I have a pretty decent strategy for planning my lunches on regular weekdays and I would like to share.
This is not a post about recipes. It is a post about assembly.
There are enough posts about recipes on the internet. I'm good. You're good. Let's move on.
I have four criteria for my lunches:
- FAST: You know how some hard core food blogs are like "Prep Time 30 minutes!" but it really takes six hours, a trip to Siam Reap and an epic Google rabbit hole to actually make the recipe? Ya, I don't do that. I assemble things into a container. Anything more is just showing off.
- LOW MAINTENANCE: I can't make a lunch which requires a microwave, fridge or - even - cutlery because my work environment changes on the regular. Also, who knows if I will be able to sit during lunch. Also, who knows if I will get 30 minutes or three chunks of five minutes. So it has to meet me where I'm at.
- TASTY HEALTHY: This is a thing I made up. It means that it has to taste rich and whole while also providing me with intellectual satisfaction of knowing all my macronutrient bases are covered.
- NOT INSANELY EXPENSIVE: My total bill for these five meals was $45.92, which is about $9 per day. However, I carried over about 30% of the food to the next week so that daily cost was probably more like $6.43.
The best way I know how to meet these three criteria is through meze plates, or small dish meals that originated in the Near East and the Balkans. Meze means "snack" or "relish." I was in Sofia, Bulgaria when I had my first proper Balkan meze - with sheep's cheese, fresh olives, oils, nuts, breads and smoked meats. Rich, savoury, whole and farm-fresh. I was sold, and not just because the whole thing was served with buckets of wine.
So I have recreated a five lunches that vary on the meze theme. Everything comes from a regular discount grocery store. I hope you enjoy!
Meze 1: Cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, hummus, tzatziki, almonds, greek yogurt, pear and orange.
Meze 2: Mini Cucumbers, boccocini cheese, balsamic reduction, kolbasa pepperettes, hummus and a peach.
Meze 3: Olives, mini cucumbers, pear, figs, almonds and prosciutto.
Meze 4: Kale-cabbage salad mix, tzatziki, figs, almond chunks, balsamic reduction and a banana.
Meze 5: Bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, boccocini, hummus, tzatziki, carrots and greek yogurt.
Are there totally insane days in my life where these cute boxes disintegrate into a tub of hummus and a whole cucumber that I gnaw on at 12:30pm because I forgot to pack a knife?
That's ok. Hummus and cucumber are awesome.
My goal is a balance of macronutrients - protein, fat and carbohydrates - over the week and these five meals do the job well.
If this doesn't look like enough food for you, ask yourself two questions:
Was my breakfast one of substance?
Am I feeding my eyes, heart or stomach?
For the first question, eating like a king at breakfast is metabolically the way to go. I don't mean like that Russian king with the gout, but like a hardy king that is knows he has a long day of waving and charioting coming up. I mean some eggs - WITH AT LEAST ONE YOLK, FOR PETE'S SAKE - and vegetables, or some nut butter and fruit and yogurt or a thick smoothie.
For the second question, unless you're working on a construction crew, you've been mostly sitting since you arrived at work. Having a huge panini or plate of pasta is overkill. We have a hard time with portions on this continent and marketers would have you believe that a large plate of pasta is a reasonable feed at 1pm. It isn't.
If you eat mindfully and with care, the meals I've laid out here will satisfy you. I have a high basal metabolic rate - the daily number of calories I burn by just existing - because I am super tall. And these meals satisfy me. If I find myself eating again before dinner it is because I am eating emotionally or vacantly, not because I need calories.
If you're a huge, tall dude, they may not be satisfying from a caloric perspective. Add more hummus, cheese or some sprouted grain bread. I love the Ezekiel brand's cinnamon raisin.
I invite you to try the meze way for lunch this week and to please let me know how things go for you. I am always interested in new components to add and would gratefully add any suggestions.