How To Pack a Lunch Your Husband Will Eat
Call me old fashioned, but I pack my husband’s lunch.
Every work night.
Before I dive into my strategies for packing a lunch he’ll actually eat, lets get a few things out of the way:
Yes, we both work, and we both work basically the same hours each week. He does work outside as a heavy equipment operator, whereas I work inside on a computer, but that’s not why I pack his lunch.
Also, I do basically all of the cooking and cleaning up in our house. It’s not because he won’t, it’s because I genuinely enjoy it, and because I want he and our daughter to have plenty of time to bond while I enjoy some alone time – doing something I really, truly enjoy – cooking dinner and cleaning up.
So, what does the hubs do? Laundry, and loads of it. He also keeps our daughter on task with her little chores, takes care of the dog, and tons of other tasks that I couldn’t possibly keep track of. Our system of shared workload works for us, even though it may not seem fair to the naked eye.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk a little bit about packed lunches.
I work from home, so I don’t need a packed lunch, but since he works outside – and eating out would cost us a cool $700 extra each month – I pack his lunch every night to take to work the next day.
It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds.
See, not only is the weather unpredictable, his work location is as well. He work for St. Louis County Parks as a Heavy Equipment Operator, which means that on a given day he could be working at ANY of the parks in St. Louis County.
And there are lots.
Now, he usually knows in advance where he’s going for the day, but he rarely knows what the lunch situation will be. Will be there a microwave? A stove? A fridge? His guess is as a good as mine.
To add to the complexity of packing a lunch he’ll actually eat, he’s a tad bit picky. When at all possible, he really likes to avoid sandwiches. I can’t blame him, really. When we were in college and broke, he at sandwiches at work every single day for two years. So while he’ll gladly eat a sandwich as opposed to nothing, if a hot meal is at all possible, he definitely prefers that.
I try to cook extra at dinner and package it up for his lunch the next day, but as you can see, packing the hubs a lunch he’ll actually eat isn’t done there.
We went ’round and ’round about his lunches for a couple of years: I would pack his lunch,, then he wouldn’t eat it for any of the reasons listed above, and then if there was a fridge it would spoil in his crazy hot car, and I would be mad about the wasted food.
So, I came up with a 3 part strategy for packing a lunch for him that he wants to eat, and that takes into account every single weather, appetite, and lunchroom situation:
- The Hot Lunch Strategy
- The Cold Lunch Strategy
- The Too-Busy To Eat Strategy
I’ll go into detail about each of these options in the next section, but before I do I want to share how well this system has worked. In the last few months of implementing it, not only have we wasted less food than ever, our food costs have dropped, and even the budget we had allotted for his protein powders (he’s a weight lifter) has dropped because he’s consuming them at the right times of the day.
Additionally, he’s been losing weight because of eating less food, eating smaller meals at regular intervals, and eating healthier foods in general.
Let’s dive into these strategies so you can see just how I pack him a lunch he’ll actually eat!
The Hot Lunch Strategies: Pack Up Leftovers
This first strategy takes care of the hot lunch component, so if he has access to a microwave at whatever jobsite he’s at that day, he can have a hot lunch. I try to keep this very easy, and just cook a little bit extra at dinner, and then pack up the extra serving or two for his lunch the next day.
This strategy is made even easier by the fact that we use eMeals for our dinner meal plans, and I would honestly recommend it to anyone struggling with meal planning or cooking at home because of how inexpensive and convenient it is. Even though there are 3 of us, I use the meal plan designed for 4 people so I’m automatically shopping for and cooking enough that there are extras for lunch the next day.
To make him actually want to eat the lunch, provided he has a microwave, I also try to be smart about how I pack up the leftovers. I usually pack up the entree and vegetable together, but if it something that could get soggy (like tacos) I’ll leave any sauces that could make it get soggy overnight in a separate container. It’s an extra container I have to pack, but well worth it when he gets a hot lunch.
The Cold Lunch Strategy: Packing Tips for Sandwiches or Wraps
Once I’ve handled dinner leftovers, I move on to making him a cold lunch, so that if he doesn’t have a way to warm up his food, he can still have a sandwich. Unless we know for sure he’ll be eating the cold lunch, I try to stay away from Peanut Butter & Jelly, or any other sandwiches that put wet filling directly against the bread or wrap, because that can make the bread soggy overnight or in the lunchbox.
For lunch meat & cheese sandwiches, he likes condiments like mayo and mustard. I really don’t like waiting until morning to make his sandwich, so I put the condiments between the meat and cheese, isntead of directly on the bread. It makes the sandwich slide around a little bit, but it’s worth it to avoid a serious soggy bread situation.
Occasionally, I’ll make him a wrap, and in that case I leave condiments (usually BBQ sauce or ranch) off and put them in a small container so he can dip the wrap as he goes.
Finally, instead of baggies, I find he likes sandwiches a lot more when I put them in sandwich-sized containers rather than baggies because they don’t get squashed.
Usually the cold lunch consists of some sort of sandwich or wrap, such as chicken or tuna salad, or lunch meat. Sometimes, if we’re feeling flush or I have absolutely no time, he gets a can of spaghetti-o’s because he loves them and will eat them cold.
The sandwich portion isn’t fancy, but it works. And like I said, it’s not his favorite, but it has to be there in case he’s not able to warm up the hot lunch.
The Too-Busy To Eat Strategy: Protein Shakes
The final frugal lunch-packing strategy I employ is actually a really simple one, and although it seems kind of expensive, in the long run it actually costs us less.
My husband is a weight lifter, and although you could use meal replacement shakes if your husband wasn’t, he drinks a couple of protein shakes each day. However, he was struggling with his muscle gains, and protein intake when I wasn’t packing him a lunch because he wasn’t eating enough protein, eating as frequently as he needed to, or even eating the right things.
So, each day I pack him a blender bottle with 1 premade protein shake inside of it + 1 container of protein for later in the day. Usually, he drinks the premade protein shake in place of breakfast if he’s in a hurry, or as a mid-morning snack when he gets hungry. He then rinses the blender bottle out really well in case he is too busy to eat when lunchtime rolls around, at which point he makes the second protein shake and drinks it while driving a truck or operating equipment.
It keeps his body in enough protein to keep it going, and fights off the hunger so he’s not starving when he walks in the door after work.
The Gear We Use To Make It Happen
These lunch packing strategies save us from shelling out nearly $700 a month in lunches out, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely free. Aside from the food costs (which can be drastically lowered with the strategies found here) we did have to purchase some gear to make lunches as convnient as possible:
This particular cooler is our favorite because it has a canvas (not plastic) strap, the outside is soft, but the inside is lined with plastic. It will fit all of his food in it quite easily, along with an ice pack.
Blender bottles are great for the obvious reason: they seal really well and they come with a blender ball to blend up protein shakes so they don’t have lumps. This particular combo pack is my favorite because the bottle is a bit shorter – perfect for protein shake sizes, and because it comes with a set of 2 smaller containers for protein powder that snap onto the bottom of the blender bottle to make the whole system easy to transport.
I usually gravitate towards super thin ice packs, like the ones above, so that they fit inside the cooler with all of that food!
To keep sandwiches from getting squashed by the other food or the ice pack in his lunchbox, sandwich containers are a MUST. Usually 3 is enough to send him one sandwich each day, and then wash the containers whenever we normally run the dishwasher.
Finally for leftovers, assorted containers, or portion containers like these are really helpful. They keep food in normal-sized portion, separate entrees from sides, and fit nicely inside of a lunch cooler too!
Yes, I pack my husband a LOT of food everyday. Some days he actually eats it all, but more often than not, he brings quite a bit of it home, which is fine as long as he didn’t buy food from a restaurant or fast food joint.
These strategies are designed to cover every contingency, but there will be leftovers, so each day when he gets home I make sure he bring in the extra food. From there, he takes care of placing empty containers in the dishwasher, putting leftover food in the fridge, and cleaning out his cooler for the next day.
If you don’t take care of the extra food, it will spoil, and waste money, which kind of defeats the purpose, but I find that it takes very little effort each day to pack him a lunch he’ll actually eat and to save quite a bit of money in the process!
What is your favorite strategy for consistently packing a lunch? I would love to hear your best ideas in the comments!
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