Posted on November 29, 2013 by Rebecca in Life, Nutrition, Recipes

There is nothing more depressing than facing your monthly credit-card bill and realising you’ve dropped a handbag’s worth of cash on lunch. Lunch! Most of us resort to impulse-ordering and end up with a greasy guilty pleasure or a chopped salad with a ludicrous $15 price tag.  With Christmas around the corner, which signals a huge gift shopping outlay from your wallet, bringing your own lunch to work is probably the easiest, most effective money-saving change you can make. Below, we’ve highlighted three ways to make your work lunch healthier, heartier, and infinitely easier on your wallet.

1.  The Mason Jar Salad
Bringing your own salad to lunch was always feasible, but it just wasn’t the same as the zillion-ingredient, freshly chopped variety that you can get at a salad bar. Enter: the Mason Jar. That ancient kitchen tool you use for decorative flour storage is the answer to your gigantic-salad prayers. What makes the difference with these compact containers is layering. Their size and shape allow you to fit in dressing, greens, and all the other toppings in between without turning your meal into a soggy mess by lunch time. All you need to make the perfect mason-jar salad is follow these simple tips:

  • Always put the dressing in the bottom of the jar- this way, the ingredients won’t be saturated and soggy- you can just shake the jar to distribute when you are ready to eat!
  • Ensure you layer firm veggies at the bottom (e.g. carrots and celery) as these provide the best base for your salad ingredients. Then add grains, protein and soft veggies (like beetroot, tomatoes etc) at the top.
  • Greens should make up the top layer of the jar so they don’t get crushed.
  • Try and use home-made dressing so that you can make it as healthy as possible and control your sugar/salt intake. We recommend a light dressing such as this: Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette (2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 diced shallot, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil)- easy-peasey!

2.   The Frozen Soup
There is virtually no meal in this world that is easier or cheaper to make (healthfully) than a good soup. It doesn’t matter if you do grocery shopping at the deli, you can make a huge pot of healthy, yummy soup for around the cost of a slice of pizza. The other great thing about making soup lunch is that portion control is a cinch. Once you’ve cooked it up and let it cool, simply ladle it out into separate Tupperware containers (or zip-sealed freezer bags) and stick them in the freezer. It’s the same process as bringing a can of Campbell’s to work — but without the preservatives, heaps of salt, sugar and fat you didn’t ask for. Most soups will keep well in the freezer for up to three months (up to six if you make it meatless), so if you break down and order pad thai for a few days, your soup will be ready and waiting for you to get you back on track!
There are just a few key tips to a perfectly frozen soup:

  • Undercook vegetables (and pasta, if using) slightly. They’ll be perfect when reheated.
  • If using rice, try brown or wild instead of white.
  • Steer clear of cream-based soups. They tend to separate once frozen
  • When in doubt, bean-based soups are best and are high in protein

3.   The Quinoa Bowl
The quinoa bowl has long been a staple of our take-out repertoire, which is why, when we discovered how cheap and easy it is to DIY, we felt like dummies.  Quinoa is, as we’ve said before, the greatest non-grain in the grain section. It’s versatile enough to take on virtually all flavours, it’s inexpensive, and it’s really quite good for you!

The quinoa bowl is as flexible as its base and has a particular talent for satisfying cravings without sending you down a junk-food spiral. Mexican, Thai, vegan, paleo- quinoa goes every which way. Using this as your base, you can throw in your preferred aromatics and ingredients to make a great, one-pot meal. Try combining with a healthy salad, roasted veggies, or perhaps a healthy Mexican chilli. Furthermore, unlike rice or pasta, quinoa will not get mushy in the fridge. So, you can make a big batch that will last you for days or pop into separate bowl containers so you are ready to go!