Thank you to Kimi at the Nourishing Gourmet for hosting this wonderful carnival! I’m looking forward to getting some new ideas for packing lunches. Calvin’s paramedic school and new job will be starting up soon, so I’m getting ready!
For most of this past year, I have had the challenge of packing meals for Calvin to take to work. As an EMT, that often meant 12+ hours at work (and without a microwave). I have also tried to pack foods that weren’t too messy, as he often ate them while on the road (wearing a white uniform!).
A typical day would begin with a quick breakfast at home around 4:30 am. Then mid-morning, a “second breakfast” snack, followed by lunch whenever he would get the chance. (I have often packed a selection of “snack” type foods that will “add up” to a meal, so that he could periodically grab quick bites to eat, even if he doesn’t have much time for a real meal.) If it sounds like it will be a long night, I will also pack a dinner bag, along with something for a midnight snack. (Remember, no microwaves!)
Breakfast at home has an important role in keeping him going strong all morning. This is usually homemade granola with whole milk yogurt, peanut butter or eggs on toast with fruit, or a hot soaked grain. (I soak the grains in the cooking pot on the stove, so he just needs to turn it on!)
- I often boil up a big pot of eggs to start out the week. Then I can just toss one into lunch sacks throughout the week. A hard-boiled egg makes a great “second breakfast” mid-morning snack. (You can enclose a small container of salt/pepper, if desired.)
- I also freeze batches of muffins and waffles, which are handy for snacks. It is nice to spread a little butter or peanut butter on them, too.
- The granola & yogurt can also be packed along with a spoon for eating on the road. A container of yogurt drizzled with raw honey or organic maple syrup, and sprinkled with poppy seeds or nuts is delicious. Mixing in some homemade low-sugar peach, apple, or pear sauce is also a fun treat. (I love this Gluten-Free Muesli instead of granola!)
- Slices of cheese and homemade nut crackers are a basic part of an afternoon snack.
- A small container of cultured cottage cheese is a protein-rich snack. Berries can be mixed in, if desired.
- Organic celery sticks for the old favorite “Ants on a Log” are fun. I fill them with peanut butter, tahini, or cream cheese, sprinkle on some wheat germ/sesame seeds, and add raisins.
- Carrot Sticks to dip in peanut butter or hummus are great, too.
- In the fall, apple slices with cinnamon/honey and yogurt or peanut butter are nice.
- We often pop up a huge bowl of popcorn in the evenings, and a container of leftovers makes a great snack.
- Homemade “trail mix” with nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and (occasionally) chocolate chunks is much appreciated! (Pumpkin Seeds are a wonderful source of zinc. I use the Nourishing Traditions Pepitas recipe.)
- For a more hearty option, that lone leftover sausage from dinner can make a great finger food. I just cut it into bite-sized rounds, along with some spicy/Dijon mustard. (Make sure to use nitrate-free meats!)
Lunches & Dinners
I usually incorporate leftovers from another night’s dinner. Calvin doesn’t usually mind cold food, which helps immensely.
- A cold slice of leftover pizza (as long as it’s not dripping tomato sauce!) is a throw-back to those old college days, but it works!
- Cold soups, such as a Carrot Curry Soup, or Cucumber Radish Soup are refreshing on hot days (and cheaper than buying V-8 juice!). I just pack them in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Hot soups can be packed in a thermos. In the winter, a hot chowder is nice.
- I usually wrap up a couple slices of buttered sourdough bread, too.
- Sandwiches can be made with leftover fish or chicken (instead of opening another can of tuna or salmon); just mix it up like a regular tuna salad. Calvin also likes meatloaf sandwiches, or peanut butter/honey/cinnamon. Egg salad, cheese & lettuce, or Shelton’s meat are good, too.
- If you’re out of bread, just pack the salad with some crackers or in a tortilla as a wrap.
- If you’re avoiding nuts, Sunflower Seed Butter or Tahini are delicious options to replace peanut butter.
- Containers of cherry tomatoes, blueberries, apple/pear slices, pepper slices, and blanched green beans are easy to eat. Lacto-fermented Ginger Carrots or Pickles are good, too.
Salads are great for rounding out a meal or a meal of themselves. I usually pack a combination of grain salads, fruit salads, or veggie salads (whatever is leftover in the refrigerator), along with a fork. Here are some of our favorites (depending on the season):
Calvin always takes a stainless steel thermos to use as a water bottle. He often will take an insulated stainless steel mug, too, for tea. (I usually pack a tea bag in his lunch bag.) Some of the places he visits during his drives will offer hot water. A mug of hot coconut milk-cocoa or hot cider is also nice on chilly mornings. One packaged item I do buy is coconut water. (I suppose I should learn to make my own someday!) It is an amazing source of electrolytes; perfect for working hard on sweltering hot summer days without air conditioning while wearing a thick uniform.
On those long nights when your body would rather be sleeping, instead of running on adrenaline, sometimes snacks are in order. (Especially if the shift ends close to breakfast-time!) On nights when Calvin has been on call, I usually set out a few snack items ahead of time, that he can take along, if he wants. A small jar of coconut water or a mug of tea is nice to take along. I usually send along some trail mix, a small container of yogurt/granola, peanut butter cookies, or slices of pumpkin or zucchini bread. (For a very special treat, there have even been homemade pop-tarts, using whole wheat pastry flour, homemade jam, and raw sugar!)
I pack the food in insulated lunch bags, along with a frozen reusable “ice pack.” I tuck in a cloth napkin or two, which I wash when they are returned home. I don’t send the nice dinner napkins; I keep a stack of the old frayed ones for lunches/picnics.
By the end of the day, my hard-working husband has been able to avoid the ever-present supply of sub-par coffee, doughnuts, and vending machine sodas. He is nourished.
Now I’m off to check out everyone else’s recommendations!