From the corner diner to national fast food brands, prices are rising. Bringing lunch to work is a great way to save some money, but it can be difficult to put things together. Bento Boxes (think adult Lunchable) are a great way to simplify the process. With a formula of primary protein, secondary protein, carb, fruit, and vegetable, you can create a variety of tasty, nutritious, filling, cost-effective meals. So what are good examples of each category, and how best to put them together?
These are a great place to start because you can build around them. Lunch meat is great because it’s convenient, there are other options as well. A good rule of thumb is that if it would be good on a cracker, it’ll work here. Dinner leftovers can also be a great choice. Some examples:
These are how we give this lunch some staying power. The last thing you want is to spend the time and money packing a lunch only to be hungry an hour later. You can choose something to compliment your primary protein, like sliced mozzarella for pepperoni, or choose something for variety’s sake. Ideas include:
Your body burns carbs for energy first, so they can help get you through that 3pm workday slump. They’re also a great vehicle for your proteins, and they’re delicious. Trying to cut back? Most of the following examples have keto options.
For even more fiber, added texture, and a ton of nutrition, add veggies. This can be simple, like baby carrots with your hummus, or a little more involved, like steamed broccoli. The key here is to use what you have. If you cook pretty regularly, things like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and celery may already be in your kitchen. And leftover sides from dinner like grilled zucchini and roasted broccoli make fantastic lunch add-ons. Shop in season and look out for sales in the produce section for the best prices
Fruit is a delicious way to curb sugar cravings while getting some extra vitamins and fiber in. The key to packing fruit is preparation. Anything works but it’s a lot easier to eat on the go when the fruit is properly washed, sliced, pitted, and ready to go. Apples and pears should be tossed in a little lemon juice after slicing to keep them from turning brown. As with veggies, shop in season and look out for sales, and buy your fruit whole and do the prep yourself to save money.
Now that we have examples from each category, almost anything goes together. If you’re still unsure try one of these:
Don’t be limited by these examples. The beauty of a Bento Box is in its flexibility. Remember that packing lunch should save, not cost, you money. Use what you have, take advantage of sales, and remember dinner leftovers are always a great choice. Good luck and happy lunching!
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