As part of my new regime of austerity (turns out having two flats and getting married at the same time as you take a pay cut is expensive), I have taken to bringing a packed lunch to work every day. Some days – the good days – I bring in leftovers from the previous night’s dinner and microwave them. Today I have jambalaya. Today is a good day.

On other days, though, when I have to make something from scratch in a hurry, I have found myself to be sadly lacking in inspiration. I’m not wild on sandwiches, although I will make a cheese or an egg mayonnaise sandwich every few days. (The trick to egg mayonnaise, incidentally, is to make it the day you’re going to eat it, boil the eggs for five minutes so the yolk is set but still glutinous rather than fluffy, and use more salt and pepper and less mayonnaise than you think you need.)

I also sometimes have jam sandwiches, but I’m not going to mention that.

So far, the simplest and cheapest packed lunch I’ve found is some sliced cheese or chicken or both; some chopped vegetables (carrots and cucumber and baby tomatoes, mostly);  a handful of Ryvita or similar bread-substitute and a cheeky chocolate chip cookie, served with a carton of juice and a cup of tea. It’s nice, but it’s a bit boring and eerily reminiscent of the sorts of meals I ate a lot when I was six, so I am appealing to you, wise reader, for some alternative suggestions. Here are the rules:

– I don’t really eat red meat

– although I do eat sausages and minced beef

– it needs to be cheaper than buying lunch, and quicker than cooking a proper meal

– there should be some vague sort of a nod towards a balanced diet

– I don’t count fruit as food

There. I will give a prize for the best idea posted in the comments (or, as is quite likely, the only idea posted in the comments).

9 thoughts on “Lunch

  1. Cous cous is a good’un – you can knock some up in a few minutes, mix it with a bit of spicy sauce & whatever else you have to hand (tinned chick peas are good), and stick it in a lunch box.

    I say that like I ever bring in a packed lunch. I often get as far as *thinking* “I ought to bring in a packed lunch; it would be cheaper, tastier and more soul-affirming”. But I never bring in a packed lunch.

  2. Anonymous

    Ok – here we go… On the good weeks when I don’t have many meetings at lunchtime I will have this almost every day.

    It will work out cheaper only if you have this a lot in a week, so things don’t go off.

    This is also a bit reliant on your office having a fridge and something to cut with. It’s a lovely, tasty, colourful, filling and very balanced salad.

    It isn’t instant but means that you’ll at least be away from your computer for 5 minutes of the day.

    Basically you’ll need to buy a big bag of young spinach, a block of feta cheese, cooked beetroot, a can of cannelini beans (or other pulses) and avocados.

    The spinach, feta and beetroot will last you all week. The pulses and avocado you can replace every day or two depending on how big there are and how much you use – which also means you HAVE TO LEAVE THE BUILDING and get some fresh air and not look at your computer for at least 5 minutes in the day. You will have had 4 of your 5 a day by lunchtime.

    Adding grated carrot / tomatoes is optional and sometimes replace the pulses with peas to make it a bit lighter (do you have a fridge freezer in your office?)

    Chop, dress, mix, eat, smile and hopefully don’t hit too much food coma…



  3. elsiem

    I can’t give a prize to anyone called “Anonymous”! Although there’s only one person I know who always signs off “xbx”, so I could have a pretty good guess at that. I am definitely trying both these suggestions.

  4. A baked (nuked) spud with anything you fancy. Baked beans, tuna mayonnaise, coleslaw, chilli con carne, etc.

    Celery sticks sprinkled with salt for some nice crunch.

    And I know you don’t count fruit as food, but try a big tin of pineapple rings in their own juice. Filling and lovely!

  5. elsiem

    Oh, I LOVE baked potatoes, but I haven’t found a way, logistically, to have one at work (apart from going to the café and buying one, which defeats the purpose). We only have a microwave, and I don’t think I’d be popular if I tied it up for 10-15 minutes at lunchtime. Plus I am never sure about microwaved baked potatoes. I might try it once, just to see.

    I am totally trying out your celery and pineapple suggestions, though. I count fruit as a snack, just not as lunch.

  6. ruth morgan

    I LOVE celery sticks with crunchy peanut butter down the middle, but I don’t suppose anyone else will rhapsodise over it. And I’m not angling for prizes. My default last minute solution would be cut up cheese and apple with sultanas (yes ok, I know about fruit) but almost anything inside a pitta bread is a jolly good sandwich alternative.

  7. elsiem

    I forgot to pick a winner, sorry. On the basis that his suggestion offers maximum variety for minimum effort, I hereby award the prize, which I haven’t thought of yet, to…


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