As those of you who know me a bit know, I take New Year’s resolutions pretty seriously, and try to lay out ambitious, but attainable, goals, objectives, values, principles, and such-like every New Year.
(Nothing sacred about New Years, by the way. But nothing wrong with it either, and it does have the virtue, like summer vacation, that I have a bit of down time to step back and thing about the Bigger Picture.)
So one resolution (or goal, or habit, I’m not entirely clear on the distinctions) for 2016 is: Make-ahead lunches.
There’s a couple of converging streams of better-ness here.
- Save Money. I’ve been scheming to get down the price of my lunches over the last couple of years, and have gotten them down to $5-6 a lunch going to our local Asian steam-table restaurant. Not bad, and a lot better than the $12-15 I started with. But getting under $5 seemed to involve either excessive deprivation or making lunches at home.
- Nutritious meals. Making my own lunches seemed to be the ideal way to get into them exactly what I wanted (although, as we shall see, the making-ahead aspect introduces some constraints.)
- Fascination with bulk methods in food prep. Something about making the lunches ahead — in bulk — captured my imagination. As you may or may not know, there’s a OAMM (Once-a-month meals) meme out there on the Net with something of an infrastructure, thought leaders, etc. Check out the (commercial) onceamonthmeals.com site or just Google it.
- “Productivity”. I’m not 100% sure that make-ahead meals are more productive, but I’m prepared to believe it, and prepared to experiment with it.
So, if you Google “make-ahead lunches” you will get a hodge-podge of once-a-month, once-a-week, and “night-before” lunch recipes and schemes. I did some reading and digging around and Web clipping over the holidays, and ended up learning two things about myself:
- I’m not ready for once-a-month prep — lunch or all meals — at this time (and maybe never). Too much of a hump for me, plus I’m not sure I believe the hype about how it saves you time. Plus I had a hard time seeing how you could get the variety you wanted for a whole month in advance. No flexibility in it. You’re stuck with the work of the You who made those meals at the beginning of the month.
- I want minimum same-day prep. My morning routine has a lot of moving parts — writing, meditating, helping the dog, etc. — without adding more stuff to it. My perfect same-day lunch routine would consist of fetching a container out of the fridge or freezer and adding it to the heap of gear I take with me out to the car.
So, that means once-a-week prep of 1-3 different lunch meals that I can freeze or refrigerate and will last the week in that form.
As far as I can make out, that kind of puts the kabosh on make-ahead salads, because they either they don’t last out the week (soggy, wilted, etc.) or they require same-day prep (add the dressing, croutons, whatever). I’m still open to salads, but for now I’m focusing on soups, wraps, and possibly sandwiches.
For Week 1 (this week), I made a batch of burritos using this approach from kitchn.com and shredded chicken made this way from Picky Palate. I wrapped each one in aluminum foil and froze them. I also made a couple of servings of Italian Wedding soup from a big batch my wife had made up on Sunday.
I’m scheming ahead for Week 2, and would welcome any links, tips, pointers, or suggestions.