If you’ve been following my blog lately, you’re probably wondering if all I’ve been doing is baking cakes. Yes, it’s true that I’m having fun trying new cake recipes and baking along with the cake club that I joined, but…no, we don’t actually eat cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our house. Despite the cake club, we are on a mission to eat healthier this year, and we’re making strides to cook the vast majority of our meals from scratch. And, that includes our weekday lunches that my husband and I bring to work.
Our lunches have come a LONG way in the past few years. Previously, we would rotate through a neat stack of frozen, microwaveable box meals that fit just right into our work bags to grab, go, and nuke. Back then, we only read the front of the box to determine whether we wanted to eat it. If we did give the back a quick glance, it was just to check the fat and calorie content, never to actually look at what ingredients were in it. We knew nothing about the hyper-processed ingredients that went into even the “healthiest” version of these box meals at the time. All we cared about was that they were fast, and if they tasted a fraction as appetizing as the pictures on the front indicated, they were good enough for our lunch.
When we grew tired of the frozen meals, we would throw in a few frozen, packaged pizza pockets or a can of salty, processed soup for a bit more variety. We also bought our fair share of deli meats to make sandwiches. One week: turkey, cheddar, and mayo. The next week: roast beef, provolone, and more…mayo. We’d make a HUGE stack of sandwiches on Sunday, bag them up, and stack them in the fridge for the week.
So, we had the planning thing down…we just didn’t have the healthy thing quite right.
It wasn’t an overnight shift, but over time we learned how much salt, sugar, and fat were in frozen prepared meals and deli meats. (If you haven’t read Michael Moss’ book Salt, Sugar, Fat you should…it will open your eyes.) Add in the numerous preservatives and other artificial junk, and we decided it was time to clean up our lunches. And now, I honestly can’t remember the last time we bought a frozen meal or deli meat at the grocery store, but I’d say it’s been at least two years.
So, what do we eat for lunch now? Well, here’s one example.
Cheddar Chicken Ranch Wraps.
This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. I’ll cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker, and we’ll eat it for dinner that night. The leftovers go into the fridge for quick meals later in the week. Once we get to the end of the week, if there is still some chicken left that needs to be eaten, frozen, or tossed, I will rescue it for future lunches by making and freezing whole wheat tortilla wraps. The ones I made this week contain diced chicken, shredded cheddar (I buy the block cheese and shred using my food processor to avoid the cellulose…aka wood pulp…that’s in pre-shredded cheese), green peppers, mushrooms, a squirt of ranch dressing, and shake of chile powder for an added kick.
These guys are much more filling than the store-bought frozen varieties, and they don’t last long in our freezer.
Other things we eat for lunch are fresh fruits and veggies, salads with homemade vinaigrette, leftovers from meals that were cooked from scratch…we literally fight over who gets the homemade mac and cheese leftovers. We make big batches of chili and lasagna which provides plenty of freezable leftovers that we pack in lunch-sized portions. We also make homemade pizza at least weekly, which we used to have more of left over…but as our boys grow, we can often finish it all one meal. Leftover quinoa, brown rice, bulger…all work great to mix in to salads or heat up with veggies at lunch. Lots of possibilities, and lots more recipe for me to share with you later!