Sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather

Even where I live (Scotland) the breaks between rain showers are getting longer, in fact we’ve even had a few days where there hasn’t been any rain at all. In other words, the weather’s as good as it gets for eating outdoors and even when that’s not really an option, packed lunches have a lot to be said for them. It’s not just the fact that they can be so affordable, they save you queuing, plus you know exactly what you’re eating and drinking. Nevertheless, I still see loads of people buying convenience food because they “don’t have time” to make a packed lunch in the mornings, well the answer to this is to move away from the traditional sandwiched-based packed lunch and start making packed lunches which will keep perfectly happily overnight, so you just need to pick them up in the morning. Here are some ideas for sandwich-free packed lunches for warmer weather.

Start with the right containers

If you’re planning (or hoping) to make a packed lunch regularly, then invest in some proper containers, meaning ones which will protect your food, rather than just using whatever you have in your kitchen (unless you’re 100% sure it’s up to the task). For the record, while I hate excess packaging, I do like reusable banana guards. I was given one as a present and at first thought it was a bit of a joke, but now I love it.

Move on to carbohydrates

You want about a quarter of your packed lunch to be complex carbohydrates, like bread. The problem with bread is that it goes stale very quickly, which is why sandwiches typically have to be made fresh each morning. Pasta and potatoes, however, can all be cooked the night before and will still be fine the next day. Rice is a bit trickier, so I’m going to suggest you stick with pasta and potatoes.

Make the most of vegetable protein

You want another quarter of your packed lunch to be protein and you want most, if not all of this, to come from vegetable protein, meaning beans and pulses such as lentils, nuts and seeds. The reason for this is because vegetable protein has a lot more fibre than meat, which means it fills you up more. If you want to add meat, go ahead, but treat it more as a garnish. It may taste good, but it won’t fill you up the way vegetable protein will. Again, these can all be prepared the night before.

NB: Be careful with some game fish such as tuna as it can contain high quantities of mercury, which can be dangerous.

Fill up on fruit and vegetables

Most, if not all, of the rest of your meal, should be fruit and vegetables. If at all possible, keep their skins on. In an ideal world, fruits and vegetables would either be eaten without further treatment (except washing) or prepared when they are due to be used. If you’re taking your packed lunch to work, you could just choose your fruit and vegetables the day before and then prepare them at your work. Alternatively, just prepare them the night before and keep them in an airtight container. It isn’t perfect, but it’ll still be pretty good. If you must have your apple cut into slices, brush them in lemon juice to stop them going brown (it shouldn’t happen in a totally airtight container, but if any air gets in, it will).

NB: fruit and vegetable juices, like smoothies, do contain a lot of vitamins and minerals (well, they do if they’re good quality), but they don’t contain the fibre you get from fresh fruit and vegetables and they do contain a relatively high percentage of sugar. So, while they’re fine in moderation, you probably want to keep them as treats rather than as a key part of your diet.

Add a portion of dairy if you like

Dairy is not essential, but if you want to include it, keep it to a maximum of about a 10th of your overall meal and lower the content of the other food groups slightly. Most forms of dairy can be prepared easily the night before.

Keep dressings separate

If you want a dressing, pop it into its own container and add it at the last minute.

Stay hydrated

Hydration is really important all year round and particularly in hot weather, so make sure you have a drink. If you don’t want to carry a bulky water bottle, there are roll-up water bottles which are perfectly strong when it use, but flatten and/or roll up when out of use, so you can always have one with you, even in a pocket or handbag. Personally, I like to keep my own water with me at all times, for various reasons, including reducing waste and, frankly, saving money!

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