Planning lunch

A great lunch: lemony shrimp salad

Here’s the scene: It’s noon. I’m at home, and I just served Little Five his daily PBJ, fruit and milk (or some variation on that theme). I feel vaguely hungry. I look in the fridge and realize I sent all the good leftovers in the Hub’s lunch bag. I forgot to buy more lunch meat and cheese. I don’t feel like eating peanut butter or fixing something complicated. I drift from the fridge to the pantry and back again. Pretty soon it’s 2 p.m. and I still haven’t eaten (except for a handful of smoked almonds and half a glass of orange juice).

We’ve gotten this dinner planning thing down. But I finally have to admit that if I want to eat good lunches, I’m going to have to plan them. I happily eat whatever is left over from dinner the night before, but I can’t always count on anything being left over.

Step 1: Brainstorm list of all the things I’d like to eat for lunch.

  • Meat and cheese on sesame Wasa crispbreads
  • Tuna salad
  • Homemade soup
  • Pasta
  • Quesadillas or tortilla wraps (tuna dip with snap peas was really good)
  • Egg salad
  • Barley, quinoa, or other grains with veggies and dressing

Step 2: Make a list of grocery items to stock for interesting lunches.

  • Sandwich bread, baguettes, tortillas, crackers
  • Canned tuna
  • Cold cuts (stock up and freeze)
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
  • Grains

(Step 2a: Drag grumpy 5-year-old to grocery store on the way home from preschool to grab some of these items–and garlic, or I’ll be unable to cook anything for the rest of the week. Deny the 5-year-old overpriced Dannon smoothies and suffer through the ensuing tantrum. Get home, put on PBS Kids, administer homemade smoothie (plain yogurt, banana, frozen strawberries, OJ) until tantrum abates. Eat nice lunch with homemade smoothie.)

Step 3: On the weekend, prep at least one thing for the rest of the week.

  • Hard boil some eggs
  • Make soup and freeze in individual portions
  • Cook a pot of grain
  • Roast some vegetables
  • Mix up some tuna salad
  • Wash and prep veggies

There, that wasn’t so hard. It ought to work just as well for those who take their lunches to work or school. The trouble is, it takes a little bit of forethought. I have to write a reminder on my calendar and my to-do list, because thinking about lunch just isn’t part of my routine. I’m going to try, though! Starting right now–I’m going to put a pot of eggs on to boil while I empty the dishwasher. Some forms of multi-tasking ARE productive!

What’s your favorite lunch?


Monday Menu

We got through last week relatively unscathed…on time to all activities, dinner on the table every night. Homework was done, bedtime was reasonable. As a bonus, we watched a couple episodes of Mad Men on Netflix and I kept the desk in the kitchen clear enough for homework (Miss Seven likes working at the desk; Mr. Nine moves between the kitchen island and the dining room table). Cue the applause.

I thought I’d share three things I learned last week about fitting home-cooked meals into a busy evening schedule.

  • Any prep you do ahead of time is a good thing. Even if you’re just making a quick pasta pesto, if you fill up the pot with water, set out the pasta and the food processor, and set the table earlier in the day, it makes an enormous difference in how smoothly the dinner hour goes.
  • It may seem obvious, but save your most labor-intensive meal for a night you’re staying home. Less obvious (at the planning stage) is the possibility that you’ll be exhausted and feel less like making an effort on an evening that ought to be more relaxed. Give yourself permission to plan something simple for leisurely nights, too, or at least have an easy backup pantry meal.
  • Do all the dishes. Every night. Don’t slow down the next day’s meal prep with dirty dishes to clean up first.

Monday: Split pea soup, tomato salad

Tuesday: Pork soft tacos (still working our way through pulled pork in the freezer)

Wednesday: Stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes (this will be a new one for the kids!)

Thursday: Chicken and mushroom skillet meal (if you need a recipe, use the method in the link–mine will have shallots, cremini mushrooms and red wine), egg noodles, pan roasted asparagus

Friday: Lasagna (from the freezer), salad


Last week on Home Baked

Musical chairs and Hidden Treasure (cleaning out the jewelry box)

Monday Menu


What’s your biggest stumbling block to getting dinner on the table?