Non-sandwich lunch meal ideas (cheap$)
I have vivid memories of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread for my daily school lunch. I had a pink plastic lunch box with matching thermos and I believe the character it had on it was the Popples (eighties, anyone?). I remember I really didn’t care for the wheat bread (especially the end pieces) and would
have preferred more jelly than peanut butter. Picky, I was.
Be that as it may, a love for all-things-sandwich I never have obtained and my kids have followed in my footsteps.
And not to be snobbish about it, but packaged wheat bread still has a taste strangely akin to cardboard. If it’s cheap or free, I’ll eat it. Otherwise, I still make my bread. For the taste and well, to be honest, it makes me feel old-fashioned. There.
I said all that to say this, we aren’t fond of an all-sandwich lunch menu, day after day. I’ve had to be creative to come up with semi quick, filling, inexpensive, and tasty lunch options.
Today, I would like to share with you some of our favorite lunch options.
Homemade French fries
Potatoes and cheap and are good for you. There are limitless possibilities with potatoes. I always try to keep some on hand. I like to buy them for $4.99 for 20 lbs. In the spring, we plant several rows and I can or freeze them.
Here’s how I do my fries:
Cut potatoes into French fry wedges (I wash them good and leave on peelings). Heat oil for frying. While oil is getting hot, pour one cup ap flour in a gallon zip loc bag (can use more or less based on the amount of potatoes you need). I add salt, pepper, seasonings-such as Garlic powder and Lawrys. Add your potatoes to bag and close. Leave room to shake bag, coating the potatoes in flour mixture. Carefully place potatoes in hot oil and fry until semi crispy (we don’t like ours too hard)–about 8 to ten mins. Stir around with spatula to prevent sticking while cooking.
Now the possibilities are endless! We like to make up a batch of ketchup, mayo, and mustard. One of my children likes ranch with her french fries. You can sprinkle cheese and/or serve with chili on top!
Another lunch we enjoy is pizza bread. You can use bread or tortillas or even pita bread. Hey, if you have a little extra time, go for the full blown crust!
Make up a batch of pizza sauce if you don’t have any store-bought, but you do have tomato sauce. Pour up a little tomato sauce in a bowl, add a tablespoon of oil, add some garlic to taste, also some Italian seasonings, and a sprinkle of sugar (or a half packet of stevia) and stir it all up.
Place bread or tortilla shells on a pizza pan. Spoon sauce on to cover bread. Add shredded cheese (mozz is best) and any more toppings you wish! The more toppings, the better.
Cook in a preheated oven (@ 400) for about 8 mins.
Most kids love spaghetti and it’s fairly quick, easy, and cheap to make. Noodles, meat, and sauce are the three components to spaghetti, although my kids would add Parmesan cheese as a fourth component. I have made it several times without the meat even.
Regarding the meat- if ground beef is as expensive as it is here, you may need other options. My dad is an avid hunter and occasionally we will receive venison as a gift, so ground venison is my meat of choice at this point. Occasionally, I will get a large tube of ground beef when it goes on sale (ha!) for $2.68/lb. When I buy this, I try to block out all remembrance of when just a year ago, it was $1.68/lb (on sale).
Another meat option for spaghetti is ground turkey or even sausage. When we had fresh pork sausage in our freezer, I replaced a lot of recipes calling for ground beef with sausage (sausage chili, anyone? Enchiladas? Burgers?).
So, I’ll go ahead share with you how I make my spaghetti! Go ahead and fix the table.
First, I sauté onions (bell peppers and mushrooms are splendid as well) in oil (coconut, usually). If I remember, I will splash in a little red wine vinegar while I’m cooking the onions. Next, I will pour in some tomato sauce (I don’t measure…just base it on how much sauce you will need) and stir it with the onions. Third, I will add some oil (assuming the oil has cooked out of the onions)–olive oil if I have it. I just splash a little in–maybe 1/8 cup.
Last, bring on the seasonings! A lotta garlic (if you use fresh, just cook it with your onions) powder, Italian seasonings and gasp! A little sugar! Yes. That’s. Right. Now, I have lately been using a half pack of stevia instead of sugar and it works beautifully. I like a little sweetness to my sauce!
So while that is simmering, I get my noodles going (can make this lower carb using the dream fields pasta) and I add my cooked meat to my sauce. Most of the time I do add my meat to cook with my onions at the beginning. Works out fine.
When things are smelling like Italy, it’s time to eat. Do not combine your noodles and meat sauce. Spoon the noodles on the plate and add the sauce on top. Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan cheese. Serve to tiny people who will immediately dub you as world’s greatest mother. Ever.
The muffin-Tin lunch
The last lunch option I want to share with you is one that is super de-duper easy and my kids honestly go wild over. This is my go to lunch when I am very busy and can’t find a good stopping place OR I don’t seem to have anything in my cupboards.
What to do. Take a muffin tin (or two) and fill each circled space with something different. Finger foods.
Here’s what I’ve put in mine. Baby carrots with ranch in another compartment. Frozen blueberries. Olives. Pickles. Cheese slices. Tiny slices of lunchmeat. Pecans. Whatever you can come up with to put in the tins. Just be sure to add some sort of dipping sauce. And be sure to be prepared to refill then.
I hope you got some ideas for some Non sandwich, quick lunches! And don’t feel like you have to fix something different every day of the week. Get you a few good lunch options and repeat weekly. Kids have their three or four favorites anyway.
And how can something become a favorite if it’s only tried once!?
I’d love to hear your lunch favorites and also if you tried any of my options as well!