Lunch Prepping

Hello, friends! Despite my 2018 pledge to blog weekly, I’ve gone a few weeks here in total silence. Not for a lack of blogging topics, for certain–what with the near-daily White House scandals that each, individually, would have badly wounded prior administrations, the defense of abuse against women in all forms (sexual, physical, emotional) coming from most corners, and yet another op-ed telling Hillary Clinton, who has gone away, to go away,–my goodness, there’s been a wealth of possible posts. I wish it were boring, truly I do, but damn near everything has the volatility of our current stock market. What fun! (it’s not fun). I find it so exhausting that posting about any of it right now just isn’t in the cards for me.  So let’s talk about lunch prepping instead.

My dear husband has been intently watching what he eats lately and I’ve being doing a half-assed job, myself. In the interest of both our macronutrient numbers (proteins, carbs, fats) and our wallets, we agreed that we’d start prepping lunches rather than buying lunch meat, half of which often gets tossed. On Sunday, I’d get six servings of something together, and we’d eat them during the week.

Lunch prepping: steak cobb salads
These were glorious.

Once we decided to commit to this approach, I bought some meal boxes, small food containers, and condiment boxes.* Everything had to be dishwasher and microwave safe, and I wanted at least a half a dozen of everything, and same-sized containers made fitting everything into our undersized fridge easier.

Most of my ideas I’ve pulled from Pinterest after lots of browsing. Week 1, I made us some chicken burrito bowls with a tomato/guac side. These were good, but had too much rice–which I’d overcooked–for me. Week 2, I made a curry chickpea stir fry with brown rice. Week 3, as I posted to Twitter, was steak cobb salads. They had feta on the side and a balsamic vinaigrette and were loosely based on this Damned Delicious recipe.

Here’s what is involved in lunch prepping, in the event you want to give it a whirl:
  • Planning: you need to pick a recipe you’ll willingly eat for several days. Three days is our limit.
  • Shopping: you need to then go get whatever you’ll need to make that recipe. I can testify to how irritating it is to find you’re missing something mid-prep.
  • Time: Lunch prepping on Sunday is far more time-consuming than I anticipated. Set aside a least a couple of hours.
  • Measuring: once everything is made, you need to divide more or less evenly. I’m garbage at doing that by eye, so my kitchen scale is my friend.
  • Passing out on the couch afterward. The more you do it, the more organized you’ll be, but it’s still an endeavor.

Last week, I made chicken avocado wraps based roughly on this recipe. These weren’t so labor intensive, but not unexpectedly, they were soggy by the time we finished eating them.  I filled the mid-sized boxes with carrot sticks to go with.

One problem we’ve had is that after eating our three servings of our prepped lunches, we’re left lunchless. This has had an opposite effect on our spending than anticipated, particularly because we’ve been eating dinner leftovers for later dinners rather than keeping them for lunches: we’ve ended up eating lunch out, sometimes more than once a week. Dammit.

This week I sought to remedy that problem by prepping two different lunches for five total servings each of us, for a whopping 10 servings altogether. I was in the kitchen for 2.5 hours.

Meal one is a repeat of the burrito bowls.

Here is my process:

I started by figuring out how much chicken I’d need for each recipe, measuring what I’d bought this morning at the store, and then putting five chicken breasts in brining water. I used this recipe for baked chicken as it has never failed me, and brining is the first step. While those soaked, I started knock-off Chipotle lime and cilantro rice (this recipe, but with jasmine rice and less water). As it simmered, I seasoned three chicken breasts with the leftover taco seasoning from last week, two with salt and pepper, and popped them all in the oven. Then I made knock-off Chipotle black beans, added my cilantro and lime to the rice, and got the chicken out of the oven. I portioned the rice then beans, and then chopped my taco-seasoned chicken. That I distributed next. Boxes closed, labeled (I get less rice this time–stupid carbs stupid counting) and put in the fridge.

Then I cleaned up, mixed up a healthier buffalo sauce, shredded the two chicken breasts, and mixed them together. I then put four servings into our mid-sized containers and popped them into the fridge. Next, I finished filling the dishwasher, started it, washed up a bit, and began making my lazy guac by chopping two avocados and mixing them with leftover lime juice and cilantro from rice prep. I chopped two tomatoes and then distributed all of it into the condiment containers. Lastly, I pulled apart and washed a romaine heart, chopped it, dried it in my spinner, divvied it up between four containers; I washed a bunch of grape tomatoes and added them. When we want a sandwich for lunch, all we need to do is grab one of each containers and dump them in a tortilla. Fingers crossed we get through a whole week without takeout lunches.

 

By this point I am exhausted and ready for take-out dinner.

In terms of costs, here’s about what this week runs:

Chicken, about $15. About 2.5 pounds of organic, free-range bird from Trader Joe’s.

Beans we already had. Goya, probably 80 cents or $1 if it wasn’t on sale.

Tomatoes I bought last week. Vine ripened, from a nearby state, $3/lb. About 2/3 or so of a pound, so $2.

Rice: already in the pantry. Maybe a dime’s worth or so–it’s $2/bag for a couple of pounds.

Cilantro: $1.79–barely used it, but I probably won’t use it much later and it’ll get tossed.

Lime: 39 cents

Yogurt (for buffalo sauce): already on hand–maybe 50 cents?

Red hot sauce: $1.89, but we only used about half. 90 cents.

Tortillas: probably $2, since I had an Ibotta rebate

Romaine: prorated, probably $1

Grape tomatoes: huge, organic boxes were on sale for $3. I probably used 2/3 of it, so $2.

Avocados: $2 for two small.

Total: about $28 for ten meals. This should keep a few bucks in our pockets and our waists that much trimmer (she says, thinking about donuts).

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