Question for y’all: what’s your lunch packing strategy? Do you get up each morning and pack something for lunch? Is it leftovers? Do you do bulk lunch packing on the weekends? Do you buy your lunch everyday?
One of the things that makes it easy for me to take packed lunches to work most days of the week is my willingness to eat the same thing several days in a row. I typically make something on Sunday and divide it into four portions, assuming that one day a week I’ll have a lunch meeting or some reason to go out. And if I get to Friday and am in need of a lunch, either I’ll pull something from the freezer (I almost always have a selection of soups, stews, and wraps on hand) or I’ll try to make an extra portion of my Thursday night dinner (usually a frittata) that I can pack for lunch the next day.
People ask if I get bored eating the same thing every day, and my answer is no, because I pack delicious food that I’m excited about eating. And given that I’ve eaten the exact same thing for dinner every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday night for the past 14 years, eating the same lunch 4 days a week for one week is hardly monotonous for me. But I know that’s not the situation for everyone, and that for many people even repurposing dinner leftovers for a packed lunch can seem hella boring. That’s why I want to understand your lunch packing game. What works, what doesn’t work, and what – if anything – gets you excited about your lunch.
Generally the food I make to share here on The Muffin Myth is what becomes my lunches for the week. It’s not always a super “lunchy” item, so often I need to be strategic about how I pack. And this is important, folks, because HOW you pack your lunch matters just as much as WHAT you pack, especially when you’re packing leftovers. If you just throw everything into a container together and hope for the best you could end up with soggy sandwiches, limp lettuce, or whatever other unappealing grossness you could conjure up. One strategy is to go bento style and keep everything in its own little compartment. Or, if you’ve got a salady situation on your hands, try layering.
This is one of my favourite lunches recently. I took a chickpea salad recipe that was intended as a sandwich filling, and layered it into a mason jar along with some cooked grains, cucumbers, tomatoes, spiralized carrot, celery, and romaine lettuce. The chickpea salad went on the bottom, followed by the tomatoes and cukes, and the lighter and more delicate stuff went on top. When lunch time rolled around I simply tipped it out into a bowl to the oooohs and aaaahs of my collagues (most of whom were eating sad takeout lunches) gave it a bit of a toss, and it was as good as fresh made.
I lightened up the chickpea salad by using a combo of yoghurt and mayo. I found the yoghurt alone too bland and felt that it needed a bit of that special mayo-ey tang, but feel free to use all of one or the other if that’s what floats your boat. Capers went in for their delightful salty briney flavour, but if you don’t have them on hand you could chop up some olives or pickles instead. Lastly, the sunflower seeds – don’t skimp out on toasting them, the flavour is well worth the effort.
Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, are a super food! They contain about 12.5 grams of fiber per cup, which is 50% of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber. About two-thirds of the fiber in garbanzos is insoluble, which is great for digestive health, particularly in the colon. The remaining third is soluble fiber, which can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides; important for cardiovascular health. The protein-fiber combination in chickpeas is key for stabilizing blood sugar levels, as both protein and fiber move through our digestive systems at a moderate pace. This protein-fiber combination is also beneficial for improving our sense of satiety, which can help prevent over eating. Chickpeas are notable for antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, but also contain concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids and polyphenols. Chickpeas also contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body’s omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. Chickpeas for the win!
Two years ago: Spicy Cauliflower Frittata
Three years ago: Kale and Quinoa Salad with Smoked Feta
Four years ago: Honey Dijon Broccoli Salad
Five years ago: Spicy Squash and Lentil Salad
Six years ago: Cranberry Spelt Streusel Cake
chickpea mason jar salads
For the chickpea salad:
- 1 400 g can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds toasted
- 3 Tbsp plain yoghurt
- 1 - 2 Tbsps mayonaise
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 2 Tbsp fresh dill finely chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp capers
- salt and pepper
For the mason jar salads
- 1 cup cooked and cooled whole grain wheat berries, quinoa, oats, or a blend
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1/2 a long English cucumber diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 large carrot spiralized or shredded
- 1 bunch romaine lettuce washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
For the chickpea salad:
- Place the chickpeas into a bowl and lightly smash them with a fork. Add the toasted sunflower seeds, yoghurt, mayo, mustard, red onion, dill, and capers. Stir to combine, taste, and season with salt and pepper.
For the mason jar salads:
- Spoon the chickpea salad into 4 widemouth mason jars.
- Add 1/4 cup of whole grain, followed by the sliced cherry tomatoes, then cucumbers, celery, carrot, and finally with the romaine lettuce.
- Screw the lids on and place in the fridge until you're ready for them.
- To serve, tip the contents into a bowl and toss lightly.
-Mason jar salads will last 4-5 days in the fridge
Chickpea salad recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker