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In addition to her monthly Practical Pantry article, Debra Caffrey is the Editor of the Education and Infant E-newsletters for FredParent. She is the proud mom of a middle schooler. Debra is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.

 

Practical Pantry

Though it feels like I might literally live in the kitchen sometimes, I still dislike the trendy term “meal prepping” regarding cooking. I feel like it might intimidate folks about how much time it takes to whip together some healthy and yummy meals, especially for weekday lunches.

Meal prepping for the entire week ahead is all the rage these days, but I don’t think it always has to be that ambitious or extreme. That said, a little thought about what you might like for lunch in the days ahead goes a long way. I’ve found that lunch is the meal that often gets forgotten about the most, even for the most vigilant meal planner. In the past, I’d take the time to diligently menu plan for each dinner and remember all the snacks, breakfast items, and school treats to add to the grocery list, but I’d always forget that I needed to eat lunch every day myself! These days, I’ve learned to incorporate weekday lunch ideas when I sit down to menu plan, and it’s been a fool-proof way to guarantee I am not standing in front of the open fridge wondering why there’s nothing for me to eat. Having a battle plan for lunches keep things interesting, eliminates the monotony of that same ol’ sandwich, and ensures that you aren’t reaching for unhealthier impulse buys at the drive through. And it is much more economical to plan!

If a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is your typical preferred lunch scene, that’s fine! But nothing beats a comprehensive lunch bowl because it is so healthy and well-balanced. So, what is a lunch bowl? It’s kind of a loose term describing a mishmash of components that hit lots of healthy and nutritional notes. Ideally, there is a grain, veggies, protein, perhaps a sauce or dip, a garnish, and lots of texture and contrasting flavors. Does that sound overwhelming? Please don’t be scared – healthy grain-based bowls are easy to prepare and usually involve minimal cooking technique. Best of all, the components you plan to use can be prepped ahead of time and you can make enough to enjoy a few days in a row (or to share between family members).

So how do you build a tasty lunch bowl? All you have to do is make and keep a handy list of your favorite components and mix and match as you like to create endless possibilities. Here is a quick list to get you started!

Grainsgrains

• Brown rice
• Couscous
• Quinoa
• Jasmine or basmati rice
• Farro
• Barley
• Wild rice
• Soba noodles

 

greensVeggies

• Avocado
• Carrot
• Cucumber
• Leafy greens (kale, fresh spinach)
• Sweet potatoes
• Beets
• Edamame
• Radishes

noodlesProteins

• Hard boiled eggs
• Grilled or rotisserie chicken
• Tuna
• Tofu or tempeh
• Shrimp or salmon
• Chick peas, black beans or other beans

sauces in spoonsSauces and Drizzles

• Greek yogurt
• Tahini or soy sauce
• Your favorite vinaigrette
• Sriracha or sweet chili sauce
• Green Goddess dressing
• Light mayo or extra virgin olive oil

avocadoToppings/Garnish

• Toasted sesame seeds
• Chia seeds
• Sliced almonds
• Chopped scallions
• Crumbled feta or bleu cheese

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