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    The Lunch Problem

    July 22, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I don’t know about you, but I hate lunch. I especially dislike lunch on weekdays. During the school year, we are humming along, and then suddenly it hits me: LUNCH! No matter how long I’ve been at this gig, I never get used to it. Lunch shocks me almost every day. During the summer, it’s still the same, only we are playing, or we are out and about, and suddenly I remember that lunch is necessary.

    Children need to eat.


    The past two weeks have been one lunch disaster after another due to me being under the weather most of the time. The only reason we made it through was due to the generosity of various family members.

    But now I’m back on the wagon, and I thought I’d share my one and only lunch solution.

    I mean, yes, I do have a couple emergency ideas in my back pocket. Usually this is scrambled eggs {since we raise our own eggs, we rarely run out} or some sort of fruit and buttered popcorn.

    My children adore popcorn, so while I view this as a panic meal, they view it as a special treat.

    But one cannot eat popcorn daily.

    At least, I don’t think they can.


    Anyhow, here is my big answer to the lunch issue:

    Eat leftovers.
    It is quite likely that this will not be a reasonable solution for me when the children are older and eating as much as adults. But for now, this is my one and only bright idea.
    For whatever reason, on an average day I have plenty of time to make dinner. I figure that making a double-sized dinner is not actually twice the work, so that is what I do. Some of my recipes make three servings, and when I make those, I use them for one dinner and two lunches, allowing myself to make a one-time meal {like fish} in the interim.
    Other families probably do interesting things like make sandwiches but that is a habit I never really got into because my children were allergic to bread for so long. Also, I find that serving sandwiches to five or six people daily can really add up in price, whereas leftover chili can be served to all of us for around a dollar.
    This takes a bit of planning on my part. When I’m pondering the week’s dinner menu, I’m also weighing out lunch portions. But in the end, I find this keeps lunch from interrupting our rhythm with lessons. I store all of my leftovers in the containers in which I will reheat them most of the time. Around 11:30 or noon, I run and pop things in the oven, or plop a kettle on the stove top and turn the heat on low. When lunchtime rolls around, we are putting school things away, rather than scrambling for lunch.
    What about you? How do you solve the lunch dilemma?

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 29, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Okay, in *theory* I still ascribe to The Mood Cure and the ability of a diet higher in protein to balance hormones and generally alleviate a multitude of problems. I had a steak burrito today {thanks to mi madre} and I’ve never felt better! Red meat, especially, picks me up. That, and shellfish {I am not kidding; Si says I am the million dollar woman sometimes}.

    With that said, though, I cannot really afford to eat that way. I do work hard to pack protein into the day. Our breakfast smoothies {2x/week} have added whey {I make it myself from our milk} and raw eggs from the flock, plus yogurt and milk, etc.–that sort of thing. Midday we typically have cheese and milk. And so on. Many of my one-pot meals *are* high vegetable, though. That is true. I have a few that are stuffed with rice, but not many. I also have been known to buy chicken on sale and just cook enough for two nights, and then the side dish is usually roasted vegetables, a salad, or something like that, depending on the time of year, the garden, and so on.

    It is a balance for me–I know the children need high saturated fat so that they get those fat-soluble vitamins that are so important for healing their teeth. I know that I especially do well on higher protein. And I know that our budget hates me. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie July 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Kelly, as the oldest, I was in charge of getting lunches often. πŸ™‚ It was usually cheese on tortillas or pbj, and I think that’s why I simply won’t have them for lunch myself (along with oatmeal for breakfast and spaghetti and chicken & rice for dinner). I have only recently been able to bring myself to put them on the regular rotation.

    When we return to soup weather, I think I will start doing a double batch and having that with rolls for lunch here at home, too (as well as sending it with Matt). I generally do soups October-March or April, and I always feel like I flounder in all food matters from June-August. My husband objects to calling a salad a meal. πŸ™‚ So he has to grill often.

    Brandy, are you still on board with the high-protein recommendations from Mood Cure? Can one even do high-protein with one-dish meals? Most are high-carb, and the only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight is to go low-carb, even if it’s whole grains (which is most all we eat anyway). Are they high vegetable?

    I also have to get over my hang-ups about high-vegetables meaning about double the time in the kitchen. They just require so much more prep.

    The other problem with lunch is that if we do school for most of the morning, then it’s lunch and there’s no time left for prepping anything.

    Yes, snack time is even worse than lunch time. πŸ™‚ Lately I feel like I’ve been cheating by buying a 3-pound bag of minipretzels and letting that be snack. But, I’ve been coming to the point where I think I have to make compromises between doing all the school and all the housework (or not) and all the cooking from scratch. I’ve already given up most outside commitments, and now I’m thinking some of my inside commitments need to be adjusted as well. I just don’t know how, yet.

  • Reply Books For Breakfast July 26, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Jasmine rice with a sprinkle of soy sauce, edamame, and fruit. My girl is nutso about anything Japanese, so we eat a lot of rice.

  • Reply Allison July 26, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Lunch when the wee ones were wee…and your husband was in his late teens, were sort of a “cheat” for me.

    I made “appetizer” type things, that they loved, and kept me from “cooking” too much….examples..

    “ants on a log” (peanut butter & raisins in celery), buffalo chicken wings…”salad bar” (so they could all take only what they liked, and I prepped it the night before)…”drive-through day” (self-explanatory, and only to certain places), “build your-own pizza day ” ( with store-bought crusts, and toppings that they choose)..etc…email me if you’d like more….love ya!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Soup is key, I think. I have to admit that since I cook with lunch in mind, not many of our meals have that real “dinner” feel. They are overhwelmingly one-pot dishes…I have a huge variety of soups. In summer sometimes this becomes maindish salads, but the idea is the same…only cooler.

    I always thought it would be neat to have tuna available in the fridge, but no one will make it for me. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kelly July 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Leftovers or soup. Our suppers are mostly of the beans & rice and small side of protein variety, so they’re frugal enough for “planned overs,” as Dana calls them. Soups can be made in huge batches and then reheated as needed. Or you can start a loaf of bread in a bread machine and start a pot of 15-bean soup first thing in the morning. You have to plan ahead as far as soaking the beans the night before, but when I’ve been able to do that it makes the day so much nicer.

    Leftovers from meat & veggie meals can be made into soup by adding chicken or beef stock and/or tomato sauce.

    In hot weather we’ll make smoothie (1 cup yogurt, 16oz frozen fruit, 1 can coconut milk), and that’s usually good enough if it’s too hot to be hungry anyway.

    The best thing I ever did about lunch was to put a growun up daughter in charge of it. I realize that’s not much help for those of you with all little kids now, but maybe it’s encouragement for the future. It does get easier as they get older.

  • Reply Sarah July 23, 2011 at 3:22 am

    A few of things that save me sometimes:

    1)Bags of organic baby carrots from Sam’s. (Not sure if you have Sam’s where you live, but I find these to be reasonable for organic produce.)We eat a lot of baby carrots as our vegetable side with lunch. I make yogurt cheese and mix a little homemade ranch seasoning into it for a dip with some protein. The dip is thick enough for toast or crackers.

    2)Homemade refried beans. There is a super easy recipe at the A Year of Slow Cooking blog. I make a crockpot-full at a time, freeze in small containers, and can put a frozen “chunk” in a sauce pan on low 30 minutes before lunch (which is exactly what I did today). We don’t even need tortillas with them. We just sprinkle with cheese, sour cream, and salsa and eat with a spoon. I do usually have frozen corn tortillas in the freezer, though (another quick-to-heat food).

    3.Soup. It’s a three season meal, so we have it all through the school year. I make large pots of soup, and we reheat and eat with sandwiches.

    4.Frozen homemade sloppy joe meat. I always make a double batch and freeze the extra. Again, it doesn’t take terribly long to reheat from frozen (I don’t put any meat in the microwave–it all goes on the stovetop). None of us eats it on bread.

    It was funny to see this post tonight since I got busy and forgot about lunch earlier today. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kansas Mom July 23, 2011 at 2:26 am

    The only thing I hate worse than lunch is snack-time.

    Kansas Dad and I almost always have left-overs for lunch. He takes his to work and I reheat mine at home. The kids will sometimes eat left-overs, but usually not. They almost always eat peanut butter and jelly. I feel a little guilty about it, but not enough to change our habits. It’s home-made bread and usually our own strawberry jam. I pair it with some fruit and some veggies and call it good. Chickpeas are also a favorite, though they hated it when I made hummus for them.

    Popcorn was served at lunch yesterday. The children love it and my whirly-pop makes it a breeze to make.

    Because Kansas Dad sometimes needs lunch and dinner at work (and the same left-overs for two meals in a day is for some reason unpleasant for him), I almost always have some burritos in the freezer. I make beans, rice, hamburger, throw in some enchilada sauce, cheese and some seasonings then roll it all up in flour tortillas. Wrap each one in paper towels, then aluminum foil. Then you can just unwrap and microwave one at a time, as many as you need. Instant lunch (or dinner) and really quite good. (If you want to be really frugal, you can save the foil for the next batch since it never touches the food.)

  • Reply dawn July 23, 2011 at 1:14 am

    We do cheese & crackers, I keep a big tupperware server of veggies in the fridge that can be set out and I cut up fruit.

    Some days I make quesadillas, some (box) mac & cheese (shhh – at least it’s Annie’s), and some days pb&j. On rare occasions, I make fish sticks in the toaster oven. M-girl is getting big enough to make lunches, I think. I’ll have to work that into our schedule somehow.

  • Reply sara July 23, 2011 at 12:14 am

    ummmmm. We make extra big batches of things just so we can have leftovers for lunch. πŸ™‚

    And sometimes, when my husband’s schedule is wonky and he is home with us during the day and works at night, we have our big meal in the middle of the day so we can have it together.

  • Reply Mystie July 23, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I hate lunch, too. It’s good to not be alone. πŸ™‚

    Sigh. Matt already takes leftovers with him as his lunch, plus our dinners are often meat + veggies + starch variety, so it would be on the spendy side to do that for lunch, too. I suppose I could make a large batch of something and freeze it in lunch-sized portions, if I ever get around to monthly freezer cooking again. But I haven’t done that since having four. πŸ™‚

    This year my new menu plan (which I’ll be writing about soon), includes leftovers on 2 days: day after pizza and extra (or frozen) rice and beans with cheese melted on top. Saturday we have clean-out-the-fridge leftovers. 2 days (Sundays & Tuesdays), we have quesadillas (cheese melted on tortillas in the microwave). 2 days we have rolls (which I make on Saturdays, along with a week’s worth of granola) and cheese.

    I am pathetic. Sandwiches, even pbj, are too much effort and mess.

    I’ve also been trying to make extra salad for dinner to have as my lunch with nuts or canned tuna or salmon. It’s nice when I actually do it. πŸ™‚

  • Reply amy July 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    I don’t solve it… I just cry. No, I’m just kidding. Lunch is awful though. Sandwiches, pasta, platters of cheese, crackers and fruit… these are our regulars, but it is so boring and nothing that I look forward to.

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