When your truck is your office and you are moving from one job site to another, it’s easy to start scrimping on nutrition. After all, we start early in the morning and I didn’t always plan the night before. One of the things that made me start paying attention to what was in my cooler, is when my coworkers sat hungry. I started carrying a little something extra every day.
My go-to tools for always having lunch as a great cooler and purpose-built containers to keep foods hot or cold.
Lunches don’t have to be expensive or unhealthy. My favorite container is a Thermos for hot foods. The easiest last-minute, hot lunch, is ramen. Before you freak out, realize that you don’t have to add the whole seasoning/salt packet. A scoop of leftover veggies is awesome added to it. To make it, I crumble a ramen cake (19 cents) into the hot food container, add seasoning or leftover veggies. Heat water in the microwave or teapot and add to container. Secure lid and put it in the cooler. By lunch, the ramen is cooked. When the temps are super-cold, it is a welcome treat to have something hot.
The neat thing about the hot container is you can put any hot food in it. Wait, leftover turkey and potatoes, stuffing, ribs, meatballs…whatever is lurking in the fridge.
My second favorite is a good hot beverage container or two. Coffee for the morning and tea or cocoa for later. Today’s Thermos jugs come in all sizes. Maybe carry a little extra to share?
For cool drinks, I freeze water bottles and use them to chill the cooler and during the day they melt and become drinkable.
You can’t go wrong stashing granola bars in your lunch, they are a quick pick-me-up mid-morning or afternoon. Other easy snacks are pretzels, peanut butter pods, Cheese sticks or dices, nuts, vegetables, marshmallows, raisins, cookies, homemade pudding or yogurt,
Sandwiches are great. I have learned that two clean, dry, lettuce leaves placed next to the bread keep it from getting soggy. No more mushy mayo sandwiches.
Frozen yogurt tubes are awesome when it is hot outside. Kept in the cooler, they thaw by lunch.
Eating healthy foods is important but you always want to make sure you have something sweet and something salty as a treat to battle against dehydration and low blood sugar. Working outside with an afternoon headache from either of these things is no fun.
If time is short in the mornings, try to prepare things on the weekend to carry you through the week. Some of my favorite lunch items are listed below.
- Boiled eggs
- Fresh fruit
- A jar of canned goodness from your stash
- Fruit cocktail
- Apple sauce
- Any casserole
- Homemade yogurt with jam or mix-ins
- Ramen packages
- Soups or soup packets
- Chicken and rice
- Apple juice or orange juice
- Quinoa and a meat of choice
- Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
I have a couple of coolers, depending on my mood. My favorite cooler is great for anyone that does meal-prep and needs to carry a full day’s worth of food. It contains sleeves for 4 large drink bottles, dry goodies, and six meal trays. For shorter days, I have found a smaller cooler with an 18 can capacity, cool little storage tray, and it can be padlocked closed.
Start to think about how you would pack up Mom’s leftovers and build your lunchbox around them. We know bringing our coffee saves a significant amount of money. According to USA Today, “On average, Americans spend about $20 per week getting lunch in restaurants, or $1,043 a year.” Wow, just wow. I’m already regretting all the leftovers that didn’t get eaten and ended up in the trash.
Not only am I on a mission to eat and spend more responsibly, I would like to think that there is less waste and fewer single serve containers headed for our landfills. For the past year, I allowed myself to eat lunch out once per week as long as it was inexpensive. This worked well.