Scene: It is 11:30AM on Sunday morning. Various Tupperware and ceramic containers are organized (relatively) on the kitchen table.
Roommate #3 (entering the kitchen): Sarah, are you already making your lunch for tomorrow?
Sarah: Well, no, Roommate #3, I’m actually making breakfast for all of next week. (Beat.) I’ll be making lunches this afternoon.
Scene: Back-To-School Orientation, Day 4. 10:45 AM. Snack break. Sarah returns from the Teacher’s Lounge bearing a container of cut watermelon and proceeds to eat.
Team Teacher #1 (enviously eyeing the watermelon): Gosh, you are always so prepared. (Opening her bag of free, school-purchased chips) I wish I had that foresight so I could avoid eating these.
Scene: Teacher’s Lounge. Last Wednesday. 1:00 PM. Lunchtime.
Team Teacher #2 (To Sarah): What’s in your salad today?
Sarah: Romaine, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms.
Team Teacher #4: I see tomatoes!
Sarah: Tomatoes…yesterday I had artichoke hearts!
Team Teacher #3: That sounds so good.
Team Teacher #4: I wish I would make my lunch that so I wouldn’t just buy it every day. (Indicates her lunch from Wendy’s.)
Although I have combined some lunch conversations a little bit in the above vignettes, the basic theme remains the same. Most people are in awe of the preparation I undergo to ready myself for a week of school. Not only do I make breakfast, but also lunch as well. (And sometimes even dinner, if I make a casserole or something on Sunday evening.)
You might remember many moons ago I introduced The Smart Kitchen Travel Mantra of Preparation, Moderation, Investigation, and Celebration…well the key to surviving my work week while still eating healthfully and not having any last minute morning freak-outs and/or spending excessive money on lunches or breakfasts “out” (not that that is really an option for teachers, but you can apply this idea to your office job or any other that allows you that choice) is the first word of that: preparation. Along with it’s cousins, planning, and prevention, you have The Smart Kitchen’s 3Ps for a Healthy Work-Week.
First, look at the week ahead. Do you have a special event, afternoon/evening meeting, or dinner to attend that might interfere with making your lunch the night before? If so, plan to prep two (or even three) in a row.
Overnight oats last for a few days…so go ahead and make a few batches…you can add the fruit later if you like, or go ahead and stir it in!
Second, see what you have in the fridge that you need to use up. This is especially important when you live with roommates and fridge space is at a premium.
Since I always have enough cereal to feed a family of 10, I could start to clear some space by making a blend for transporting…
…and reduce the produce in the fridge by washing and cutting up some berries.
Looks like a CFY for breakfast one morning this week.
Three, make sure you have stocked up on your daily staples for packing breakfasts and lunches.
For me, that includes fruit, vegetables, yogurt, oats, cottage cheese, hummus, chips, bread, and veggie burgers (individually wrapped make them a breeze to throw into your bag for thawing through the morning, just in time for lunch). You might prefer a sandwich for lunch every day, so you’d stock up on the cheese or meats you use for that. (Or hummus and veggeis, etc.)
This is pretty self-explanatory. Go ahead and make your breakfasts and lunch on Sunday. (I usually do enough for 2 or 3 days on Sunday, and then do the second half of the week on Wednesday, depending on what I have going on….hence the need to plan!)
As you saw above, I have made three salads at a time. Not only does this get you ready for the week, it saves time in the long run. You can chop and dice all the veggies at once, rather than keep taking them out of the fridge, getting out the cutting board and knife, and doing all of that prep work over and over. Adding slight variations (artichoke hearts one day, tomatoes another…or a different seasoning blend sprinkled on top) will make it not seem monotonous!
This week, I made four batches of overnight oats at once!
(They might not look as pretty the morning of as they usually do, but at least you are saved the extra chore and certain of having a delicious breakfast ready.)
The first batch, above, is Super Berry, with Goji berries blended in, and a topping of black, razz, blue, and straw on top. Along with some walnuts. For a slight variation, I added some orange marmalade to a second batch!
I also made a fig and plum variation, also topped with orange marmalade and walnuts…
…and added some peach and golden raisins to the fourth batch of oats for a little something different.
I also keep a little jar in my desk or lunch bag of All-Bran Bran Buds, GoLean Crunch!, or some granola in case I need a little extra crunch the morning of:
I will also get some fruit snacks ready for a few days in advance…
…and hummus-and-cottage cheese tubs.
I make my own “snack packs” of chips at least a few days at time.
And yes, I do weigh my chips! [I know myself well enough to know that if I just start eating those salty delicious chiplets, I won't stop!]
A few tactics that help me avoid some stay-healthy hurdles. [Take a preemptive strike against hunger, one might say.]
1. I try to keep fruit in the fridge at work for any unexpected or unplanned for snack needs/low blood sugar moments/excessively hungry days (you’ve been there.)
2. Along with that, I have a great snack drawer (for both me AND my kiddos) that has a variety of options in it—yes, including chocolate. [I don't share my favorite protein bars with the kids....;)]
3. Because I inevitably have carbonation cravings…I keep fizzy waters at work on occasion as well. Usually this will help me avoid attacking the soda machine. (Note that I did say usually.)
4. Having an assortment of protein bars, single-serving yogurts, healthy snacks like popcorn, easy to grab veggies (hello baby carrots!) and even the occasional frozen meal (although as I mentioned above, I love the go-to-ness of individually wrapped veggie burgers) will help you survive the unexpected.
Like if Adam Richman called me and wanted to take me out to dinner, I wouldn’t have to say, “Sorry, strange-but-true man I adore, I can’t go be on Man vs. Food with you…I need to pack my lunch,” because I would have things I could just throw in my lunchbag in the morning.
Or, perhaps Zac Efron took me on a frozen yogurt date, and we end up talking until 2 in the morning and I oversleep and am running late, can’t find the overnight oats because my roommates ate them (not that they would, since they think they are weird)…well, thank goodness for Luna Bars and apples.
It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s really not. I make my breakfast on Sunday with my breakfasts for the rest of the week. When I’m chopping vegetables for a meal on Sunday, I go ahead and chop ‘em up for lunch.
I’m happier and healthier in the long run. [And since I eat so healthy for breakfast and lunch, I can indulge every now and then in a teacher trap of kiddie cupcakes, or a fun dinner out with friends!]