinach
              small handful cilantro (fresh coriander)
              1/2 c. raisins
              1/3 head of cauliflower (if desired)
              1/2 tsp. cumin
              olive oil
              garlic powder
              1 Tbsp. minced red onion
              1/4 c. sliced toasted almonds
              juice of one lemon
              salt and pepper, to taste
              1/2 tsp honey
              possible additions: chickpeas, feta cheese, diced cucumber---use your imagination

              1. Prepare quinoa as directed on the box, usually in 1:2 proportion with water. Simmer 20 min until water is gone. Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet too cool.

              2. Coarsely chop spinach and cilantro and put in a large salad bowl.

              3. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Sauté the cauliflower until lightly browned (but still tender crisp), sprinkling with cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper toward end. Set aside to cool.

              4. Once the quinoa is cool, combine with the spinach, cilantro, cauliflower, red onion, raisins, and any other vegetables you want (remembering that cut tomatoes and cucumbers may turn slimy after a day or two).

              5. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil to taste. Season well with salt and pepper. If the salad tastes a little too sour, drizzle a bit of honey over and mix well.

              Just before serving, add the toasted almonds to individual portions.

              This is even better the next day.

              1. How about a tofu and cheese sandwich?

                When I'm on a veg kick, I'll get some firm tofu, cut a nice thick slice, and top that with some savory bleu cheese or a well aged camembert, and sandwich it all between some rye or Ciabatta bread.

                1. A couple more ideas:

                  -if you don't mind eating it room temperature, you could make baked potato wedges topped with a little chopped, cooked broccoli and melted cheese. cheap and nutritious.
                  -cold soba noodle salad with tofu and veggie chunks (there are lots of recipes on this board)
                  -tofu baked in teriyaki sauce, wrapped in a tortilla with asian slaw (in a pinch, toss some pre-cut slaw mix with bottled Asian salad dressing)
                  -hummus/baba ghanoush, tomato, cucumber, alfalfa sprout, and pita sandwiches (make your own spread---cheaper)
                  -crackers, cheese, and veggie lunchmeat/pepperoni. veggie pepperoni recipe: http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2008/03/...
                  -egg salad, deviled eggs
                  -Waldorf salad (apples, raisins, toasted walnuts, celery, a little mayo. sounds weird, but it's a classic for a reason
                  )-canned rinsed black beans and corn tossed with chopped red onion and red peppers, maybe cilantro
                  -ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins in celery sticks)
                  -any kind of whole wheat pasta salad. an easy one is rotini or penne with some feta, chopped tomato, cucumber, maybe spinach
                  -more ideas here: http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/

                  1. Wow, I just realized I didn't actually reply to this. I have been having fun with a lot of these ideas, so many of them are flexible and interchangable but fast and easy. Exactly what I needed. Thanks a bunch :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tntkitten19

                      Thanks for the update. Always good to hear when something works out!