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Mar 28, 2012 06:18 AM

Question from a new guy.

Here is my situation. I'm a student and work full time. My wife is equally busy. Due to my schedule, cooking is very difficult. But, even if I could cook, there is a lack of refrigeration at school and a lack of tools to heat up a meal in both places. The last thing is that being at school all day and not having access to storage I have to carry my meals with me and all my books as well. It's not the easiest thing since I'm on campus close to 12 hours.

My question is:
Does anyone have any good ideas on how I can feed myself with these circumstances?

I understand that my whole life is not laid out in detail, so it's hard to assess what my free time, which is limited at best, looks like. However, I need to figure this out before I start school this fall because my time will be even more limited with the course load I will have. The last thing I would like to request, in whatever responses I might get to this post, is that the food I eat be as far away from processed as possible.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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  1. This is where the sandwich and wrap will become your best friend, hamhockpunk. (Great name, btw - and welcome, welcome to the CH community.) Okay, you can't really cook or re-heat. So you need to go the other direction - chilling. You need a few cold packs and maybe an insulated bag. I'd get some good whole-wheat bread and wraps, and start devising layers of sliced veg. and cheeses to roll on up. Refried beans, shredded cheese and salsa is a nice option. Tuna with mashed cannelini-bean spread's another one. Never forget your quick protein source: the hard-boiled egg, which you can devil or do add-ins for interest. You can buy salad ingredients in a quantity that works for you so that you won't have leftovers, and carry that along with you. Consider shopping at an Asian market; there are some decent-quality low-sodium noodle bowls available, but READ the LABELS!! You might also consider a crockpot, scaling back on proportions so that you won't have leftovers, and crafting soups and chili that you can carry in a thermos - rinse it first with boiling water, and the contents will stay hot for your lunch. Small containers of cottage cheese, and some sliced veg. are a good lunch; sprinkle with some sunflower seeds for interest.
    Really as long as you have a means of keeping the cold cold and the hot hot, anything should be okay, though I'd seriously avoid chicken under any circumstances. Mayonnaise will actually help things stay fresh, though. Your limitations seem to be in the initital prep. and re-heating, but you can work around that.

    1. I would also suggest a pasta salad with oil based dressing - chopped onions, cucumbers, olives, beans or tuna, cherry tomatoes and an italian style dressing and you're good to go for the week! Peanut butter is also a good choice - on bread, or with fruit or veggies as a snack for your long days. The other thing is simple whole grain crackers with cheese slices. Quick and easy and delicious! A cold pack can get heavy, so you may consider freezing a water bottle and then packing it with your lunch and drinking it at lunch time. Yogurt can also be frozen and then thaws by the afternoon when you're ready to eat. Hope that helps!

      1. Sushi, Maki, onigiri are all your friends. The Japanese bento and lunch options are specific to no refrigeration, no heating, small containers to be carried with you.

        You can roll your own sushi/maki or make your own onigiri, they are easy, healthy, easily filled with many many options to allow you to use what you have available, to do different flavours as not to get bored, and can do flavours you enjoy.

        You can use canned tuna, canned salmon, mix with a little mayo, mustard, salt and pepper, and either roll maki rolls/sushi rolls or just fill a rice ball, and you can opt to use seaweed/nori if you wish, but you don't need to. 2 or 3 are filling and healthy, you get a lot of protein and vitamins from seaweed, you can use proteins like the tuna or salmon, you can also put in teriyaki chicken or beef or shrimp or anything you like at all. They can be eaten at room temperature with no need to heat them and no need to keep them cool for a few hours. You don't have to use mayo if you don't want to leave it at room temperature for extended time.

        You can do various things like pasta salads or potato salads which can incorporate proteins like canned tuna, or beans, pasta salad/potato salad can be fine at room temperature. If you don't like the idea of mayo at room temperature for extended times, my potato salad recipe uses just mustard and a little white wine vinegar and oil, this is fine at room temperature and with some bacon in there for flavour, i usually use just green onion but you could put peppers in as well for more vitamins, any vegetable is fine.

        Sandwiches are a good idea, but you will get bored of them eventually, you want many options.

        1. If you don't mind cold/room temperature homemade pizza would be fine, salads with cous cous, with orzo, with quinoa, you can make Japanese style potato croquettes with bacon or other meats in them, they are actually pretty good room temperature, albeit a bit of prep work. I don't think room temperature vegetable lasagna would bother me, though it might bother you, but some sort of hybrid lasagna or eggplant parm might work for you. Any cured meats will work well for extended times.

          1. It depends if you want cold foods or warm foods. If you want cold foods, then you can always prepare salad, sandwich, sushi, maki (as TeRReT nicely pointed out)....etc. In the case of sushi or maki... you may even have to pack ice with your lunch bag. If you want warm foods, then you are really down to two options. One is to use the microwave at the school. You can always find a microwave in today college campus building. It may be tough at first, but once you located them, then you can use them for future uses. Now, if going to a microwave oven is too much out of your way, then you can consider buying a vacuum insulated lunch box/jar like this (but does not have to be exactly this one):


            Make your food extra hot, pack it, and it will be about the right temperature when you open it for lunch.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              For the record, if I ever do end up getting a job, onigiri and maki will be my lunch, and I won't be refrigerating it at all. I won't be using raw fish or raw proteins though, just canned tuna and canned salmon and various other pickled seaweeds and stuff as fillers. So as long as you aren't using sashimi, I'd have no problem with bringing sushi/maki with no ice pack at all, but its up to you.

              1. re: TeRReT

                You should have Cup-Noodle for your lunch. :)

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  they aren't so filling for me and are higher in calories and sodium, the maki are much more filling and healthy

                  1. re: TeRReT

                    I took a sushi making course and the teacher gave the rule of thumb that sushi rice should not be refrigerated but should be eaten within four hours (less if stuffed with raw fish obviously). This makes sense to me as chilling sushi rice makes it dry and chewy, even if carefully wrapped.

                    Peanut butter and honey sandwiches got me through grade school, high school, undergrad and an MA. Gotta use the hard honey though, not the liquid stuff. They don't need refrigeration, don't get slimy and tasty pretty darn good, even if they get a bit squished in your rucky! I have a high tolerance for repetition when it comes to everyday breakfast and lunch so YMMV.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Also, if you are packing a lunch thermos, boil some water in the morning while you are prepping your lunch. Fill the container first with hot water. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Then empty and fill the thermos with your hot meal. It makes a huge difference in how long something stays warm!