Today is more of a little practical tossing around of ideas to help you get out of lunch ruts - the no 1 issue in terms of food prep that I hear back from community people and friends... *Lunch is such a hassle. I'm so bored by lunches. I forget to eat because I didn't organise anything*... The list goes on. Then we're going to move on to mindsets, kitchen tools and food storage, food through all the ages, listening to what types of foods work for you and HOW they're prepared, not just what they are... and then a window into healing and preventative foods across a number of health challenges.
Lunch. It seems to be a bit of a chore with people constantly worried about that 'lunch box to fill' for little people, or for the office dwellers, for the dreaded last minute 'settle for' food court lunch - or worse, powering through and hitting the biscuit jar at 3pm.
I believe it's largely thought to be a chore because food companies have made us feel that eating and preparing to eat is a time consuming CHORE to get out of the way. Take a little moment to reflect on how you feel? Do you bring love into the food preparation or planning space in your head? Do you give yourself time for feeling grateful about the fact that you get to eat at all? Well, it's time to do so! Stressing about how perfect one's food is, is a dangerous spiral and counterproductive to feeling blessed, relaxed and awesome about REAL FOOD and the abundance we have all around us.
I digress... only because that was important to say. Now, lunch is important too and I feel that my segue was pretty clever 😉
When you're a busy parent with little ones or an office dweller, and the food court options are better and better these days, but there are some downsides that still keep it from being a great go to choice as a regular thing;
- Mexican is often using GM corn for tortillas, chips and tacos.
- All that I've ever seen use vegetable oil except 'paleo' certified ones like Thr1ve, Paleo cafe and certain organic shops / cafes.
- They're expensive for what you're getting.
- Single use plastic bottled water is never a good thing. Soft drink is worse. Processed juices are just as bad as soft drink.
- Hidden sugar - especially in Asian and Indian dishes.
- Factory farmed meat - one $10 curry is rarely going to be using certified organic chicken, or pasture fed beef. Vegetarian is my pick in food courts on account of ethics and the environement, as well as just not wanting to eat that stuff. The only time I don't ask about meat is at a friends' house. I'm a guest. They cooked for me with love. I eat the food with gratitude. Simple.
- Cheap everything - it's a tough market and food costs are kept as low as possible.
- If on a special diet due to allergy, coeliac or an autoimmune or gut condition, you just won't be able to guarantee food prep has been done in an uncontaminated space.
Now, I'm not saying that the odd food court meal is a no go. This list isn't to terrify you, make you feel guilty or send you into stress mode. We've defined real food. We've got a clear picture of what 'most of the time' food looks like and you are doing your best with what you have where you are, and please PLEASE, let that resonate with you as being enough. I have shared a burrito bowl from a mexican chain Guzman & Gomez a couple of times with my son as an emergency city option if we were out too long... it was actually delicious and we really enjoyed it. Vegetable oil? Probably. Twice in a year? Who cares. More stressful would have been a) not eating and b) stressing about the ingredients.
As I always say: It's not about what you do on the occasion, it's about what you do most of the time, and if you're working towards making your 'most of the time' REAL, then the rest is a stress less and go with the flow scenario. You might want to read a little piece I wrote on what I have from time to time that's non organic / wholefood HERE if you feel yourself starting to stress, or if you're prone to obsessing.
Oops, there I go again making sure that you're not having a meltdown and thinking everything you had been doing is wrong. It's not. It's the best it was within the knowledge and empowerment parameters you had at the time. Stressing yourself out to be perfect when there is no black and white and there is no perfection, means a life of disappointment and a sense of failure. You hit 'BUY' on the course button. That already makes you a raving success. It says, I'm ready to do a bit better and own my choices. Ok, I promise, we're moving onto lunch now.
So... making your own lunch.
It's easy and mostly can be planned from the night before.
You'll need a little something to keep things icy cool or warm if you're an on-the-go lunch person.
My favourite picks?
The Klean Canteen 16oz food canister for 4 hours hot or cold depending on what goes in there. Awesome for soups, stews, smoothies, fresh pressed juice, casseroles... or even veggie sticks and a little dip tub in the summer when you want everything to stay fresh. CLICK HERE to visit one of my favourite sites BIOME for this and a couple of smaller ones in the range. I love these for the 3pm pick me up smoothie if I'm out after lunch with the little man or going from meeting to meeting - still cold and delicious.
An insulated lunch back like this beautiful 4MyEarth one. CLICK HERE to check it out - She has other patterns too in this product.
1. Repeat after me: I WILL ALWAYS COOK A BIT EXTRA OF MY SOUP, STEW, MEATBALLS, BURGERS, ROAST VEG, STEAMED VEGGIES, FRITTATA, RISOTTO, BAKED FISH... Whatever it is, cook more so it can be reinvented the next day for a super quick lunch. I always use leftovers as my base, unless I'm adding a tin or sardines or mackerel to a salad - a favourite standby with lots of fresh lemon and parsley.
Once you've got a base item sorted from leftovers, then it's super easy to build around it, as you saw with my scribbly meal plan yesterday.
How to reinvent?
Here are some of the things I do to reinvent foods to make them interesting the next day. You could either do this already the night before if able to reheat at lunch time, straight after dinner or quickly the next morning and pop into canister or your pyrex or jar and then in an insulated carrier.
- Different spices. If I've made a neurtral dinner with basic herbs such as parsley or thyme, the next day, you can cook up a littke stock or fry up 1/2 an onion and add 1/2 tsp mixed spices to whatever it is
- If the meatballs or burgers were cooked sauceless the night before, make a super quick sauce the next day to re-invent. 1/3 cup broth / stock with 1 tbsp cream and 1 tsp mustard is a super simple favourite. Cooked on high to the bubble with the cream added once the heat is off. Otherwise a simple squeeze of citrus over them will change the vibe the next day.
- Casserole leftovers - Boil up a cup of broth / stock and add a pinch of herbs or two of some kid. Then add 1/2 cup casserole and some baby spinach for a delicious thick soup vibe. Sprinkle a different fresh herb over the top to change the vibe a little too (So if you used parsley in the casserole when you had it with rice, top the soup version the next day with coriander leaves.
- Veggie risotto the night before? Add some "grated and water squeezed out with a tea towel" zucchini to it with an egg or two and a little buckwheat flour to thicken if liquidy and make risotto fritters - This works with leftover pilafs, quinoa veggie stirfries, cauliflower rice... Serve with a salad
- Leftover roast chook - As is with a salad OR tossed with chopped purple onion in a pan and a knob of butter and squeeze of lemon
- Leftover roast veggies? Cook them up with stock enough to cover them by 2cm level, and add a handful fresh herbs of your choice, some turmeric for an antiinflammatory kick, some sea salt and blitz it once boiling, into a smooth, thick and luscious soup within minutes.
- Leftover baked fish? You have to try my 6 minute fish soup. So good, so easy and possibly the worst photography on my entire blog. It was early days. I swear it will never happen again.
- Leftover baked fish x 2? Make a salad with it, flaking it into leaves, cherry tomatoes, plenty of fresh herbs and some cooked quinoa, kelp noodles, zuchini noodles or buckwheat soba noodles
- Leftover roast meats? Love a good ploughman's lunch. Wrap a little chunk of cheese, a few crackers, your meat , some pickles or cultured veggies and some crudités and you'll have a nice little assortment of flavours to nibble through - Kids love eating this way at lunch I find too, choosing different things. So don't buy the 1kg scotch fillet or rump roast - Buy the 1.5 kilo and make your roast, then your thinly sliced slices for the ploughmans, then a quick thai beef salad...
- Leftover roast meats? Have a rice paper roll making project with a couple of work colleagues, friends or your kids. Cut the starch by not including rice noodles on the inside, but only using the rice casing and then wrap grated carrot, roast meats, min, coriader, possibly kelp noodles, lettuce, avocado... Make a simple dipping sauce with 2 tbsp tamari, 5 tbsp coconut water and fine chopped spring onion. Too easy and fun.
- Leftover roast meats again? This super simple thai chicken soup is so, so easy and yummy.
- Leftover frittata or quiche? Crumb a litle feta over the top the next day OR blob a blob of pesto on top for a different vibe, or chop some olives and fresh herbs and spring onions and enjoy with those.
- Feel like you need bread or kids / partner won't let go of sandwich land just yet? Wraps are the best choice as they allow for more nutrient dense fillings in the bread /filling ratio. It's a great baby step to perhaps ditching the 'grains at 3 meals' approach that nutritionist Luise Light warned very much against in the late 70s in relation to obesity potential when creating the 'food pyramid'. As you'll remember from module 3 - she was ignored. Industry won.
Sprinkle this, sprinkle that... Little flavour bombs to ensure excitement the next day when eating 'the same thing' for lunch.
- A crumbling of fetta - goat's or cows if it suits you to eat dairy
- A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of citrus
- A different dressing on the salad
- A different texture added - roasted nuts, pepitas, buckwheat kernels
- Something sweet added (like a sprinkling of this delicious nut and coconut sprinkle) or dried currants, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries halved, peach slices or a tsp maple / honey / rice malt syrup into the dressing for a sweet kick, different to yesterday's creamier dressing perhaps
- Something super savoury and tangy added - capers, olives, a couple of anchovies, sundried tomatoes
- You might want to check out my epic salad post for a full reference guide to creating 'different vibes' every time you hit the lunch assembly line.
My lunch time defaults when there are no leftovers?
- Make a pate for the week to serve as a gap filler when there are no leftovers. It is ridiculously nourishing and a wonderful quick grab with crackers and crudités to take to work as well as have at home solo or with little ones.
- Haloumi - frying a few slices and popping over a salad is just delicious
- A quick 2 egg omelette with spring onions chopped through it and cooked in generous butter. A big handful of green leaves and grated carrot to serve. Olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Sorted.
- The tin of mackerel or sardines to add to a salad or to have on crackers with a few veggie sticks and a guacomole or beetroot dip.
- Fish eggs - Once a month I buy these super special fish eggs from Canada. It's my favourite food in the world. So easy and nourishing and quick to spoon onto avocado smashed on 2 buckwheat crackers. My motto if having crackers in the mix? Additive / palm oil free of course and about twice the topping as there is cracker. The cracker is a vehicle. The nutrient magic happens with what you're putting on top. So go ahead and double the paté! It's tough this course, isn't it! 😉
- A cup of broth with half a zucchini grated into it, a little teaspoon of ghee added and chilli flakes, then crudites and dip
- And lastly, go out. Sometimes you just want to be cooked for and take in the surroundings around you and be brought food, like the regals experience. We all deserve that!
And lastly for little people and school? I penned my thoughts 2 weeks ago when my son started school. Most of it overlaps with what we're talking about here but READ HERE. for more info!
So today's mission?
Think more creatively about what you see in your fridge: What is it waiting to transform into? What could you add texture, flavour, saltiness, sweetness, healthy fats, crunch... What could transform what you have in front of you that your'e feeling non plus about having *AGAIN* and add that little kick to change it up and make it exciting? We are eternal pleasure seekers, us humans. Your moto today? ADD PLEASURE and share with the group what you did to make your lunch more exciting. Easy!
Real Food. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.