It’s Monday morning, and you’re getting back into work mode after a fun-filled weekend, but rush out of the house, running late.
As usual, you didn’t have time to make lunch.
So you head to the usual eateries to grab your plate lunch, or go to a hot food bar that costs $8.99 or more a pound. Grab a beverage for another $2.50 or so, and next thing you know, you’ve blown between $15 to $20 for lunch.
And it’s only Monday.
Continue on with the same routine the rest of the week, and by Friday, you’re looking at up to $100 spent on lunch.
According to bankrate.com‘s lunch savings calculator, bringing instead of buying lunch can significantly increase your bank account.
Say the average price of your plate lunch costs a more conservative $6.50, versus $3 for the cost of a bagged lunch, says bankrate. With 20 bagged lunches per month, you could save $70. After four years, that amounts to $3,360.
While many people use dinner leftovers for the following day’s lunch, or throw in some rice to make a bento box, the idea of repeating what you ate just the night before can be uninspiring.
Here, we offer some fresh, new lunch ideas—five total for Monday through Friday—with recipes that are out-of-the-ordinary and somewhat gourmet, yet versatile and easy to fix.
We sought ingredients that could be transformed into different dishes. Rotisserie chicken, for instance, can become an ingredient in a creative papaya chicken salad (courtesy of By Request columnist Betty Shimabukuro), a sandwich meat, and later, a component to a pasta dish; even the bones can be used to make soup.
Last night’s stir-fry or chili could become a savory wrap the next day, based on a recipe from Hawaii Kai resident Astrid Tommasino. Just add some cheese or an egg omelet, layer ingredients on a tortilla, wrap it up and go.
Down to Earth chef Saradha Johnson offers a refreshing cucumber gazpacho, and for a new twist on pizza that’s quick and easy, try topping ready-made Tandoori Naan, an Indian flatbread (available at Whole Foods Market), with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, or any other variation of your choice.
Tired of cold cuts? Try different types of breads, such as ciabatta or pita. Look for alternative spreads, like horseradish, goat cheese or hummus. Chef Holly Hadsell of Pacific Motion Picture Catering offers a Greek Sandwich that will get you out of the home lunch doldrums, with its zesty mix of Japanese cucumber, kalamata olives and feta on a mini baguette.
2 tablespoons yogurt sauce (see below)
1 mini baguette
1/2 Japanese cucumber, thinly sliced
3 slices of red onion
1/2 tomato, sliced
5 Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup mixed greens
1/4 cup Feta cheese
» Yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
1 pinch salt
For yogurt sauce, mix ingredients together.
To assemble sandwich: Cut baguette in half lengthwise. Layer cucumber, onion, tomato, olives, greens and feta on bottom half. Spread yogurt sauce on top half, place on veggies, and slice in half. Serves 1.
Note: Yogurt sauce can be packed separately and spread on baguette just before eating. It can also be used as a dip.
Approximate nutritional information, per 2 tablespoons yogurt dressing: 20 calories, 1 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 1 g protein
Approximate nutritional information, per sandwich with yogurt sauce: 330 calories, 12 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,000 mg sodium, 42 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 14 g protein
CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD
1/4 cup diced cooked chicken
1/4 cup diced apple
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (optional)
1/2 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 small firm-ripe papaya, halved, seeds removed
Combine ingredients except papaya. Mix gently; taste and adjust seasonings. Add more mayonnaise if you like it creamier.
Fill papaya halves with chicken salad. Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 170 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 7 g protein
5 cucumbers, peeled & seeded
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
Salt and pepper, to taste
Puree cucumbers in food processor or blender. Add yogurt and lemon juice, mix together.
Transfer to large bowl and add bell peppers, onion, cayenne, cilantro, green onions, cumin, and coriander. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with a few sprigs of cilantro or small dollop of yogurt, if desired. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving (not including salt to taste): 110 calories, 3 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 5 g protein
2 flour tortillas
6 tablespoons leftover chili
3 slices of mozzarella cheese, cut into 6 rectangular strips
6 tablespoons of fresh diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro or sliced green onions (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to coat frying pan
Fold tortilla in half and place on plate or cutting board. Place 3 tablespoons chili on one side of fold, then 3 slices cheese, followed by 3 tablespoons tomato, salt and pepper. Top with cilantro or green onions, if using.
Fold tortilla to cover. Repeat for second tortilla.
Put oil in pan; heat pan on medium until oil is hot. Place 1 tortilla in pan. Fry until evenly brown, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Turn over and brown other side.
Remove tortilla from pan and cut into wedges. Add more oil to pan as needed to brown second tortilla. Be sure to heat oil before adding wrap. Serves 1.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving (based on 8 inch tortillas and not including salt to taste): 550 calories, 39 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 19 g protein
Adapted from www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2438
1 cup basic pizza sauce
4 pieces original, whole wheat, or garlic Tandoori Naan Bread
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/2 pound cooked and crumbled Italian sausage, hot or mild
2 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
Preheat oven to 450 degrees or heat grill on medium-high. If using pizza stone, place on oven rack or grill while preheating.
Spread pizza sauce over each piece of naan, sprinkle with garlic and red pepper flakes. Arrange cheese slices over each pizza and top with sausage and red pepper slices.
Bake or grill 5 to 10 minutes, until crust is crisp and cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with oregano and/or hot chili peppers. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 600 calories, 32 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,500 mg sodium, 46 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 32 g protein