By Gretchen Powell
Labor Day has passed and kids have piled back into classrooms, ready and raring for a brand new school year to kick off.
While many lament this time of year as the beginning of the end of Summer, it also marks a return to normalcy – schedules are back in sync and activities are starting back up. And whether you have kids in school or are just a working adult, packed lunches are becoming a reality once again.
Bringing my lunch to work with me was one of the most important factors in staying healthy while I was working in an office.
Inevitably, the days when I didn’t have simple, easy meals prepared to bring in for lunch were the days when I ended up working through lunch and waiting until I was so starving that my only option was to hastily make an impulse (and unhealthy) purchase from the downstairs deli.
Even now that things are a little more flexible due to a work-from-home job, creating easy to make, easy to grab lunch options is still a vital part of keeping things in check.
So for any moms looking to make lunch-bag prep a snap for their kids, or anyone wanting to jazz up a packed lunch, read on for a couple of simple, beautifully delicious ideas!
Salad in a jar: Salad is an awesome lunch option since you can put pretty much anything you’ve got in your pantry or fridge in them and they’ll still be tasty. Putting together a salad in the morning, before a busy work day can be frazzling though, since they do contain so many components.
The solution? Prep four or five servings of salad in mason jars the Sunday before the week starts.
Layer some fresh greens, sliced onion, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and either put the dressing on the very bottom (before you add the salad) or in a Ziploc baggie and store on top.
Then just grab a jar out of the fridge, toss it in your bag and shake it up when it’s time for lunch!
Pasta primavera: Pasta is quick and easy to cook – and wonderful to reheat. Most people would never put the words “pasta” and “healthy” together in the same sentence, but load it up with vegetables and it’s a meal that keeps on giving all week!
Roast a sliced onion, red bell pepper and zucchini in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, then toss with some cooked farfalle pasta, add a little bit of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and you’re golden!
Portion out the pasta into several Tupperware containers so you can grab one – perhaps along with that jar of salad – and have a well-rounded lunch that just takes a quick zap in the microwave or can even be eaten cold.
Of course, the mentality of prepping big helpings of meals at the beginning of the week and portioning it out throughout the week in individual containers can work for lots of different meal options. And it’s a great way to mix up the traditional sandwich, chips and an apple brown bag lunch.
Try making homemade soups, slow-cooking chicken and more. And don’t forget to have some fresh fruit on hand to add a sweet finish to your lunch!