By Mike Thayer
Why be on the rush for fast food, when you can enjoy something you cooked? Why shell out $7 for a burger, fries and a drink, when you can fix yourself something just as good for about $2 or $3?
And no, I'm not overlooking the convenience of fast food, I just happen to think that your kitchen is far more convenient than a fast food joint is, especially if your lunch time is only 30 minutes.
Even if you don't cook, think hard about exploring the potential of your kitchen, because eating fast food frequently hurts not only the wallet, but the body as well. The key to eating at home or brown bagging it is time. You may not think time is your friend during your lunch break, but that's actually missing the boat. The time you spend prepping meals when you're not working is how you enjoy better meals, save money and have more time for yourself at lunch.
The Fast Food Trap
OK, you clock out, you've got 30 minutes for lunch, you leave your work station, jump into your car and head for the fast food pick of the day..... There's five minutes, maybe ten right there in travel time. If you do the drive-thru because you don't have time to go inside and eat, there's another five minutes spent ordering, paying for and getting your order. Assuming your order was done right, now you start traveling back to work, open up the bag to start munching on fries, take a drink of pop to wash them down and finally, eat the burger in your car in the parking lot at work or at your desk. You've got five minutes to piddle around with your phone before you have to clock back in to work. Does this sound like you? Does this sound attractive to you? This lunch trap most likely cost you around $7 and it's far from ideal. Do that on a daily basis and you're spending about $35 a week on lunches and the caloric intake is going to cost you as well. There's a better way.
Eat in your own home or brown bag it (and I'm not talking bologna sandwiches)
OK, you clock out, you've got 30 minutes for lunch, you leave your work station, jump into your car and head HOME! That sounds better than sitting in a fast food drive thru right? There's five minutes, maybe ten in travel time. But now, instead of sitting in a line of cars at the drive thru, you are putting a pre-made meal you created in the microwave or are pulling something delicious out of the crock pot. Yes, the crock pot is your friend. In the comfort of your own home, you can eat a delicious meal, hot and homemade. Meatballs and marinara, pot roast, grilled chicken and yes, even burgers. You can go home and nuke a pre-made meal, faster than you can get through the drive thru at a fast food joint. BONUS: Check to see if you got any snail mail, pet the dog, water the potted plants, you have the time. And if you live too far from work to do that and have to do the break room thing, then you get even more personal down time during lunch because you got smart and prepped a meal for the microwave. BONUS #2: You're also saving money. Throwing a chicken breast and Italian dressing with some potatoes and carrots in the crock pot before work can cost as little as $3.
I like to prep a bunch of meals during my days off. I put together up to seven days worth of meals, food prepping and/or cooking all the meats, veggies and sides I'll need for some great lunches in the coming week. I might grill up a bunch of fare, I might pan sear some meats or oven roast them. I'll chop veggies, move items from the freezer to the fridge for thawing, whatever I can do to help make my work day meals more enjoyable and more importantly, easy to heat up for lunch.
Cooking more than what you'll eat for dinner on a given night is a lunch time-saver as well. For example I always cook more bacon than I'm going to eat for breakfast so I can have some bacon with a burger, or crumble some bacon for a tossed salad.
Another lunch-time saver thing you can do, is marinate some meats for the crock pot the night before. Chop up some veggies and tear up some lettuce for a salad the night before, heck if you're an early riser, you can also do some food prep the morning before work. Food prep doesn't really take that much time, you can marinade some meats while you're watching Big Bang Theory or a football game. Putting a combo of tasty items in the crock pot before work takes just minutes to do and it's WAY worth it! And what would you rather smell, awesome aromas coming from your kitchen, or car exhaust in the drive thru?
Don't risk spilling a fast food bite on your shirt as you change lanes or shift gears scurrying back to work, don't feel the 'road rage' building up because the drive thru is taking WAY too long...... Prep a meal for the microwave, or better yet, enjoy a no wait crock pot meal.
Better food, money better spent.....
Crock Pot Mac & Cheese
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- One 15 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1-1/2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese, be it mild cheddar, colby jack, pepper jack, shredded American, or Velveeta...
- 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
- A healthy pinch of salt and pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 ounces of elbow macaroni. Spirals or bow ties work too.
Coat the crock pot with cooking spray. Combine the milks, beaten egg, salt and pepper and garlic powder in the crock pot, whisk until smooth. Add the macaroni and cheese, gently stirring things together with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Cover and cook on low for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.
Options: Throw in some diced ham. Some folks like tuna, browned ground beef is good too for the cheesburger mac meal....
Even with the optional add of a meat, this meal didn't even come close to costing you $7 to prepare. And you can't get this kind of deliciousness at a fast food joint!