Are you getting bored of sandwiches? Taking the same thing into work every day can get boring, fast … but buying lunch out every day soon becomes expensive. I keep falling back on the default option of “pitta bread with ham, lettuce and pickle” which, whilst nice, can get a bit boring by Friday.
So last weekend, I sat down to figure out a shopping list and menu plan that is:
- Good value
- Requires minimum preparation time
- Allows a reasonable amount of variety
The prices and calorie values are from Sainsbury’s (a mid-range supermarket in the UK); they’ll vary a bit for our US readers, but this should give some idea of the relative cost of taking a packed lunch verses eating out.
Your packed lunch shopping list
You will need:
- Six pitta breads (52p)
- Six harvest grain baps (49p)
- 200g wafer-thin ham (£1.29)
- 360g jar Branston Small Chunk pickle (89p)
- 312g jar Baxter’s Albert’s Victorian chutney (77p)
- 250g tub cottage cheese (58p)
- 200g light philadelphia (£1.34)
- Iceburg lettuce (85p)
- Cucumber portion (40p)
- 250g Cherry tomatoes (68p)
- One red onion (18p)
- One red pepper (78p)
- Small tin of pineapple rings (23p)
- 500g loose carrots (31p)
- Bag of Basics apples (99p)
- Bag of Basics pears (99p)
- Two boxes of multigrain cereal bars (£2 for 2)
Total cost: £13.29
Freeze the pitta breads and rolls as soon as you get home; they’ll defrost easily. Keep the vegetables and apples in the fridge. With lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, you may need to buy more the following weekend as they usually won’t keep past six or seven days.
Six different sandwich ideas from thirteen items
Mix and match your lunch items however you choose – here’s some of the sandwich ideas I came up with, followed by how to put it all together for a healthy lunch…
(Note: I recommend using one and a half bread rolls if you’re having a roll rather than a pitta, as they’re a bit on the small side otherwise!)
Pitta with ham, cream cheese, lettuce and pickle
Defrost one pitta bread (I zap for 30 seconds on full in the microwave), then split down the long edge. Spread with cream cheese, then fill with about five slices of wafer-thin ham. Add a teaspoon of pickle, and a handful of shredded lettuce leaves. Slice in half and wrap tightly in clingfilm or a sandwich bag (these tend to disintegrate otherwise!)
Bread roll with ham and chutney
Defrost a bread roll. Slice in half, spread each side with cream cheese then add two-three slices of ham to each half. Dollop a generous teaspoon of Victorian chutney in the middle. NOTE: I like my rolls open topped, and this way of putting the sandwich together means it can easily be “split” again at lunchtime (the chutney can get a bit messy though…)
Pitta with cottage cheese and salad
Defrost a pitta bread. Split and fill with cottage cheese, lettuce, sliced cucumber, a couple halved cherry tomatoes and a few rings of red onion (if liked.) Add a sprinkling of black pepper or mixed herbs from the store-cupboard, to taste.
This is a great way to sneak one of your five-a-day into your sandwich.
Bread roll with cottage cheese and pineapple
Defrost a bread roll. Chop or crush one pineapple ring and mix with a tablespoon of cottage cheese. Split the roll and fill with the cottage cheese and pineapple mix.
Pitta with cream cheese and roasted vegetables
Grill or roast 1/3rd red pepper and 1/3rd red onion. (A George Foreman grill is ideal for this.) Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, defrost your pitta bread, split, spread the inside (top and bottom) with cream cheese, and stuff with the roasted vegetables. Wrap tightly in clingfilm – the roasted vegetables have a habit of sliding out otherwise!
Bread roll with cream cheese and cucumber
Defrost and slice a bread roll, spread with cream cheese, add thinly sliced cucumber and pickle if liked. What could be simpler? If you prefer an open sandwich, spread both halves with cream cheese and put the sliced cucumber in the middle – you can de-assemble it at lunch time.
Creating a delicious, healthy, lunch … in under five minutes
Take one sandwich idea from above, and add:
Veggies: Your choice of carrot sticks (20 cals) (wash, top and tail, and slice a carrot; no need to peel), a handful of cherry tomatoes (15 cals), or a small box of mixed salad (lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, red pepper) (30 cals).
Fruit: An apple and/or pear (50 cals each)
Cereal bar: (75 – 120 cals depending on brand)
Simple! A nutritious, healthy, easy lunch for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy in the supermarket… just £1.33/day if you use the above shopping list. Compare this to…
(From your local sandwich shop)
Ham salad sandwich ( £2+)
One apple (50p)
One pear (50p)
Cereal bar (45p)
At least £3.45 total.
And of course, if you regularly go to a local restaurant – even if it’s just a fast food place – the price, and the calorie count, will be even higher. Try shopping ahead this weekend and taking packed lunches for just a couple of weeks: it’s one of the easiest, and best, changes you can make to ensure you have a healthy diet while at work.
(Terrified sandwich photo by Sakurako Kitasa)
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