I've actually found that the mason jar method works best for getting a non-soggy salad, and you don't have to use (and waste) plastic baggies, either, or worry about the baggies exploding or leaking! Put your dressing at the bottom of a glass mason jar. Top with any of your salad ingredients that aren't affected by salad dressing (lettuce and fresh fruits are a no-no, but cabbage, carrots, nuts, etc. are great options), then pack in the remaining ingredients and greens, and seal. It looks lovely! About 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, flip the mason jar upside down so the dressing distributes, then enjoy! (You can also just dump everything onto a plate and mix there.) Because the jar doesn't allow air in, the greens stay delicious and crisp - for up to a week. Kind of life changing!
Week 3: Challenge or Diet?
I’m finding more and more that this challenge to pack my lunch every day feels like a diet. It’s not just about food, but also about self-control and restrictions.
And as with any diet or regimen, a little bit of leeway helps keep you from going crazy—so I gave myself a “cheat day.” I brought lasagna on Thursday, but there was a large contingent of people grabbing a quick bite nearby, so I joined them and ate the lasagna on Friday. Hey, it’s always good to give yourself options.
Another thing I tried this week was bringing an extra portion of lasagna for my co-worker. He had been jealous when I told him my husband was making his homemade specialty for dinner on Wednesday night, so I offered to bring him some leftovers. We both ended up eating out on Thursday, but it was nice to share a lasagna lunch with him on Friday. And it kept him from trying to convince me to go out.
Monday: Leftover beef brisket sandwich
Tuesday: Sandwich (ham, brie, and Granny Smith apple)
Wednesday: Antipasto salad (packing tips below)
Thursday: Team lunch (cheat day)
Friday: Leftover lasagna
Not counting my cheat day, I spent about $16 on four lunches. I splurged on the lunch out ($9 with no leftovers), which brought the weekly total to $27. Again, the home-cooked leftovers were the cheapest. One dinner of lasagna divvied up into eight servings brought the cost per serving down to $2.70.
Trying to save money on lunch is actually saving me a lot of money on dinner, too. After calculating the cost per serving, the lasagna dinner with my husband only cost about $5.
Having the right equipment makes bringing lunch much easier. This summer, I invested in a set of glass food storage containers in different sizes to replace my five-year-old plastic containers (not the thick kind, but the cheap, almost disposable kind). The glass containers hold up really well to frequent microwaving and are great for portion control. I use the 1.5-cup size, and the clear glass makes it easy to see the balance of protein, vegetables, and carbs. In Week One, when I brought cereal for lunch, I filled my container with soy milk and brought the cereal in a zip-top bag.
My cousin suggested I get fun lunch bag, but I find a paper shopping bag works great for me—a small bag that you might get from LOFT or Anthropologie is the perfect size for my lunch container, reusable water bottle, and snack.
Another observation from tracking my lunch for the past three weeks: I eat a lot of beef brisket. (And I kind of want some now—mmm.)
Recipe: Non-Soggy Salad
Salads are healthy, but it can be hard to keep them fresh until noon. The key is to rinse your greens right before you eat, but who has a salad spinner at the office? I’ve found a zip-top bag is all you need. I included my antipasto ingredients below, but you can swap in the protein and fixings of your choice.
- 1 cup of mixed greens (unwashed)
- 2 slices of ham
- 2 slices of salami
- 2 slices of provolone cheese
- 2 tbsp of light Italian dressing
- 1 gallon-sized zip-top bag
- 2 snack-sized zip-top bags
Cut the ham, salami, and cheese into slivers, and place them in a snack-sized zip-top bag. Squeeze the dressing into the second snack-sized bag. Place both small bags into the large bag. Toss the salad greens into the bag as well, with a paper towel to capture any moisture. Refrigerate overnight or when you get to work.
When you’re ready to eat, take out the two smaller bags and paper towel, leaving just the salad greens in the large bag. Add some water, hold the bag closed in your fist (or zip it shut) and shake water and greens around to wash. Open up your fist a little to drain the water. Add in your meat, cheese, and dressing. Close the bag, and shake again to combine.
And there you have it! Fresh salad.