When You Are on the go and a Fast Food Lunch Isn’t an Option

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 
  • Oatmeal 
  • 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.  

Little steps. 

Preserves in the Homestead Kitchen

Stop looking at these jars of gooey goodness as a sweet treat and add them to the list of homestead pantry staples. Not only do preserves have a long shelf life, they are wildly versatile.

The Many Roles of Preserves in the Homestead Kitchen

Jams, jellies, conserve, marmalade, spread, preserves, or confiture—whatever you call that sweet, fruity goodness, it has a prime place in your homestead pantry.

  1. Spread it on warm toast for a filling, anytime treat.
  2. A dollop on yogurt adds some flavor variety.
  3. Use as a sweetener in muffins and cakes.
  4. Mixed with mustard as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers.
  5. Use thicker jams as a center for thumbprint cookies.
  6. Dissolved in lemonade for a tangy burst of flavor.
  7. As a marinade for meats.
  8. To add sweetness and flavor to smoothies.
  9. In mixed fruit cocktails.
  10. As a glaze for cakes and pastries.
  11. Add variety to rice congee.
  12. Make a fruit galette
  13. To top ice cream. Tomato Jam on chocolate ice cream is a family favorite.
  14. Mixed 1:1 with BBQ sauce in the Crock Pot, for an easy sweet and sour meatball sauce.
  15. As a Polynesian chicken glaze.
  16. Instead of syrup over pancakes.
  17. Make secret sauce for roast beef sammies by mixing with horseradish.
  18. Add flavor to plain cream cheese frosting.
  19. Make Eton Mess with leftover cookies, nuts, fruits, jams, and whipped cream—think “hot mess” parfait. Never the same twice and uses up the ends of everything.
  20. Mixed into rice and chunks of chicken as sweet sauce.
  21. Heated as fondue for dipping meats.
  22. As a filling for homemade doughnuts.
  23. Dehydrated, to make fruit leather.
  24. Mixed with cider vinegar to pour over salads.
  25. Mixed with hot water and fruit and frozen into popsicles.
  26. Mixed into cottage cheese to add zing to lunch.
  27. Use to sweeten and flavor homebrewed sodas.
  28. Spooned into tea instead of sweetener.
  29. Poured over a block of cream cheese as an appetizer. Savory and spicy versions are especially good.
  30. Dehydrate into delicious fruit leathers.
  31. Spicy or hot jellies make a nice additional layer in 7-layer Mexican dip recipes.
  32. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
  33. Use to glaze a ham.
  34. Mixed in your morning oatmeal.
  35. Over plain cheesecake.
  36. Spread between the layers of a layer cake.
  37. Add to tired baked bean recipes, for sweet and sour twang.