Healthier work lunches

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Laraden
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Healthier work lunches

Postby Laraden » Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:04 pm UTC

Okay, after a year at my job, I've decided I should probably start packing my own lunch instead of eating McDonalds every day.
I work at a Wal-Mart, unloading the trucks, so haven't really gained any weight from it (it seems to all be burned off, apparently) but not exactly the tastiest option out there, but it does fit into my $5 a day limit for spending, so it's worked.

Basically, don't exactly make a ton of money there, so I like to spend around $5 or less a day for eating. Which would give me $20-25 a week for meals. And I'm rather clueless on eating healthier, so have no idea what would work for packing a decent lunch.

As far as my build, I'm 6' even and about ~165 lbs, so not big or anything, just have a few extra pounds I could get rid of. Mostly just tired of eating a couple of dollar menu burgers 5 times a week. And I'm sure there are better choices that still wouldn't cost a lot, but again, not sure what they'd be.

So, any suggestions? I figure apples/bananas would figure in somewhere, as I love them, but as far as the rest of the meal, I'm clueless what I could buy to not really go over that $20-25 a week too much, or preferably at all.

Thanks for any suggestions!

suriname0
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby suriname0 » Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:40 pm UTC

Hey bro,

I just got finished working as a walmart overnight stocker, and pretty much every day I had peanut butter for lunch. Two thick pb&j sandwiches plus a bag of carrots or grapes and a bag of crackers for the breaks if I was a bit peckish made a good (semi-balanced) meal, for about a dollar per meal. Also good are things that can be easily reheated in the walmart microwaves; I sometimes brought leftover pasta (w/ meat) or leftover enchilada/mexican whatever.

Carbs and protein, brah.
I'm sure others can give you actually healthy suggestions, this is just what worked for me.

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philsov
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby philsov » Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:47 pm UTC

I cook lunches en masse then tupperware/ziploc them into smaller portions. Are you able to bring in stuff like a bowl, small plate, utinsels into work? Have a fridge to store food in? Access to a microwave? I'm going to assume you do.

Let's see...

Chicken sandwich:
Spoiler:
buy some boneless skinless chicken breasts (should be about $2/lb). Half them, spice em, and then bake in an oven for ~25 minutes at 350 F.
1 Loaf whole wheat bread (2 slices/day :P)
some mayo
tomatoes (pre-slice at home)
Basil paste spread (totally optional, but delicious)
Cheese (I buy a block and slice it down, but single-wraps of Mozzerella/Pepper Jack/etc work too)


This sandwich clocks in at about 600 calories with a great fat/carb/protein spread. Total cost per day is less than 2 dollars.

Beef tips and rice:
Spoiler:
~2 lbs beef tips for stewing (less than $4/lb)
1 can beef broth or 1 beef boullion cube + 8 oz water
1 packet mushroom gravy mix + 8 oz water
red pepper + other spices

Place in crock pot/pressure cooker for 8 hours. Done.

2 cups brown rice - Makes 4 1/2 cup servings once cooked

I have a rice cooker, but I've heard stove top works just as well.


Again, about 600 calories, 50/50 from the beef and the rice. Edible in a standard size bowl. About $2.75/meal

Turkey + Black Bean/Corn Salad
Spoiler:
Turkey:
Turkey Thighs with bone and skin -- about $1.50/lb. Single thigh is a serving. Peel off and trash skin after baking if you're going the more health-conscious route.
Again, spice (slit open the skin and rub spices under the skin too) and then back for ~30 mins at 350 F. Cover the 9x13 pan with foil.

Black Bean and Corn:
8 oz dry beans (<$1)-- throw in a 2 qt sauce pan with plenty of water. I also dice up half an onion, half a bell pepper, and 2 jalepenos and let em all stew together. After about 90 minutes on a low heat, the beans are tender enough. If you're the canned type, I think this works out to about 32 oz beans for a 1:1 bean/corn ratio
32 oz corn (<$2)-- Largeish can. Crank that mother up
1 lime (10 cents) -- juice it
Other half of bell pepper - dice and put into bean/corn mixture
Cilantro bundle - finely dice about half a bundle
Dashes of tabasco

Reheat the turkey, but the salad is delicious cold. I just plump the whole thing into a huge tupperware bowl and eat a portion out of it a day for the week.


Again, about 600 calories and ~$2 a serving

Pending caloric needs and whatnot, throwing in a fruit with all this works pretty well. Most are about 100 calories. Apples, bananas, peaches... what have you.

Edit: If you keep this up you're looking at a savings of $625 per year.
The time and seasons go on, but all the rhymes and reasons are wrong
I know I'll discover after its all said and done I should've been a nun.

Laraden
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby Laraden » Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:13 pm UTC

Well, I wasn't expecting things that sounded quite that good for quite that cheap, but then it never really occured to me to actually cook food for taking to work.
I think I'll be trying out a couple of those, thanks! Eating real food for less sounds nice.

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Evengeduld
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby Evengeduld » Fri Sep 09, 2011 5:45 am UTC

philsov that are some awesome ideas I'll also try them out :wink:
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podbaydoor
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby podbaydoor » Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:23 pm UTC

A lot of the time, I just take leftovers. It's difficult to cook exactly one portion of a meal anyway, so I just shrug and cook two portions for dinner, and take half of it to work the next day. If your work has a microwave, so much the better.

Also, soup/stew is super cheap. You can cook a huge amount and freeze most of it, to be taken out one day when you really don't feel like cooking anything. Get a decent thermos (camping supplies usually has a selection) and you can keep it hot.
tenet |ˈtenit|
noun
a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy : the tenets of classical liberalism.
tenant |ˈtenənt|
noun
a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.

Tigerrrrr
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby Tigerrrrr » Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:45 pm UTC

Laraden wrote:Well, I wasn't expecting things that sounded quite that good for quite that cheap, but then it never really occured to me to actually cook food for taking to work.

On with the home-cooked lunches! It's good to know exactly what's going into your food, and you can portion so there's little to no waste. You also get more of your lunch break for eating/relaxing/whatever instead of waiting in line somewhere.

However, a point worth mentioning (and I don't mean to be a spoil-sport) - the price of food varies hugely by where you live. Here's to hoping you're somewhere that food is on the relatively inexpensive side! For example, Philsov mentioned boneless skinless chicken breasts for about $2/lb, but where I am, they're easily $5+/lb, closer to $7/lb for the "select cuts" packages... if I'm *lucky*, I can catch them for $4/lb or so on sale. And a lime for 10 cents? Nice! They're 60+ cents here if you catch a good price. The cost of food has been boggling my mind as of late.

Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies are perfect for adding some good nutrition into your lunches - a lot more vitamins and fiber than you might get from a fast-food burger (but definitely keep up with the protein to keep away the hunger). Fresh is great if you can buy a piece at a time, and frozen is great because you can take out exactly what you need and toss the rest back into the freezer without anything going bad.

If you don't mind eating the same thing several days in a row, casseroles can be a good option for incorporating multiple food groups in a satisfying way without overspending, and there are limitless kinds to make. There's also the option of cooking several different meals (casseroles, stews, etc) in decent-size batches, portioning them, and freezing so you can pull out one at a time and mix up the menu.

Best of luck!

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Nath
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby Nath » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:17 pm UTC

Tigerrrrr wrote:However, a point worth mentioning (and I don't mean to be a spoil-sport) - the price of food varies hugely by where you live. Here's to hoping you're somewhere that food is on the relatively inexpensive side! For example, Philsov mentioned boneless skinless chicken breasts for about $2/lb, but where I am, they're easily $5+/lb, closer to $7/lb for the "select cuts" packages... if I'm *lucky*, I can catch them for $4/lb or so on sale.

Fair point, but chicken is usually quite cheap if you buy large quantities. Those little styrofoam trays with one or two chicken breasts cost $5-$7/lb, but I can usually get large bags of frozen thighs or breasts for $2-$3/lb.

caje
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby caje » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:10 am UTC

Bulk rice and beans and potatoes that you make it home then bring in and heat up will be very cheap. Also Milk is very cheap ( a gallon of whole milk will be 2,400 calories and cost around 3 bucks)

As far as meat is concerned: If you can eat organ meats they will be by far the cheapest of cuts. If you have access to a Costco you can get frozen chicken for pretty cheap, also more fatty ground beef will be cheap. All meats can be cooked then thrown in with the rice as a super easy and simple meal.

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philsov
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby philsov » Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:51 pm UTC

I buy my chicken at Sam's Club and yeah, when you buy in bulk it helps drop the price some. Typical retail for a ~3 pound pack is closer to $3/lb in these parts. But if you keep an eye out for sales and freeze like a mother you can be just as well off.

Oh, and this week it's shrimp pasta salad and omelette muffins.

Shrimp Pasta Salad:
Spoiler:
Zatarin's Liquid Crab Boil (like 2 teaspoons)
~8 oz whole wheat pasta (I prefer rotini or penne for this dish)
~8 oz thawed/peeled shrimp -- medium/small size. I buy them split and deveined and peel the rest myself, but you ymmv.
3-4 tbsp mayo
<1 tbsp water (helps water down the mayo)
Cherry/Grape tomatos if desired.

Is the basic recipe. Expand ratio as desired.

Put one teaspoon liquid crab boil in the water as you're boiling the pasta(!). When the pasta is almost done, crank up the fire, throw the shrimp in, and then lower the fire back down. Shrimp and pasta should get done simultaneously. Drain and mix in a bowl along with the mayo/water, and season with more crab boil and/or red pepper to taste. A little more expensive than previous dishes (damned shrimp), but its edible cold. Single serving (about one quarter) is about 350 calories in a 30f/40c/30p macro split.


Omelette Muffins:
Spoiler:
16 oz cottage cheese (2%)
6 eggs (beaten)
8 oz cheese (I use shredded cheddar)
10 strips bacon (cooked and crumbled)
~1/2 cup diced bell pepper/onion/green onion/etc
1 tsp baking powder

Throw the cottage cheese in a blender to get good and smooth. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into muffin tray. Bake at 350F for ~30 minutes. Total calories for the whole batch is ~2000 calories, and this was enough for 16 muffins (125 a pop, eat two with lunch) -- its protein heavy and 0 carbs. Reheat and munch down when hungry.
The time and seasons go on, but all the rhymes and reasons are wrong
I know I'll discover after its all said and done I should've been a nun.

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podbaydoor
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Re: Healthier work lunches

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Sep 13, 2011 10:11 pm UTC

Mind posting those in the Food Forum as well? There are a number of cheap/healthy living threads, or the general recipes thread if you don't feel like searching.
tenet |ˈtenit|
noun
a principle or belief, esp. one of the main principles of a religion or philosophy : the tenets of classical liberalism.
tenant |ˈtenənt|
noun
a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.


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