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Fast, inexpensive, simple, healthy lunch on the go

I've grown tired of the usual lunch meat sandwiches I typically slap together for lunch at work. I need some new ideas. The thing is that I want there to be minimal prep. and the cost to be low. I cook for dinner every night and can't be bothered to do the same for lunch as I'm really busy and just want what little down time I have to relax, not to do more cooking. Sandwiches are fine, I'm just thinking of alternatives to lunch meat. Thoughts on cream cheese, hummous?

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  1. Are you averse to repurposing your leftovers for your lunch?

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      I do this for the man almost every day. I pack it up right when I'm plating our dinners and into the fridge it goes- it takes about two minutes and he gets a complete well balanced meal. If you didn't want the same thing two days in a row you could freeze a serving each night and then grab from freezer based on what sounds good.

      We have no food waste in the form of leftovers lurking in the back of the fridge and if I know it's something he really likes for lunch/ reheats well I can make extra when I'm making dinner and portion it into containers as back ups for nights we don't have leftovers.

    2. This might not be the best option available, but I made it the past month whenever I needed a quick lunch to take to work.
      Pumpkin puree, apple butter, almond butter, with a dash of cinnamon between two slices of whole wheat bread. It's kind of like a fall take on the classic PB&J.

      Also, soup or chili work pretty well if you can reheat it. A batch made over the weekend would make things easy. Also a good way to finish any vegetables before they go bad.

      1. Hummus and dubliner make a delicious sandwich and hummus instead of mayo definitely livens up lunch meat.

        Slices of canned jellied cranberry sauce with deli turkey (a rif on Thanksgiving). Mango chutney would go great with this too, or just chutney and cream cheese.

        Try mixing up the bread - cream cheese or PB&J on raisin bread. Chutney & cream cheese on rye.

        Pre-mix some curry powder into mayo and have that with sliced chicken/turkey. You could of course also actually pre-make curried turkey salad which is delicious.

        1. We do crackers in place of the bread a lot.

          Beer cheese with crackers ,carrots, and celery
          Shrimp salad on lettuce
          Pimento cheese
          Eat sandwich meat in a pita, tortilla roll up,bagel,etc
          Tuna in a tomato

          1. Ham salad
            Cream cheese and jelly
            Cream cheese and cucumber
            Carried chicken salad
            Roasted vegetables and sliced feta or mozzarella
            Cold eggplant Parm
            Chicken cutlet and greens with provolone
            Hummus and roasted red peppers with red onions
            Lamb and spinach with yogurt sauce
            Corn beef and pastrami
            Tomato and mayo

            1. Tuna salad. If you don't want all that mayo, make it with olive oil (right out of the can if you like) and some lemon juice to taste. Takes just a few minutes to break up the tuna and mix everything, and makes enough for several sandwiches.

              1. Lots of great ideas. Thanks. The problem with leftovers is that I'm a bachelor who works a lot. So I'm cooking for one. Typically I make something on Sunday then work on it over the course of the week so eating the same thing twice a day for three or four days straight isn't an option.
                I like the idea of putting hummous or cream cheese on bread with sliced tomatoes or cucumbers or another veg. In terms of health/calories would this be better or worse than lunch meat?

                3 Replies
                1. re: ziggystardust

                  If it is calories you care about the lunch meat can be less than the hummus. There are so many factors here but it depends on what you are trying to do. It depends on the type of meat etc. hummus can be high in fat due to the Olive oil making it high cal. Lunch meat can be lean but full of processed junk and sodium.

                  1. re: ziggystardust

                    Assuming you're using a serving of each one, which for hummus is 1oz or approx 2tbsp, and lunch meat (I buy oscar meyer deli style) is 6 slices, the lunchmeat is slightly less, calorie wise. 6 slices of oscar meyer peppered turkey is 50 calories. 1oz of Sabra Extremely Spicy hummus (these are what I have on hand) is 70 calories. But there's other factors to look at, like sodium, and protein. The lunchmeat I use has 500g of sodium, which is roughly 20% of your daily recommended value, whereas the hummus has 150. The other factor is protein. You would think lunchmeat has a lot, but it only has 8 grams. The hummus has 2.

                    I keep lunchmeat on hand because it's convenient, but the idea I listed above of actually roasting your own meat to use in sandwiches is a much more healthy option, as you can control what you season it with (and therefore controlling the sodium), and it has substantially more protein, which will help you feel much more full. 4oz of plain chicken breast has 25g of protein, but only 130ish calories.

                    1. re: ziggystardust

                      IMO I would cook two or three different things on Sunday to have a little diversity

                    2. I don't do this often because I usually have leftovers, but instead of lunchmeat you can use actual meat... like chicken or pork chops or steak or whatever. So much better than regular deli lunchmeat.... and you can mix up the flavors. Slicing it up works better than eating it whole. My mom actually always makes an extra piece when she's cooking dinner so her meat has whatever flavors of what dinner was.... so it might be an italian seasoned chicken breast sandwich, or asian seasoned pork chops.

                      I've never used cream cheese on sandwiches but I don't see why not, sounds good... could even add herbs etc to it to make it more flavorful. Hummus would be great too. I also have this stuff made by Mezzetta, they have a line of sandwich spreads, I purchased at World Market, it's just roasted red peppers chopped up with some oil etc. It's great on sandwiches and would be very easy to make at home.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: juliejulez

                        I've done this with roasted meat - it takes some time but not much effort, and can be done any time you're home for a few hours. I'm not a fan of most lunch meats (aside from the salami/summer sausage/pastrami cured meat category).

                        Get roast beef or ham or pork roast, or chicken breast, or a turkey breast, and roast in the oven with minimal seasoning. Slice, and freeze in single sandwich portions (separate layers by a bit of tin foil if you want). Then you just have to thaw it out and add to your sandwich. You can keep an eye out for sales on appropriate meats, to buy them when they're cheap.

                        And you can make sandwiches more interesting by varying the trimmings as well (or skipping the meat and using a combination of veggies/cheese/spreads).

                        For spreads, there's tons of stuff you can use to vary the flavour and texture. Try mustards of various types, cream cheese, mayo, tomato salsa, green salsa, pesto, Indian lime pickle (amazingly good in a turkey sandwich), hummus, baba ganouj, tatziki, guacamole, ranch dressing, thousand islands dressing, French dressing, horseradish, wasabi mayo, refried beans. For other fillings, along with the meat, you've got lettuce, sliced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, pickles, olives, pickled hot peppers, sliced green peppers, roasted red pepper strips, spinach, sprouts, sliced cheese, spreadable cheese, fresh basil, sliced hard boiled eggs, cooked bacon (freezes well).

                        And of course, you can vary the bread - pitas, bagels, ciabatta, rolls, rye, white, brown....

                      2. You can cook black beans (or use good canned) and brown rice. Wrap these up in a large flour tortilla with chopped veggies, lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa verde.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sandylc

                          This is my quick go to lunch when I'm in a hurry and may or may not have access to a microwave. It sounds a little weird, but it has a perfect balance of protein, carbs and fat, so it keeps you satisfied all afternoon.

                          Microwave a sweet potato (probably 5 min). Once it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and mash that up with a can of drained boneless, skinless salmon (or tuna, but I prefer salmon), a little sweet pickle relish, some mustard (your choice), I prefer a blend of honey mustard, some sweet/spicey & deli, and about a teaspoon of olive oil. This keeps well unrefrigerated for several hours and can be slightly warmed up in a microwave or eaten at room temp.

                        2. I like a cream cheese sandwich with finely chopped vegetables in it: carrots, red bell peppers, cucumbers. I also add sunflower seeds, fresh black pepper, and fresh dill (I keep this in the freezer to no ill effect). Adding sliced tomatoes is nice, too. This can go on whole wheat bread, a bagel, or a pita pocket. You can do the same thing with hummus instead of the cream cheese.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sandylc

                            The cream cheese veggie combo is also good with farmer cheese.

                            Other ideas-
                            - roasted veggies/ cheese
                            - grilled veggies/ hummus
                            - feta/ tomato/ kalamata olives
                            - grilled chicken/ BBQ sauce/ grilled onion
                            - Italian tuna ( capers, olives, celery, carrots)
                            - lentil spread/ cucumbers
                            - black bean dip/ roasted zucchini
                            - mozzarella/ eggplant/ pesto
                            - turkey or chicken veggie burger
                            - falafel/ salad/ pickles

                          2. I do a lot of burritos and wraps In fact, I just made quite a few spicy salmon wraps (flaked salmon, red pepper chili, spinach, bell peppers).
                            I also do bean and cheese burritos, sometimes add ground beef or turkey. I also do breakfast burritos (egg, soyrizo, beans, spinach).
                            What's handy is that these can be frozen for whenever.

                            1. The other day I opened up a serving of 2%-fat greek yogurt, tore in a significant amount of fresh dill, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I thought it was quite good with some crusty bread. and it took maybe 5 minutes.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lamb_da_calculus

                                I do a version of this for lunch quite often. I buy the big tubs of Fage at Costco and scoop some into tupperware to take to work. For a sweet version, I add some combination of jam, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, chopped fruit, nuts, granola. Sometimes I'll put the granola in a baggie or small container so it doesn't get soggy. For a savory version I'll do cucumber, mint, salt & pepper, or mix in jalapeƱo jelly and hot sauce and make a dip for pita chips/pretzels. It's a good way to break up the sandwich monotony.

                              2. You can top a big baked potato with yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, leftover things like chili, BBQ, taco filling, curry, or sloppy Joe, salsa, etc.

                                1. Canned chick peas smashed in the center of a tortilla and covered in tzaziki makes an easy, inexpensive, and healthy wrap. Sooo good.

                                  1. To add onto these .. burrito bowls are a great option. You can make up a large quantity of rice, beans and bake/grill chicken or steak and then just pack everything up in bowls. It's also very cheap and just needs to be reheated.

                                    I would probably live off Chipotle burrito bowls if I could. Hah! If you like them, here are some knockoff recipes:


                                    1. canned black beans with some lime juice and cilantro, maybe some corn kernels and/or chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, chili powder if desired, avocado if you're into that. straight up from some tupperware, scooped up with chips, with some rice, or on a pita or tortilla would all sound good to me.