how to cultivate the packed lunch habit & save

roast chicken sandwich

Tomorrow is my last day as a wage slave.

I’m so excited but to be honest I’m not sure I’ve really got a grip on just how much my life is about to change. And it’s not just the big things like commuting each day. It’s the little things too. Like not having to be organised and pack my lunch every day.

I love taking my lunch to work and unless I’m catching up with someone, I pretty much take my own every day. It’s usually much healthier and cheaper and not to mention more tasty than the bought lunch options from many work canteens or food halls.

I haven’t always been so diligent but during my time as a winemaker, I quickly cultivated the BYO lunch habit. When it’s a choice of eating grapes or nothing. You learn quick.

So to celebrate my last packed lunch I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite packed lunches and a few tips on how to cultivate the habit yourself.

calculate the potential savings
Depending on your situation. Buying lunch every day can have a big impact on your finances. have a think about your usually daily spend and then calculate this as an annual figure. I won’t be surprised if the results might be just the motivation you need to start cultivating the lunch habit.

invest in some decent containers
Just because it’s lunch doesn’t need you have to slum it in the food appearance (and appeal) department. Since I invested in a heap of glass pyrex containers with blue lids, I’ve been much more excited about my lunch packing and eating experience. The other bonus is not having to microwave your soup in dodgy plastic.

make some effort
If you just slop some random leftovers in a container, like I have done on occasion, there’s no way you’re going to enjoy your lunch nor are you likely to be keen to cultivate the lunch habit. A little bit of effort can make all the difference to your enjoyment the next day.

make extra at dinner
When you’re often cooking for one like I am these days, there’s no need to start halving all your recipes. Just make enough for 2 or 4 and then serve up into your lunch containers when you serve your dinner so you’re not tempted to eat more than your normal portion. Too easy. Of course if you’re feeding a family, it’s a great idea to double or even triple some recipes when you can.

plan in the evenings
If you’re anything like me there is never any time in the mornings to do something crazy like make your lunch. If it is going to happen it has to be the night before. Get in the habit of thinking about your lunch while you’re planning your dinner and it will soon be part of your routine.

freeze your favourite bread
I always have some sliced rustic sourdough in the freezer and some individually bagged pita bread ready and waiting. It’s amazing that when you think you have nothing at all to take for lunch, the thought of some bread can spark all sorts of creative sandwich ideas.

toast it
I’m not sure I would have survived my university days without the toasted sandwich. It’s almost magical how a few dinner leftovers between 2 slices of bread can taste so satisfying. Especially during the colder months when a cold salad or sandwich doesn’t sound so appealing.

If you don’t have access to a sandwich press at work, ask for one. Or bring your own and share with your co workers.

little by little
If you’re new to the lunch habit, don’t expect to make yourself do it 5 days a week. Just commit to a few days or even one day a week at first and ease yourself into it.

tuna butter bean salad

butter bean & tuna salad
serves 2

before I was introuced to butter beans, I used to make this with cannellini or borlotti beans or even chickpeas. All are delicious so by all means mix it up.

I’m a big fan of tuna in oil because it seems to have more flavour, if you’re really concerned about calories you could substitute in tuna in springwater.

One of the best things about this salad, apart from how fresh and tasty it is, is that it keeps well for a few days. If you happen to get to work and the team is going out for yum cha, you can just leave your lunch in the fridge for the next day and have fun with your colleagues.

2T lemon juice
2T extra virgin olive oil
400g (14oz) can butter beans
185g (6oz) tuna in oil, drained
1/4 small red onion, finely diced
handful mixed salad leaves

Combine lemon juice & olive oil in a salad bowl and season.

Drain beans and rinse well under the hot water tap. Add beans to the dressing. Flake tuna into large chunks on top of the beans. Add onion and leaves and toss. Divide between 2 lunchoxes and pop in the fridge.

Remember to take with you to work.

tuna butter bean salad

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