Cooking For One: On The Go Lunches

September 5, 2009

Dear Caitlin and all others,

Thursday this week felt like my first real day of school, mostly because I spent almost all day at school. First, I needed to get in relatively early in the morning to use the department computers, then in the afternoon I had mandatory TA training, and then in the evening I was going out to the ballpark with some of the other students, as I previously posted about. Long story short: I knew I should plan to basically spend the whole day at the department. Only one small problem… What was I going to eat?

Today, busy lifestyles lead many people to eat their daytime meals out at restaurants, cafes, or sidewalk vendors, but this is one aspect of my eating habits that I’ve been consciously trying to cut out since the beginning of this year. In my opinion, it just makes sense on so many levels: Eating out is almost always less healthy than making meals for myself (whether because of the ingredients added, the preparation methods used, or the portions offered), eating out is often less tasty and satisfying than eating the meals I make, and if these first two things aren’t true, then eating out is inevitably more expensive than making my own meals (and this is often true even when the food one gets isn’t healthy or tasty).

So I think the choice is simple—who wouldn’t choose healthier, tastier, and cheaper food? Well, lazy people I guess, since making one’s own lunches is rarely easier than just buying food at the closest shop around the block. The point of this blog post (and future posts in the “Cooking For One” series) is to make the better option of making your own lunches seem a little easier—and, of course, more delicious.

One important aspect of On The Go Lunches is transportability. For people that are walking, driving, or taking public transportation to their place of work, school, or business, this maybe is not such an issue, but I ride my bike to school everyday, and so whatever food I bring needs to fit snugly in my backpack and be able to withstand some potholes and bumpy stretches of pavement. This is something that non-bikers should also think about too, though: You want your food to stay safe while you’re moving it. Currently, I have an assortment of tupperware containers with snap-on lids that I find work very well—they’re light, solid, and microwave safe. Glass containers are also an option, but they are significantly heavier. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil can also be appropriate for certain foods (sandwiches, wraps, etc.), but they do run the risk of getting smushed in a bag. So although I think tupperware is all around the best option, my advice is to do whatever works for you and your food.

The next issue is perishability. Most of the time, this isn’t much of an issue, unless you’re trying to bring ice cream for lunch (which, I’ll add, isn’t a very appropriate meal!). Having a refrigerator at wherever you’re going is always a plus, but if you’re bringing a meal in the morning to eat at noon, it’ll most likely be fine as it is. If you’re planning to eat later in the day, you may want to consider bringing something for which refrigeration is not so important.

The last issue is eatability. This doesn’t mean bringing foods that are indeed edible—this should always be the case!—but rather, bringing foods that can be easily eaten at your workspace or wherever you go to eat. Think ahead: make sure you have the necessary utensils for your meal, and maybe pack a napkin if you think you’ll need it. Think about how messy what you’re bringing might be and whether that’s an issue, and think about what you’ll do with whatever waste is left over at the end.

But enough of these abstract issues—let’s get to some food! What did I end up bringing with me to school on Thursday? Three things in fact, all with varying levels of success. We’ll start with my first meal for the day, a delicious “anything goes” salad!


This salad was filled with goodies: mixed salad greens, kale, sunburst tomatoes, “El Surpremo” sprouts, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and Raw Green Goddess Dressing. Salads are great for On The Go Lunches, in my opinion. First, they are delicious. Second, they provide lots of great nutrition for a midday meal, and they can be quite filling. Lastly, they are very resilient, since it doesn’t really matter if they get knocked around some in my backpack while I’m biking to school. So, the verdict is that this salad was a huge success, and I think I will brining many more with me to school this year!

Next up was a sweet and spicy tofu sandwich, which I neglected to take a picture of, but it wasn’t really necessary anyway, since it was basically the same as this other sandwich I made earlier in the week, except with lettuce instead of sprouts:

I transported my sandwich in a tupperware container as well, so as to prevent it for getting smushed in my bag. It got knocked around a little, but overall survived the trip well. However, it was a little disappointing once I got around to eating it. Part of this was my fault: for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to refrigerate the sandwich (probably thinking that I’d eat it later in the afternoon and not at lunch time). Unfortunately, this made the bread too cold and awkward for a proper sandwich. Still, it was totally delish and I think if I’m more careful next time I can make a sandwich a workable lunch.

Last but not least, in the later afternoon I munched on a little container of Red Quinoa Pesto!


Unfortunately, this meal also suffered from its refrigeration, although in this case I think refrigeration was a little more necessary. I think what I should’ve done was microwave this a little before eating, since it is really supposed to be served warm. Of course, I have no idea how quinoa microwaves. So I’m not so sure if I’ll be trying this again any time soon.

So for the moment, it looks like salads are going to my On The Go Lunch of choice. There will be plenty of opportunity for more experimentation throughout the year, though, and I’ll be sure to report on any new great discoveries (and failures) I come upon!

Last but not least, I thought I’d show you my carrel room and de facto eating space. I share the room with 5 other grad students, but it’s very spacious and I have a big desk and cabinet all to myself. But let me just show you:



I forgot to photograph the best part of the room, though: the mini-fridge and hot water heater! It’s great—I have plenty of space to store my lunches and a quick and easy way to make tea. I remember being very impressed by these graduate student spaces when I came to visit the department, but I’m even happier with them now that I’m here!

And that’s all I’ve got. I’ll hopefully have some new food adventures to report back on later this weekend.

Until we eat again,



One comment

  1. […] been a while since I’ve written a “Cooking For One” post, even though I’ve been spending the last several months doing precisely […]

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