One of the problems that kept popping up when we first started to pack lunches was the fact that life is unpredictable. Life doesn't care that you made very exact menu plans and that you have your time allotted out in 15 minute increments (I'm kidding… Kind of). Unless you can be flexible, your doomed to fail in every plan you will ever create. I handle this in a typical obsessive compulsive way… I make back up plans. Then I make back up plans for the back up plans. Then I make back up plans for the back up of the back up plans. Okay, Okay… You get the idea. You really don't need that many back up plans unless you're attempting to pull off an “Oceans 11” style casino heist.
Here's a quick list of some packed lunch back up plans for when life interrupts your carefully laid out plans and you can't follow your meal plan. Just grab the ingredients for a few of these options and keep the kitchen stocked. If you really want to go all out, print off the list (or make an adorable pinterest style dry erase board using a photo frame… see here), so that when life does throw you a curve ball, you aren't desperately searching the poorly organized archives of my blog trying to find this post and remember what ingredients you bought.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly: A classic, and for good reason. You can freeze 2 slices of bread in ziploc baggies. You don't even need to purchase an extra loaf for this. Since I only freeze bread for about a month at a time, Just grab 2 or 4 slices out of the loaf that your currently using. I normally have a few slices left by the time it expires so this works out well. Keep Peanut Butter and Jelly in the pantry (it probably already is). You can spread the peanut butter and jelly onto the frozen bread, it will thaw by the time lunch comes up. If you actually like PB&J and plan to have it more than once a month, keep in mind you can also freeze already made sandwiches.Just make sure to spread a bit of peanut butter on both sides of the bread to prevent soggy bread. Again, I only keep bread frozen for about a month so I wouldn't do this unless you plan to take it in the next month.
- Spaghetti: A few times, my issue has been that I missed my grocery trip and didn't have lunch ingredients at the house. If you have time to make lunch, but just don't have the house stocked with ingredients- I do this. Keep angel hair pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese in the house (cheese is optional, but it keeps Jon from knowing this is a “back up lunch”, he just thinks I made him a special lunch. If you happen to have frozen pre-made meatballs (I use these for meatball subs in my meal plan and often have leftovers hanging out in the freezer), microwave them and throw them in. You can either pack this in a microwavable container or a bowl covered completely in saran wrap and then foil. I like to add the foil though it probably isn't necessary. Just make sure when you place the bowl in the lunch bag that you keep in upright.
- Ready made soup: I bought 3 or 4 of these and sent them to work with Jon along with some plastic spoons. You can also send some shelf stable snacks and drinks. This serves several purposes. It's a back up in case he forgets to bring his lunch, it's a great thing to have around if he ends up having to work very late or if he's already eaten his lunch and is still starving.
- Chicken salad sandwiches: Keep a can of shredded chicken in your pantry and mayonnaise in your fridge (you probably already have this). Freeze 2 slices of bread in a ziploc bag (I keep mine in freezer for about a month). If you need it- Mix the chicken and mayonnaise, add salt and pepper and any other ingredients you have hanging around and scoop between frozen bread. By the time lunch rolls around, the bread will thaw. ** Please use a cooler pack in addition to the frozen bread to keep the sandwich cold.
- T.V. Dinners: If you have a microwave available at work – keep a few TV Dinners in your fridge. I always grab the healthy choice meals when they have a good sale. Just stick one or two in a cooler with a fork and your done! Couldn't be any easier than that!
- Ravioli: I'll admit I have a guilty obsession with beef ravioli in a can. It's so bad for you, but it's so good. If I need something quickly, I just dump this in a microwavable container, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and I'm good to go.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. We only have this happen once every few weeks, so I would only keep one back up on hand at a time.
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