Both my kids were homeschooled, and for many years, my husband worked down the street and came home if he wanted some lunch, so I haven’t done a whole lot of the whole lunch packing thing. Now, though, my husband and son and I are all packing lunches and I’m figuring out how to do this thing as economically and inexpensively as possible.
Understand up front that I’m not a bento box kind of girl. It’s nice if it looks pretty, but I’m more concerned about how fast I can pack it, that it taste good and travel well, and that I’ll be willing to actually eat it come lunch time. Even more important is that it be “man-friendly,” as my husband and son pack their own lunches, and they aren’t much for any extra effort before coffee has fully entered their systems, which usually isn’t until they hit the front doors of their workplaces.
My husband and son could pretty much eat a ham sandwich every day and be happy campers. They are, however, willing to eat most leftovers. To that end, I’ve been trying to encourage my kitchen after-dinner-cleaning-crew (coincidentally, the same husband/son duo) to package up the planned leftovers from dinner into recycled plastic Chinese carryout containers. Pretty unsuccessfully, I might add. When I inquire about whether the leftovers were conveniently packaged, I get blank/sheepish stares and an “Oops. I forgot.” Sigh. What’s a girl to do?
I’ve been more successful with the “side dishes.” Both men love fruit and veggies, and will inhale cookies by the handfuls. But, only if it’s easy to pack. A large bag of grapes will turn into raisins before these two will delve into them, but give them grapes in a bowl and they will disappear in a few minutes. So, I’ve become the Great Re-packager.
The other day, I made a triple batch of oatmeal cookies and then packaged them up, three to a baggie. Before this, the guys had purchased store cookies, which I repackaged into individual servings. (The store bought cookies are still sitting there, but the oatmeal are almost gone. Amen. Fortunately, I stashed half of the oatmeal in the freezer and can now dole them out little by little.) I organized my freezer recently and ran across a large bag of gingersnaps that we weren’t interested in eating after Christmas, which will come in handy when added into the cookie rotation.
I’ve also packaged up individual bags of baby carrots and grapes. I’m grateful that nectarines come in their own individual serving size! I’ve dedicated one refrigerator drawer to these servings so that the guys can find them easily.
I’ve also recycled some water bottles into tea bottles. They go through the dishwasher easily and then I fill them with tea and stash them in the fridge. The guys drink them enthusiastically, and I had to explain that ONE was enough, and that the store-brand sodas I’d purchased were to be considered an OR, not an AND when it came to their drinks. They were crestfallen, but complied.
In all honesty, I get a little testy when my hard work is consumed without thought to the fact that it IS work. Yes, I could more easily purchase cases of tea and packages of food. However, I have an ethical problem with doing that. I don’t like the expense, and I don’t like the plastic waste. All those little baggies? Yep, I wash them and reuse them. Makes the guys crazy, and they conveniently “forget” to wash them, and leave them all for me to do. There’s also the time factor. I can wash and refill those bottles in a few moments, and it would take me a while to go to the store and purchase replacements, and then I’d have to store them. We have about 10 bottles which are filled and used a few times a week—they never even go into the cabinet. I only wash the baggies when I’m washing other dishes, and I’m only throwing away the larger containers the food comes in originally. It all makes me feel like I’m doing my part for both my wallet and the world.
What about you? Any good tips on making lunches easier and more economical?