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Published on May 12, 2013, by in Au Pair.

Opting to pack your own lunch before heading to work can save a significant amount of money over restaurant meals each day. You’ll also be able to enjoy your lunch without worrying about time constraints after waiting in line or receiving slow service in a public eatery. These 12 meals are quick to prepare and completely portable, making it easy for you to save time and money on a daily basis.

  1. Mason Jar Salads – Pour a bit of dressing into the bottom of a Mason jar, then fill it with your favorite salad fixings. When you’re ready to eat, just shake the jar to distribute the dressing. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, you may want to skip dairy-based dressings in favor of vinaigrettes.
  2. Bento Boxes – Bento boxes don’t have to be intricately decorative. In fact, a traditional bento is just four parts rice to two parts protein and one part veggies or other ingredients. To really save time in the morning, throw your bento together the night before and just grab the box on your way out the door.
  3. Pita Pockets – If you’re tired of plain Jane sandwiches but love the convenience of a handheld meal, switch to pita pockets for a welcome change of pace. You’ll have a contained, portable meal that doesn’t require silverware and only takes a few minutes to prepare.
  4. Spring Rolls – Once you get the hang of working with the rice wrappings, you can throw spring rolls together in a snap. You can also fill them with your own favorite veggies and carry a side of dipping sauce of your choice, putting your own spin on these tasty treats.
  5. Trail Mix – If you’re looking for more of a snack than a full meal, it’s easy to throw together your own custom trail mix in a few minutes. Dump dried fruits, raisins, nuts and other goodies together in a bag, then give it a good shake.
  6. Veggie Wraps – If you’re looking for a lower carb alternative to sandwiches, just substitute a wrap for the bread and fill it with your favorite ingredients. It’s easy to make, easy to pack and even easier to eat on the go.
  7. Hummus and Vegetable Sticks – Put a dollop of hummus in a small thermos, then stand veggie sticks up vertically in the thermos with one end resting in the hummus. The thermos will fit neatly in a bag or can easily be carried, and it will keep everything cool and crisp.
  8. Pasta Salad – The most time-consuming part of making pasta salad is simply waiting for the water to boil. Speed-chill the pasta by rinsing it with ice-cold water, throw in some halved cherry tomatoes, olives and diced peppers, then top the whole thing off with a bit of Italian dressing. When lunch time rolls around, you’ll have a quick, filling and tasty meal that fits in one container.
  9. Sandwiches – There’s nothing wrong with a classic, especially when it’s as customizable as a sandwich. Get creative with your combinations, and skip the white bread in favor of something a bit more interesting. The possibilities are almost endless! If space is a concern, look for slider buns or even firm rolls that can be sliced in half to accommodate deli meats, cheeses and spreads.
  10. Oatmeal Packets – If you can get your hands on a bit of hot water, instant oatmeal packets take up almost no room and don’t require any special considerations in terms of food storage, refrigeration or food safety. Variety packs allow you to keep things interesting, and can be a heart-healthy choice if you spring for all-natural offerings over bargain brands filled with artificial flavoring and colors.
  11. Fruit Salads – It doesn’t get much simpler than a fruit salad, and it’s a difficult meal to beat in terms of healthiness. To keep cut fruits like apples and pears from turning an unappetizing shade of brown, toss the whole mixture with a bit of fresh lemon juice. It’ll also add an interesting dash of flavor.
  12. Soup – There are plenty of soup brands in portable packaging, but they can be filled with preservatives and additives that you’d rather avoid. Making a sizable batch of homemade soup to eat throughout the week allows you to control the ingredients and can be cheaper per serving than a store-bought brand. If you don’t have access to a microwave, you can even use a thermos to keep your soup hot until lunch time by filling the thermos with water that’s almost boiling to heat the interior, letting that hot water sit for a few minutes and then replacing it with piping hot soup. Pop the top on your thermos, grab a spoon and you’re ready to roll!
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