Meals At Work

CHEAP BROWN BAG LUNCHES FOR WHEN THERE IS NO FRIDGE OR MICROWAVE
Many of the brown bag meals on this list may seem typical or boring at first glance, others might seem too difficult or complicated to make. But they can be made more appetizing and more interesting with different variations, preparations and accompaniments and with a little practice all of them can be made quickly and easily.
 
To save money you always want to plan your meals well ahead of time, buy the ingredients ahead of time, when they are on sale. When you’re trying to eat cheaply, always plan your meals around what’s on sale. You should also buy in bulk when ever you can, and cook in bulk (freeze extra portions) when ever you can. We try to include recipes that are easily altered so you can change it up to suite your own taste and budget. For example if a certain vegetable or meat is not available at a good price, you don’t have to use it, substitute it for something else or omit it altogether.
 
You’ll need one or two wide mouth Thermos jars or a regular thermos bottle for many of these meals. We feel it’s worth the investment, but if you can’t afford to buy a good Thermos jar we suggest looking into freecycle.org to possibly find one for free.
Before placing hot food in a Thermos container always preheat the container by adding boiling water, let it sit to get hot, then pour out the water.
 
It might be a good idea to get together with friends or family to buy and make meals. This way you can take advantage of cheaper prices you usually get with bulk purchases.
 
Invest in a bulk purchase of small plastic zip lock bags (about 2″x3″) for parmesan cheese toppings and other condiments you might want to go along with these meals (ketchup, mustard). These bags can be purchased at Michaels Craft stores (there’s almost always a coupon to be had for 40% off). They can also be found at Amazon.com but you’d need to buy in very large quantities to get a good deal at Amazon. This would be like having your own little ketchup packets but not as expensive.
 
This guide will also be included in a cookbook we will be publishing soon but we haven’t yet had time. The days go by so quickly. So please forgive any typos or bad grammar, or if we left out any important information or instructions, as we have not yet fully proof read the information. That will be done before we publish it on our cookbook.
 
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask us.
 
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SPRUCING UP OLD STAND-BYS
 
* Tuna, Chicken, or Turkey Salad (wrap or on a roll or hero)
* Egg Salad
* Deli Meat sandwiches (the usual or in a wrap)
* Spam
* Peanut Butter & Jelly
 
These boring old stand-bys can be livened up and made interesting by adding flavorful veggies and changing the type of bread/cracker you serve with it.
> Instead of plain white bread, serve on multi grain bread, a roll, Italian bread, flat wrap, or with any kind of cracker.
> Instead of just the typical lettuce and tomato, consider adding sliced onion, sliced peppers (fresh or roasted), or baby spinach leaves.
> Use your favorite creamy salad dressing in place of mayo. Russian dressing makes a great sandwich spread.
> Add sliced bananas, or honey to the PB&J.
> Add finely diced fresh veggies, pickles, or cheese to tuna, chicken or turkey salad. Diced pickles & cheese tastes great in tuna salad!!
> Add onions (green or regular) to egg salad for a different taste. Serve with hearty multi grain bread.
> Mix egg salad with potato salad and green beans and serve cold or warm with Italian bread on the side
 
>> A special trick from delis and diners – get more out of your tuna, chicken or turkey salad by adding bread crumbs. Add just enough to expand servings but not so much that you can taste the bread crumbs.
 
>> Adding lemon and pepper to cheap (stinky) tuna makes it more palatable.
 
>> Make your own “deli meat” to save money. Cook your own roast beef, chicken or turkey, thinly slice and cool. Freeze individual portions double wrapped in wax paper and foil (or plastic).
 
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QUICK & EASY CANNED ALTERNATIVES
For last minute inexpensive lunches buy these canned meals when on sale and save for days you can’t cook fresh meals.
Many of them can be purchased for $1 or less per can if you wait for a sale or buy in bulk at Amazon.com or a big box store.
Heat thoroughly before placing into a wide mouth Thermos food container.
Always make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out).
 
* Chef Boyardee canned Ravioli, Lasagna, or Beefaroni (or cheaper store brand equivalent) – have a packet of grated parmesan or shredded mozzarella cheese on the side, serve with Italian bread.
* Franco American Mac & Cheese (or cheaper store brand equivalent) – sprinkle Italian bread crumbs on top for more flavor, serve with Italian bread or roll.
* La Choy Chicken Chow Mein (or cheaper equivalent brand) – served with hot rice by using two Thermos jars and plating during lunch time.
* Your favorite Canned Soup – served with a big muffin.
* Campbell’s Pork & Beans – add cut up hot dogs to make it a heartier meal, serve with a buttered roll or Italian bread.
* Chili (making your own is often cheaper, so do this only if it’s on sale).
* Corned Beef Hash – serve with hard boiled eggs on the side, and a roll or Italian bread.
 
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ABOUT THE BREAD
 
Buy rolls (on sale if possible) and freeze in plastic bags until you’re ready to use them.
Buy Italian bread (on sale if possible), cut up into portion sizes and freeze in plastic bags until ready to use.
If muffins are too expensive, try making your own. They’re as easy to make as cup cakes. Freeze them until ready for use.
 
Breads and muffins can often be found on sale at a brand name outlet. Just be sure to check expiration dates.
Buy in bulk and freeze until needed.
Bread sticks and crackers can also be frozen. Just make sure they’re in containers that protect them from being crushed.
 
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SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR BAGGED LUNCHES: (click on the link to go to our website for details and recipes)
 
* Chili
* Thermos Lasagna
* Hot Pasta Salad
* Cold Pasta Salad
* Chef Salad
* Cold BLT Wraps (with “triple decker” with tuna salad, chicken salad, or sliced chicken breast)
* Thermos Hot Dogs
* Rotini Pasta in Tomato Sauce
* Chinese Food (yes, home made)
* Chicken Scampi with Rice or Noodles
* Beans & Rice (with or without meat)
* Thermos Burritos
* Breaded Chicken Cutlet & Onion on a Roll or Hero (with or w/o bacon)
* Sardines (with crackers or on a roll)
 
When buying pasta we recommend Ronzoni. It tastes good and it’s often on sale for less than $1 and with coupons sometimes you can get it for free.
 
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CHILI
 
Make your own or buy already made/canned. Heat fully just before leaving for work and store in a Thermos “food” container. Serve with crackers or a roll (with or w/o butter). Serve alone or with rice or egg noodles on the side.
 
If you can get the canned stuff on sale and don’t mind the extra salt that’s fine. But we prefer making our own. Red Kidney beans, tomatoes, onion (and other veggies) can usually be found on sale much cheaper by the ounce than premade chili. Make w/o meat if you can, it will be much cheaper. If you don’t add meat you might want to add diced potatoes, carrots, peas and chunks of tomatoes. If you make it yourself we suggest making a big batch and freeze the extra meals, portioned to fit your thermos.
 
We also suggest mixing rice in with any chili (if not serving over rice), extending it, giving you more servings per batch, making it even cheaper per meal. Rice also makes it healthier. Rice and beans combined makes a protein, which means you can make meatless chili and save money while being healthy.
 
You can also keep a little packet of shredded cheddar, spicy cheese, or parmesan cheese on the side (in a cold insulated container during hot weather) and add just before eating the chili to give a nice melted extra.
 
Depending on how much room you have in the lunch pail, you can make it more of a hearty meal by keeping the chili in one hot thermos and have rice or noodles in another hot thermos. Make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out). Mix together on a plate just before eating. This makes a heartier, larger meal but it does mean taking a large lunch bag to work and it means needing to use a bowl or plate. Your job might not afford you the time and room to do this, but if you can, all the better.
 
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THERMOS LASAGNA
 
What the heck is thermos lasagna?
It’s something one of our admins made up just for our cookbook.
She got the idea from Chef Boyardee canned Lasagna (hate to admit it, but it’s true).
 
Cook 16 ounces lasagna noodles or any other fat pasta you like (Rotini, Rotelli, Penne, Ziti, Shells).
Do not over cook the noodles/pasta. Cook for 1 minute less than you normally wood.
Pasta will continue to cook a little more while it sits in a hot Thermos.
If you make lasagna noodles you need to cut them into bite size squares after cooking, or you can break them up into bite size pieces before cooking.
 
Make your own sauce or buy bottled, which ever is cheapest.
Make your own can be cheaper if you get canned tomatoes and puree on sale.
We like America’s Choice 28 ounce canned peeled or crushed tomatoes and puree (one can puree and two cans tomatoes).
America’s Choice is the store brand for Pathmark and Waldbaums and is often on sale for as little as 69 cents per 28 ounce can.
Add Italian spices to taste (salt, pepper, garlic, basil, parsley, oregano, bay leaf). See our fb discussion on making home made tomato sauce.
You’ll need at least 3-5 cups of sauce for each pound of pasta.
We recommend you always make extra sauce (the three we describe cans will be enough).
You can always freeze left overs.
 
Add ground beef or Italian sausage mix to the sauce (optional).
For a hearty vegetarian version you can add cooked sliced zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and/or spinach.
 
Combine well drained pasta with sauce (and meat or vegetables) in large a sauce pot.
(pot should be large enough that the pound of cooked drained pasta only fills the pot half way up)
Make sure pasta and sauce remain hot. Reheat over low flame in the pot if need be.
 
Combine 32 ounces of ricotta cheese, 16 ounces shredded mozzarella, and 1 cup grated parmesan.
We recommend Ronzoni. It tastes good and it’s often on sale for less than $1 and with coupons sometimes you can get it for free.
(Sargento ricotta and brick mozzarella cheeses are often on sale. Buy many and freeze them for later use.)
Add cheese mixture to pasta and sauce. Keeping all hot over low flame. Be careful, it can burn easily. Keep stirring, gently.
 
Mix all together, still keeping it hot the whole time.
It should get a bit think and creamy, maybe a little stringy and gooey.
If you like more cheese, add more cheese.
If you like more sauce, add more sauce.
 
Making sure all is still very hot, and place into a preheated wide mouth Thermos food container.
If it gets cold before you can pack it in the Thermos you should heat it up over the stove or in a microwave before packing into Thermos.
 
Serve at lunch time with a buttered roll or Italian bread.
 
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HOT PASTA SALAD
 
The best types of pasta for salads are fat and have nooks & crannies that hold the dressing. We suggest rotini or mini shells but just about any pasta will do.
We recommend Ronzoni. It tastes good and it’s often on sale for less than $1 and with coupons sometimes you can get it for free.
 
When packing home made pasta for a hot meal we suggest cooking slightly less than you normally would. If you normally cook for 9 minutes, we suggest cooking for 8. The reason for this is when it stays in a hot thermos all day it will cook a little more and if you cook fully before you pack it then it might get too soft (over cooked) by the time it’s eaten. Make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first, before adding the hot food (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out).
 
So what makes a hot pasta salad different from regular hot pasta, besides the temperature? The answer is the sauce or dressing. The best hot pasta salad is made with olive oil or regular salad dressing. If you use regular salad dressing you’ll need to experiment. Not all regular salad dressing tastes good when heated up. If you use bottled salad dressing it should be made of mostly oil. You can try a creamy bottled sauce like creamy garlic or ranch, but that’s all about what you like. Experiment, see what makes you happy. Buy what’s on sale and see if it works. Making your own dressing from olive oil and spices is always a good idea because it’s usually healthier and you can control the amount of spices and salt, and it doesn’t contain sugar and preservatives like most packaged salad dressings. You can also buy large bottles of olive oil on sale. And you can add any spices you like; salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, even crushed red pepper, hot sauce or turmeric for an Indian flare or chili for a tex-mex flavor.
 
Use your imagination and think of what flavors and spices you like, then add them to olive oil and toss with pasta and veggies and/or meat in a pan over medium heat until hot (do not over cook). Then put it right into a wide mouth Thermos food jar to keep warm until lunch time.
 
Serve with a roll, Italian bread, or bread sticks. A side of parmesan cheese added just before eating is also a great idea.
 
Suggested ingredients to add to your hot pasta salad are:
 
– chunked or shredded chicken or turkey
– julienned cooked pork
– crumbled cooked beef with taco flavoring (for a tex-mex salad, should be served with tortilla chips or flat wrap bread)
– tuna, canned clams, or mussels (well drained)
– shrimp, lobster, or crab meat (if you happen to get the canned or fresh stuff on sale)
– diced broccoli
– finely diced onion
– finely diced red & green peppers
– diced tomatoes (fresh is best but canned will do)
– finely diced or thinly sliced celery
– peas
– sliced or diced mushrooms (cut in large pieces because it will shrink a lot when cooked)
– string beans
– snap peas
– snow peas
– pre-cooked carrots (diced, thinly sliced, or julienne)
 
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COLD PASTA SALAD
 
The best types of pasta for salads are fat and have nooks & crannies that hold the dressing. We suggest sticking to rotini (looks like cork screws) or mini shells for cold pasta salad.
 
Cold pasta salad is usually made with the same type of dressing as your hot pasta salad – olive oil with spices or regular salad dressing works best. Making your own dressing from olive oil and spices is always a good idea because it’s usually healthier and you can control the amount of spices and salt, and it doesn’t contain sugar and preservatives like most packaged salad dressings. You can add any spices you like; salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil. Cold pasta salad dressing can also be made spicy, using crushed red pepper, hot sauce or turmeric for an Indian flare or chili for a tex-mex flavor.
 
Use your imagination and think of what flavors & spices you like, then add them to olive oil and toss with pasta and cooked veggies and/or meat, chill in the fridge until very cold, then put it right into a wide mouth Thermos food jar to keep cold until lunch time.
 
Serve with a roll, Italian bread, or bread sticks. A side of parmesan cheese added just before eating is also a great idea.
 
Suggested ingredients to add to your cold pasta salad are:
 
– chunked or shredded chicken or turkey
– shredded or julienned thickly sliced deli meat (any kind)
– tuna (well drained, room temp)
– cooked and cooled shrimp, lobster, or crab meat (if you happen to get the canned or fresh stuff on sale)
– diced broccoli, cooked and cooled
– finely diced onion, raw
– finely diced red & green peppers, raw or cooked then cooled
– diced tomatoes (fresh and raw is best but canned will do)
– finely diced or thinly sliced celery
– peas, cooked then cooled
– snap peas, cooked then cooled
– snow peas, cooked then cooled
– sliced mushrooms, raw or lightly sautéed in olive oil then cooled
– pre-cooked (but not mushy), then cooled carrots (diced, thinly sliced, or julienne)
 
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CHEF SALAD
 
Classic Chef Salad is essentially your favorite cold salad dressing with meat, cheeses and raw veggies. What you put into it is what keeps it from being boring. Serve with crackers, bread sticks or a muffin.
 
Cold Cooked Meats & Cheeses:
– sliced, chunked or shredded pork, chicken or turkey
– shredded or julienned thickly sliced deli meat (any kind)
– tuna (well drained)
– shrimp, lobster, or crab meat (if you happen to get the canned or fresh stuff on sale)
– crumbled bacon
– any hard or soft cheese that can be sliced, shredded, julienned, or chunked
 
Cold Raw Salad Veggies:
– lettuce is the base (any kind)
– baby spinach leaves
– thinly sliced red cabbage
– thinly sliced celery
– thinly sliced or julienne carrots (uncooked)
– thinly sliced onion
– thinly sliced pepper
– sliced mushrooms
– sliced cucumbers
– sliced tomatoes
– sliced or halved hard boiled eggs
– mandarin orange slices
– diced or thinly sliced apples
– sprouts (any kind)
 
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COLD BLT WRAP (with or w/o tuna salad, chicken salad, or sliced chicken breast)
 
Cold BLT Wraps are easy. Just make bacon and slice up tomatoes and lettuce as you normally would, but instead of using white bread you roll it (with mayo if you want) in a flat bread wrap. Do not put in fridge. The bacon should be room temp (not hot, not warm) if using mayo when you create the wrap. Once the wrap is rolled up, wrap the wrap in foil, place the foil wrapped wrap in a tall pre-chilled Thermos bottle. This will keep it at a safe temp all day.
 
If you want a heartier thicker sandwich, spread tuna or chicken salad on the bread before wrapping. Egg salad will also taste good. Omit the mayo if using tuna/chicken/turkey/egg salad. Or add shredded or thinly sliced cooked chicken breast with the bacon. This is a wrapped version of a triple decker BLT. 
 
Don’t worry if you can’t get your fingers in to pull the wrap out of the Thermos, just spill it out when ready to eat. If you make sure it’s wrapped securely (and not too fat) before you put it in the Thermos and you should have no problem getting it out easily and in one piece.
 
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THERMOS HOT DOGS
 
Yes, another PracticalWaysToSaveMoney original. 😉
Place 2 or 3 cooked hot dogs into a tall Thermos filled with boiling hot water.
Hot dogs stay in the Thermos filled with water until lunch time.
Wrap hot dog buns in wax paper or plastic to keep them fresh until lunch time.
Put dogs on buns when ready to eat.
 
Serve with a side of hot Campbell’s pork & beans (kept in a hot wide mouth Thermos food container).
Serve with packets of ketchup, relish, or mustard left over from your last trip to the hot dog cart or mini-mart.
Or, if you don’t have packets you can put some in mini plastic bags (can buy them by the thousands online) and squeeze out of bag when preparing the hot dogs.
 
Hot or cold sauerkraut or potato salad can also be kept in a hot or cold wide mouth Thermos food jar.
 
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ROTINI PASTA IN TOMATO SAUCE
 
> Very basic but a good change from typical sandwiches.
> Serve in a warm wide mouth Thermos food container. 
> Add mini meatballs if desired.
> You can also use other pastas like mini shells, rotini, or penne. But we don’t recommend spaghetti or linguini sitting in a Thermos all day – gets mushy too quickly.
> Cheese sauce is also an option but should only be attempted if you’ve worked with cheese sauce before. Cheese sauce doesn’t always sit well in a Thermos.
> When serving pasta and tomato sauce to be eaten later there are a few tips that will make it more palatable.
 
* Make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first, before adding hot food (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out).
 
* Cook your pasta slightly less than you normally would. If you normally cook for 9 minutes, we suggest cooking for 8. The reason for this is when it stays in a hot thermos all day it will cook a little more and if you cook fully before you pack it then it might get too soft (over cooked) by the time it’s eaten.
 
* Add a little more sauce than you might normally. This will help keep the pasta (and optional meatballs) warm and moist until you’re ready to eat it.
 
* Make sure the pasta, sauce, and optional meatballs are very hot before you put in the Thermos.
 
* Get creative with your sauce. Canned or home made, but think about adding cooked onions & mushrooms or what ever will make it a heartier and more interesting meal.
 
* Bring a side of cheese, to be added just before eating.
 
* Serve with a buttered roll, Italian bread, or bread sticks
 
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CHINESE FOOD
 
Home made Chinese food is not as hard to make as you might think. But if you’re making it for a brown bag lunch we recommend you first practice making it for an eat at home dinner to make sure you’ve got it down.
 
The easiest and most basic home made Chinese food to make is chicken and vegetables in a brown sauce. You will need to adjust the amounts of water and sauce for your own taste. Some people like a strong sauce, some like it hot, some like it super thick. There is no right or wrong – it’s what you like. Experiment with it until you get it the way you like it.
 
* The steps below should be done quickly, no waiting in between steps. Have all of your ingredients ready and measured out before you begin. Steps 4 thru 10 should take no more than 30-60 seconds per step. If you do not move quickly through the steps you’ll over cook your veggies. Do not over cook meat or veggies. You don’t want mushy or limp Chinese veggies.
 
1. Cut up one pound fresh chicken breasts into short pieces, thinly sliced and julienned (about 2″ long, 1/4″ thick, like the size of thick French fries), coat in corn starch (corn flour).
2. Fry in 12″ stainless steel fry pan on high heat in thin layer of vegetable oil until cooked all the way through. If you get shrimp on sale, go for it. Cook shrimp only until it is no longer grey in color. As soon as it’s white or pinkish it’s done. Do not over cook shrimp, you’ll ruin it.
3. Remove cooked chicken (shrimp) from pan and set aside.
4. Add vegetables (frozen or fresh, see choices below) to the oil. Do this carefully. Frozen or wet veggies can cause the hot oil to splatter and pop. Keep on high heat.
5. Add 1/2 cup room temperature water. Watch out for splatter. Stir veggies constantly (like stir fry).
6. Immediately add 1/4 cup teriyaki or soy sauce. Our favorite is Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds. http://www.soyvay.com/
7. If you like it hot/spicy, immediately add hot sauce (any kind, but Chinese chili sauce is best). Add a small amount at a time, taste as you go. Continue to stir.
8. You now have hot veggies in a brown sauce, the sauce will be the consistency of water.
9. Thicken the sauce by adding small amounts of flour, a little at a time, until the sauce is the thickness you desire. If you prefer you can use corn starch to thicken. Corn starch is what the Chinese traditionally use, but it cannot be added to a hot liquid alone, you must mix corn starch in cold water first, then add the corn starch & water mixture to the hot mixture. Start with a heaping teaspoon of corn starch to 1/2 cup of water and add the mixture a little at a time to the hot sauce. You might not need it all, it may get thick enough before you use it all.
10. Once the sauce is thick, turn off heat and add the meat back into the pan, stir quickly until meat is coated with sauce.
11. Serve over rice. Using two wide mouth Thermos food jars, one for the Chinese meat & veggies in sauce, the other for the rice. Plate at lunch time. Don’t forget to include a serving plate or bowl in the lunch bag.
 
VEGGIE CHOICES:
* Just broccoli. This is classic chicken & broccoli.
* If you want Chicken and mixed Chinese vegetables, the traditional Chinese vegetables to use are:
Chopped Bok Choy (or Napa Cabbage)
Sliced Celery
Thinly Sliced Carrots (very thin)
Water Chestnuts (canned)
Sliced Red or Green Peppers
Snow Peas
Snap Peas
Bean Sprouts (drained from a can, or fresh)
Bamboo Shoots (drained from a can)
 
HAVE PRE-COOKED FROZEN RICE READY TO USE:
It’s always a good idea to have pre-portioned pre-cooked rice in your freezer for use any time you need it.
Since pre-cooked bagged rice is more expensive, you should make your own rice purchased in bulk.
Cook a large batch of rice. Don’t over cook (since it will be reheated later, which cooks it a little more).
Let the batch cool to room temp, then tightly pack into 1 cup glass containers, cover, and freeze.
Each tightly packed cup is one portion, although a hungry man might want 2 cups.
If you pack in 1 cup containers it gives you the option to defrost or heat 1 or 2 cups at a time.
 
HOW TO QUICKLY HEAT UP FROZEN RICE:
Remove 1 cup container from freezer, remove top.
Place cup of frozen rice upside down in a small bowl with about 1/4 cup of water.
Microwave for 4 minutes.
Remove from microwave (careful, will be extremely hot) and poor off excess water.
Lift glass container and shake out rice (again, careful, the glass will be extremely hot).
Fluff rice with fork.
Immediately transfer hot fluffed rice to wide mouth Thermos food container while steamy hot.
 
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CHICKEN SCAMPI  with Rice or Noodles
 
Chicken Scampi may sound exotic and difficult but it’s actually very simple to make.
 
Cut up chicken breast or thighs, sprinkle with garlic granules, then fry in thin layer of olive oil over high heat.
Turn heat to low after fully cooked.
Quickly add minced garlic to cooked chicken and oil, stir. (quickly so you don’t over cook meat)
Quickly sprinkle Italian style bread crumbs all over chicken, just enough to get a little on each peace.
Add butter (about 4 pats of butter for a 12″ fry pan full of chicken). Stir until melted. Butter is optional.
That’s it, you’re done.
Serve over egg noodles, pasta, or rice.
 
For bagged lunch we suggest either putting rice/pasta/noodles in bottom of very large wide mouth Thermos food container and place the chicken on top.
OR, keep chicken and rice/pasta/noodles in separate hot Thermos jars until read to eat. Don’t forget to include a serving plate or bowl in the lunch bag.
 
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BEANS & RICE  (with or without meat)
 
The combination of beans and rice makes a protein, so meat is not necessary and that makes this a very cheap but healthy meal.
Make rice ahead of time and freeze single portions.
Heat rice thoroughly before placing in hot Thermos container.
Bean mixture can be in a separate Thermos container and then served together on a plate when ready to eat. Don’t forget to include a serving plate or bowl in the lunch bag.
Make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first, before adding hot food (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out).
 
So what to do with the beans?
Beans and rice are like a blank canvas.
You can do just about anything with beans and use any beans you like, what ever is on sale.
Your imagination and your budget is your only limit.
 
> Tomatoes (crushed, diced, or puree) and beans are always a good combination.
> Add some brown sugar to your sauce for a fun kick.
 
> If you prefer more of a brown sauce just thicken up beef bouillon with some corn starch or flour (instead of tomato sauce).
 
> Caramelized onions would be fantastic with either red or brown sauce.
> Diced green peppers are great with beans.
> Diced celery is also a good choice.
> Minced or roasted garlic if you dare.
> Frozen or canned corn (well drained if using canned).
 
> Add what ever herbs and spices make you happy will be perfect; salt & pepper, thyme, paprika, red pepper, chili powder, parsley, cayenne pepper, cumin
> Cajun or tex-mex seasoning alone is sometimes all you need.
 
If you want to add meat, just about any meat will do.
Shredded or diced left over chicken or turkey or diced lunch meats, sliced sausage or kielbasa, ground beef, chopped bacon, shredded pork, pork or beef ribs, even diced Spam.
 
Google this for more suggestions:
recipes for beans and rice
 
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THERMOS BURRITOS
 
Home made burritos are as easy as making beans and rice and wrap sandwiches.
Burritos can easily be kept wrapped in a tall Thermos bottle (same as wrap sandwiches)
 
Quick, easy and cheap burritos are simply mashed kidney beans (navy beans or black beans if that’s all you have) with tex-mex seasonings to taste. Spread on a round tortilla wrap, add diced onions & tomatoes (or salsa), add some cooked rice (optional), shredded lettuce if you want, roll it up and wrap in wax paper and foil. Place in a tall Thermos container. Make sure you wrap it so it fits a little loosely in the Thermos container, so it slides out easy. Make sure your Thermos bottle is preheated first (pour hot water inside, let it get hot, the pour the water out).
 
Serve with tortilla chips and optional cold salsa on the side (put the salsa in cold wide mouth Thermos food container).
 
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BREADED CHICKEN CUTLET & Onion on a Roll or Hero (with or w/o bacon)
Served hot or cold.
 
INGREDIENTS:
Fry thinly cut breaded chicken breast or thighs, drain off excess oil or pat dry.
Sliced onion.
Cooked bacon slices (optional)
Mozzarella Cheese (optional)
 
Place all on a roll, on hero bread, or in a wrap (chicken and bacon can be hot or cold, cheese can be cold or melted if you have access to toaster oven)
Add optional mayo or Russian dressing.
 
Serve with your favorite potato chips.
 
How do you serve this kind of sandwich hot when you’re brown bagging and have no toaster oven?
Hot fried chicken right out of the fry pan can be wrapped in foil then placed into a pre-heated wide mouth Thermos container.
Same for bacon.
The roll is kept in a plastic baggie.
All other ingredients are kept in a separate container that keeps them cool.
The sandwich is assembled just before eating.
It won’t be hot, but the meat should be warm if you have a good Thermos jar that’s been preheated.
 
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SARDINES
 
Sardines sandwiches are extremely simple, very healthy, and if you get them on sale it can be a cheap meal.
The classic sardine sandwich is served on a roll with sliced onion at room temperature.
You can also eat them with crackers (with or without cream cheese).
 
We’ve tried many different types and brands of sardines. Our favorite, which can be bought in bulk from Amazon (and is often on sale at CVS) is Crown Prince. Crown Prince makes many different types. All have pull top cans for convenience. We prefer Natural Wild Caught Skinless & Boneless in water. You can get it on Amazon for $1.92 per can right now (when you order 25 cans with subscribe and save, and free shipping). Sometimes they are on sale at CVS for less, but most stores (in NY) sell them for about $2.35 to $2.75 per can. Depending on how thick you like your sandwich. You can get one or two sandwiches out of one 4.37 ounce can.
 
Serve with a side of pretzels or chips.
 
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REV UP YOUR TUNA SALAD:
Yes, tuna salad is typical, but if you change up the way you make it then it won’t be so boring and you might not mind eating it as often.
 
We prefer Bumble Bee Solid White Tuna packed in water but Bumble Bee Solid White is a bit expensive so you might want to go with a cheaper brand or type. If you go cheaper you should add a few squirts of lemon juice. That, and draining the tuna can well will cut down on the fishy odor that usually comes with cheaper tuna. If tuna gets boring we suggest you add one or more of the following ingredients.
 
– Pepper is a great spice for tuna. Add it with lemon juice, it’s a classic flavor for hot tuna and also works great with cold tuna salad
– Diced Cheese (what ever kind you like, we like cheddar)
– Diced Tomatoes (this is a great way to use old tomatoes that are beginning to wilt)
– Diced Onions
– Diced Peppers
– Diced Pickles
– Frozen Peas (no need to cook, just be sure you defrost first by leaving out or dipping quickly in hot water)
 
An old deli/diner trick to extend your tuna (make more sandwiches per can) is adding bread crumbs. You don’t even have to buy bread crumbs. You can use old stale bread. Just be sure to chop it up very fine. Add a little at a time, tasting as you go. After a few tries you’ll learn how much you can add and still not realize there’s bread crumbs mixed with your tuna. You can get 4 sandwiches out of one 8 oz can of tuna if you add enough extras and fillers.
 
Tuna on bread can quickly get soggy in a lunch bag and that alone can be so unappetizing you may not want to eat it. And if you don’t eat it, then it goes to waste and that means you’re also wasting money. So we suggest keeping the bread and tuna separate until it’s time to eat. Keep your tuna in a one 1 cup round Pyrex glass container (or similar). Fill it about 3/4 the way up of a one cup container for white bread or a roll, or fill all the way (one full cup), packed tightly if you’re packing for a large piece of hero bread.
 
Another way to keep tuna salad from getting boring is to change the type of bread you use each time. You can also eat it with multi grain bread or crackers instead. Flavored crackers will also break up the boredom.
 
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REV UP YOUR CHICKEN or TURKEY SALAD 

 
Buy chicken or turkey breasts in bulk to get a good price.
Bake or fry then drain. Cut up and mash like tuna or dice (what ever you like best).
OR
Our favorite way is to roast an entire chicken or turkey and what ever is not eaten that night for dinner is used for your salad. The best tasting salad is made fresh, just as the cooked bird is cooling down. After dinner, as the bird is almost cool, but not quite, pick all the meat off the bone (white and dark). Dice then put in a big bowl. Add mayo immediately. Doing this keeps the meat moist. If you wait too long, if you wait until the bird completely cools down before you add mayo, the meat will begin to dry and this makes a huge difference in taste and texture. And remember, if you don’t like what you make for lunch you won’t eat it and you’ll waste your money.
 
Just like with tuna salad, add ingredients to keep it from getting boring and to get more flavor (see tuna salad suggestions above).
Just like with tuna salad, you can get more out of it if you add bread crumbs.
Chicken and Turkey salad will need salt too (never add salt to tuna salad).
 
As with any salad, keep the bread separate until you’re ready to eat. A one 1 cup round Pyrex glass container is perfect for keeping your chicken or turkey salad. Fill it about 3/4 the way up for white bread or a roll, or fill all the way, packed tightly if you’re packing a large piece of hero bread.
 
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If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

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