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Need ideas for lunches-- no fridge, no microwave

I'm in a situation where I'm going to be on a campus for 10-12 hour days for a while, with no access to a microwave or refrigerator. Eating out more than 1x week is out for financial and health reasons.

So, any suggestions on what to bring? I'm going to get sick of granola bars, trail mix, and peanut butter sandwiches really fast. I don't want stuff that will risk leaking all over my laptop, take up too much space in my bag, or be totally unhealthy (it might get me frowned upon! And I don't handle refined carbs super well, and will need some protein to power through). I can do a small cooler with an icepack, but that has it's limits. It doesn't need to be super-foody, but it would be nice to have something yummy to look forward to mid-day, that feels different from a snack.

All I can think of that's an actual "meal" is cold peanut noodles and quinoa salad. Anything else? Ideally, it would all be stuff that 1) could be made with ingredients that could be bought over the weekend and kept 5-6 days and 2) take no more than 10-15 minutes to throw together at night or else be made 3-5 days in advance. No dietary restrictions, if that helps. I don't eat a ton of meat, but only because I find it spoils or gets freezer burn before I cook it!

I know that's a tall order. Thanks v. much in advance.

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  1. I eat lunch at my desk, and this kind of stuff is easy to eat, and easy to clean up:

    Good cheese and crackers, with a sliced apple.
    Brie, jam and good bread, with a pear.
    Carrot and celery sticks in a baggie, with hummus in a little screw-top plastic container.
    Beef jerky!
    Pita bread with hummus, cucumber, feta and a little shredded lettuce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmcarthur8

      Great ideas. Along those lines, think of deconstructed sandwiches that you assemble on the spot. A bit of pate, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions and a piece of baguette. turkey or ham with chutney and arugula on walnut bread.

    2. A good thermos will allow you to have soups, veggie stews, beans and grains.

      1 Reply
      1. re: magiesmom

        agree -- thermos is essential.

        i'd look at "picnic" threads, as they often deal with unrefrigerated food for room temp service.

        i always like cheese tortellini salad with pepperoni cubes and red bell pepper in an italian dressing.

      2. These are some of the building blocks I have available or prep on weekends to make a variety of meals: frozen vegetables (could roast instead), dried fruit, couscous, bulgar, hardboiled eggs, firm fried tofu, canned tuna/salmon/sardines, Morningstar black bean patties. Mix and match vegetables, grain and protein.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jadec

          Was just going to add "sardines, tuna or salmon...even kippers!" for good protein...beans are awesome protein too, lentils as well.

        2. Veggie wraps: Are you a fan of hummus? I make a big batch of it on the weekend (homemade is 100x better than store-bought) & make wraps with whole wheat tortillas to take to school during the week. They stay fresh for a long time, and have protein & complex carbs that keep me full.

          Bean & rice burritos: Doesn't get much cheaper than this. The trick to not getting bored is to vary
          the ingredients- use lots of different veggies, olives, condiments, seasonings, etc. Most cheeses would probably be fine too. I've heard that the French don't refrigerate their cheese.

          Veggie burger on a bagel: A nice treat, although admittedly better when warm.

          Pasta salad: Whole wheat will really keep you going, but again, it helps to switch up the ingredients & add some protein (beans, tofu, cheese, maybe cured meats).
          As you mentioned, quinoa or other grains also work very well as room-temperature foods (quinoa with curry, spaghetti squash, almonds & dried cranberries is my most recent obsession)

          Hard-boiled eggs: A good snack. Peel ahead of time, add salt & pepper, hot sauce, mustard, pickles, whatever you like. Or add them to a salad?

          Anything in a thermos: If you have a few minutes to heat up your food in the morning. I bring soups/stews or leftover rice & pasta dishes in a small, wide-mouthed thermos, along with some little extras, like crackers & fruit. Heck, I have even thrown a hot baked potato in there. The best trick for keeping things hot in a thermos (besides investing in a good one) is filling it with boiling water for a few minutes before you add your food.

          Note: I feel like this response may be kind of long and a bit too revealing of my weird taste in food, but I am going to post it anyway. Good luck & hopefully you will eventually find some things you really like!

          1 Reply
          1. re: NCVeggie

            I think your taste is good as a matter of fact I'm making a tossed salad I added beans. I'm boiling eggs now for tomorrow. I am on the election board we are there 16 hrs no fridge or microwave. Thanks for the suggestions I picked what we had here some cheese lettuce tomato mixed greens onion carrot and peppers. 2 boiled eggs with salt pepper and a little mayo mustard and pickle on some wheat bread. 2 boiled eggs with salt and pepper for breakfast. For a snack I am bringing some carrot sticks with hummus. That should hold me over from 5am to 9pm.

          2. Most sandwiches will make it to lunchtime without needing refrigeration, unless you're in the hot sun. Freezing a small water bottle and putting it in your lunch bag also will act as a de facto refrigerator and provide a cold drink.

            I like legume based salads ... a lentil salad with crumbled goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, vinaigrette, chives, or a chickpea salad with tomatoes, scallions, feta. You could do a Nicoise, too -- just keep the dressing separate in a small jar until lunchtime. (Actually, that goes for any leafy salad -- have at it!) I brown bag a lot of leftovers, too, and I usually eat them cold.