Food: Power lunches


Sharing her cost-effective budget, Elaine Lavery explains the ins and outs of packed lunches


I have never understood why people spend hundreds a year on crappy campus food lunches. No offence, but why spend €5-10 a day on food that you can easily make for less than €2, or in the case of leftovers, absolutely free?

A packed lunch will most likely be healthier and tastier. I remember being in first year of an all-girls private school and there definitely seemed to be some stigma about bringing your own lunch. It was like having the equivalent of a ‘Look at me, I’m poor’ label across your forehead. But at this stage, it’s just sad to see Orts-didn’t-get-the-points-for-Commerce-but-own-shares-in-Insomnia students trying to look cool in the Quinn school.

So how do you do it? 1. Decide what you like to eat. 2. Figure out if it can be eaten and enjoyed cold. 3. Establish whether it is transportable and will stay fresh throughout the day. It’s really that simple.

The excuse that you don’t have enough time is actually rubbish. You may not be able to make a gourmet soup every day, but some days there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned cheese and ham sambo. Any sandwich can be improved upon by varying relishes, mustards and indeed breads.

Pittas are especially handy and can be kept in the freezer until you are ready to toast and fill. Cream cheese bagel wrapped in tin foil – delish. Ryvita and a few slices of cheddar cheese – takes no time to throw together.

Pasta-wise, think tomato sauce, pesto, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, bacon, chorizo, feta cheese, pine nuts, rocket, and mixed leaves. Couscous is even quicker than pasta, only requiring soaking for five minutes before fluffing up with a fork and adding spices, herbs and other such delights.

Rice, quinoa, and beans all make healthy and satisfying lunch salads too – all of which are easily transportable in a trusty old lunchbox. In terms of leftovers, some obviously work better than others. Use your head. Cold pizza has always been a personal favourite.

There are some no-nos to remember. Homemade soups (or even fresh readymade ones) are great, but make sure to get a good thermos flask that will retain its heat. Also remember to rinse out and wash it as soon as possible, since it will retain strong flavours. Tomato-flavoured Barry’s Tea was enough to turn my stomach off using a thermos flask forever. Personally, I would recommend avoiding anything involving eggs, unless it is made and eaten in less than two hours. Too many people find their sulphurous odour offensive.

What’s the best thing about a homemade lunch? You know what you are putting into your body and it has been made by your hands. Without elaborating, it’s a lot more appetising if you really think about it.