I'm joining in the packed lunch crew. Need some ideas.
I'm really disenfranchised by the cheap-skatedness and quality of the canteen, so I plan to make my own damn lunch. My girlfriend doesn't have a canteen, so she sometimes takes a lunch too, so we can kill 2 birds with one stone and take turns making them.
I need some kind of compartmentalised tupperware, which I'm sure is available. I might also get a quality re-usable bottle for squash too to avoid buying a soda or something, but a re-used water bottle is good enough.
What I'm really looking forward to is some neat ideas for lunches, and if I can get it down to less than £5 per meal for two (average), that would be grand. Here's a few ideas I have so far:
Olives: they go with anything, and I can just sit there and eat and eat and eat them. and often do.
Ham: It may be possible to cook a ham and make several sandwiches with it rather than buying pre-sliced. need to look at the cost of this.
Tuna pasta: bit boring, but easy, and a good back-up.
Flapjacks: Could bake on a sunday and use through the week? Same with other cakes too I guess.
chicken ceasar salad
How long would a fruit salad of strawberries and pineapple last?
Other ideas: Mackerel on toast
For myself, I just take a small container of whatever I have leftover, I'm easy.
Husband MUST have a sandwich, I just buy whatever cold cuts are on sale each week, and supplement with homemade egg, tuna or chicken salad. He's very old fashioned about his fillings. If I make a roast beef, turkey or ham that does it for the whole week for him.
So just cook up a storm on the weekend and portion out your lunch for the week.
Guessing from your current ideas you don't have access to a microwave for reheating.
Couscous, bulgar, quinoa and noodle "salads" are good cold.
Different breads for sandwiches add variety: pitas, wraps, tortillas
Leftovers as mentioned.
Lentils and chickpea salads
Eggs: frittatas, hardboiled
I also have a stash of black bean burgers (Morningstar) for backup on busy days.
There is a microwave actually, but because I don't have one at home, I guess I missed it. It's a little out of the way though, so I'll probably make it cold.
Thanks for the ideas. Tell me more about these black bean burgers?
Ohh, another idea; frijoles and guacamole with something. Tacos?
Burritos are sturdier than tacos, if you can forego the crisp shell. I am partial to the breakfast burrito as lunch: the filling is eggs scrambled with sausage(or bacon), peppers, and onion, with a slice of cheese added before rolling up, so the residual heat melts it. They are good re-heated or at room temp. Before I retired, I made a bunch of these which I wrapped tightly in plastic wrap before placing in a plastic container and freezing. I'd take one out in the morning, so it was thawed by lunchtime. If there was a microwave available, I nuked it still in the plastic wrap, which I then peeled back like a banana peel, to avoid potential dripping.
I also liked an occasional lunch of an apple, good crackers, and sliced cheese, packing a paring knife so as to slice the apple before eating.
I typically take:
hummus with sliced veggies
Salad with protein (chicken/tuna)
Chicken w/sweet potato (I like this better cold/room temp than heated)
Chicken with veggies/rice or pasta combo
Wrap with mustard, veggies, chicken
A small, quality thermos opens up possibilities without resorting to microwave: chili, soups, heated in the morning and still hot at lunch.
The Japanese have a "bento" box tradition, with multiple interlocking containers to keep different things at different temperatures until the mealtime. So if you're into that philosophy, there's quality paraphernalia, not always cheap, but it would pay for itself:
About what to eat: I'm happiest with weekend cooking in anticipation of weekday lunches: with a microwave at work, I'm often reheating leftover fried rice or chicken cacciatore or whatever's going on. I wish I had better skills with "cold" salads of cous-cous and quinoa, etc., as a poster above recommends.
You should definitely get a thermos and/or a bento box. Using a bento box also means you can bring a snack or two if you're a snacker. I got a heavy-duty thermos from Target--some sort of tie-in with Stanley Tools--which is awesome for soups and stews. I nuke the food at about 6:30 a.m. and it's still hot at 12:45 p.m. A bento box is a great conversation piece too. Here's a Flickr account of what people put in their bentos, it should give you ideas:
So... I saw some bento boxes, and I was like "well, there's no space to put a sandwich in". But looking at those photos does enlighten me slightly. How long do things keep at temp for?
One thing I was thinking was fajitas, with the meat onion and peppers in one part and the tortillas seperate. Then a pot for sour cream or whatever.
Thermos is a good idea.
Most bento box kits either come with a spot for an ice pack or can be easily packed with one. The second link I included has a whole section on food safety that's really helpful. She also has some really good ideas for keeping foods warm but also safe, and using thermoses for more than just keeping soup hot.
I have a thermos food container too. It has a little folding spoon that sits in the lid. I love taking leftover soup with me. Also I'll take leftover curry and rice or pasta whatever. I reheat the curry/ pasta sauce whatever but keep the starch cold (bonus if I remember to seperate some before fully cooked) and put in the bottom cold.
I don't have an actual bento box, but I use a shallow rectangular tupperware thing, and then use silicon cupcake liners and other small containers to separate things.
Some favorite lunches:
boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, tuna, olives, green beans w/ vinaigrette.
Whole wheat tortilla w/ rice, beans and cheddar, Sour cream and salsa on the side.