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Everyone knows that packing your lunch is a great way to save money. Everyone also knows that brown bag lunches can get old real fast especially when you’re a grown up. Sure the kids will always love PB&J, but what about the adults in the household? You work hard and deserve a little luxury in your lunch. And since routine can get old real fast here’s how to keep the second most important meal of the day interesting!
Saved by the Salad
From pasta salad to a chicken salad sandwich, here are some ideas based on one of the most popular lunch choices out there.
Toss the leftovers into a salad.
You can never have enough lettuce around. At the beginning of the week, get into a routine of mixing up a big, basic salad of flavorful lettuces, cucumbers, whole cherry tomatoes, and broccoli-slaw (a tricky way to get your kids to eat some extra veggies). Add leftover toppings throughout the week based on what you have around (leftover corn, chicken, cheese, that leftover chicken, egg, or tuna salad), and bring dressing on the side in a small container so it doesn’t soak your lettuce.
Egg, Chicken, or Tuna?
The little ones like chicken, dad prefers tuna, while your suddenly vegetarian teen refuses to eat meat. Thank goodness for chicken, tuna, and egg salad sandwiches! You can whip up a batch of each for a fairly low cost and satisfy everyone in your family. All three can be altered in countless ways (try adding grapes to chicken salad, celery to egg salad, or apples and dill to tuna). Just make sure you use a sturdy bun (or pack separately and assemble at lunchtime) so your sammy doesn’t get soggy!
Spruce up that pasta salad.
Pasta salad is incredibly versatile-you can add just about anything to some cold, cooked noodles. Try smoked chicken, cheddar cheese, and steamed broccoli with an Italian vinaigrette or sliced pork, bean sprouts and peanut sauce for an Asian twist.
Not Your Average Sandwich
Instead of just slapping some meat and cheese on white bread and calling it a day, try a little variety. Next time you are at the store, pick up a few packs of deli-style meats and compliment with the following ingredients that will add some flair (sans the cost) to your sandwich.
In addition to the throwing mayo and mustard in your cart, buy a couple of flavored spreads like sun-dried tomato, honey mustard, or pesto.
Explore the cheese aisle.
Go beyond American cheese and pick up some jalape�o jack, sage cheddar, or havarti.
Sneak in some leafy greens.
Spinach, arugula, and basil are all high in nutrients and flavor.
The Modern Lunch Bag
If carting your delicious lunches in a brown paper bag is putting you and your family to sleep, make it a habit of switching it up with these modern lunch bag ideas.
Encourage the kids to pick out a lunch box that suits their style.
Add back-to-school lunch boxes to your list and let the kids choose what style of lunch box they want for school.
Build a bento box.
You can make your own Bento Box by buying plastic storage containers of various sizes (just nestle smaller boxes without lids into a larger box with a lid). The plastic storage bags can easily be washed out and reused.
Pick up a lunch-sized cooler for the office.
Nowadays, I usually bring my lunch to work in a small "cooler" lunch box. It has a place for an ice pack if the office fridge is full, and fits the right amount of food nicely without letting me over-pack! There is a seemingly infinite supply of these out there to choose from, in all shapes, sizes, colors, patterns ... and prices!
So, once the kids’ lunches are packed give your own lunch a little love. Who knows ... you may inspire your kids to trade in their PB&Js for a smoked turkey and sage cheddar sandwich.
Kim Weisberg, who writes about food, organization, and just about everything else at Kim’s Kitchen Sink