I admire those people who bring their individually wrapped, specially prepared lunches to work. I aspire to be one of them. My friend Allie is one of those super prepared people who comes to work with her spinach salad ingredients in individual containers and stuff. She keeps telling me to just put it together the night before, and someday soon I will do that. I swear.
Right now, the best I can do is pack my lunch bag with a frozen meal, a drink — sometimes I bring a diet soda, a Vitamin Water, or I drink those Crystal Light on-the-go sachets — a packet or two of Emergen-C (BIG review of these coming soon!) and a snack, like an apple and some peanut butter or one of my beloved 100 calorie snacks. Something like that.
I used to order out for lunch a LOT, which led to weight gain, boredom, and less money in my bank account. Seriously, I can’t justify a $12 to $15 lunch these days, it makes no sense. My place of work is located in the midst of many overpriced lunch venues, so if a girl wants a decent salad, that’s the range she can expect to spend. That adds up big, if it’s four, five days a week. A recent lunch date to an adorable round-the-way cafe cured me of going out to lunch for a good month. Get this — (very) small soups, salads, and diet sodas for two came up to $42. I got instant indigestion. Call me a cheapskate, but that check made me not want to return there in a long time. My goal these days is to only order out or go out to lunch one day a week. I like to save it as a Friday treat.
Far more women than men are on the frozen food train — I’m far more likely to see the dudes around my office coming in with greasy bags of Burger King or Pollo Tropical, than gingerly removing a Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer basket from the microwave. Understandably so — lots of frozen food is bland, and served in portions that seem laughably small compared to the servings at your neighborhood lunch spot. But if you’re watching your waistline, and you’re pressed for time every day and prefer to just grab something to take for lunch at work, FF is a decent, popular option. Because I’m resigned to eating frozen food on the daily, I’ve had to seek out the healthiest, most filling alternatives to the teeny frozen pizzas and hot pockets. And now I’ll share my favorite discoveries with you!
First of all — I gotta give it up to Hungry Girl. I don’t even know how I discovered this amazing resource, but I’ve been getting her e mails for almost two years now, I think. Her tips get better and better, and I love the Weekly Weigh In, which serves up food reviews and recipe swaps in my e mail every day. I discover so many new lunch options through Hungry Girl, so hats off to her and her appetite for the next delicious thing.
I’m not a vegetarian, but I love vegetables. Now more than ever there are loads of vegetarian frozen food options, and many of them are even tastier than their carnivore-friendly compadres. My favorite of all favorite frozen meals are made by Amy’s, and I think some their food is so much tastier than anything else in my grocery’s freezer. I LOVE me some Amy’s!
I really like the bowls — the pastas are really delicious, and the black eyed peas and veggies bowl over brown rice is really healthy and filling and good. I basically buy the Thai Stir-Fry every week — it’s tofu and veggies covered in this soft, comforting creamy coconut sauce, served with jasmine rice. I adore it. I get mad if I can’t find it in the grocer’s freezer every week. It is by far my favorite frozen meal, and I actually try to not buy it too often (I limit myself to one a week, and I could easily eat this one twice), lest I grow sick of it like I did with Kashi’s entire line of meals. I used to love Kashi’s Black Bean Mango, but ate it to the point of ridiculousness. I don’t even glance sideways at it when I’m grocery shopping now.
The aforementioned Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers are pretty good, and I’ve been seeing them advertised aplenty these days. The General Tso’s Spicy Chicken ain’t half bad (but when it comes to Asian influenced Healthy Choice frozen meals, I still prefer the sweet and sour chicken). The whiskey steak is good if you have a sweet tooth and like strong sauces. Healthy Choice paninis are really good, and so are the Lean Cuisine ones. But they’re so little! One of these teeny sandwiches isn’t enough to satisfy me. If I have a little sandwich like this, I try to add a vegetable side to fill me up.
Because I immediately reach for anything that claims to have nutritious value, I had to buy these new veggie blends by Green Giant — Healthy Weight, Immunity Boost, and Healthy Vision. They’re veggies that they package together and toss in a light sauce. The best by far was the Healthy Weight — sliced carrots, sugar snap peas, black beans and edamame lightly tossed with butter sauce… yum! I’ll definitely repurchase this one. The black beans and edamame make it different and delicious, without it this would have been another bland, lame veggie-in-the-micro side. I thought the Healthy Vision (sliced carrots, zucchini quarters, and sliced green beans lightly tossed with rosemary butter sauce) was soggy and kind of sucked.
My current fave idea for on-the-go veggie sides comes from Bird’s Eye. Their Steamfresh sides come in individual packages of either single or mixed veggies. Right now the singles only come in corn, sweet peas, or my personal favorite, baby brussels sprouts. I know, I know. Seriously, they can be so good. Take a spoon of butter, sprinkle it with garlic, salt, and pepper, warm it for a few secs so it’s melty, toss ’em in the butter, and you too can have a delicious brussels sprouts experience during lunch hour. If you think such a thing exists. Lots of people hate the sprouts, but I’m totally into them. Yes, I know they’re like little bitter cabbages. Still love ’em.
Another inherently girly thing about taking frozen food to lunch is the lunch bag issue. Do you go environmentally unfriendly and rock the plastic grocery bag? Do you take a paper sack? Or do you actually have a lunch bag? I have a red one now (had a purple one in high school that was the object of many a soccer game).
But because October is Breast Cancer Month and I am obsessed with all of the beautiful charity items that support the Susan G. Komen foundation, I’m thinking of treating myself to one of these tres chic Lean Cuisine designer lunch bags. They cost $9.95, $5 of which goes to the cause. You gotta register with Lean Cuisine before you pick your fab bag. I am totally getting the pink circle one. Get yours quick, before they’re gone!
What are you eating for lunch today? I’m always looking for something new and yummy to try. Have you figured out any cool planning-lunch-the-day-before tricks? Let me know!