You guys, I’ll be the first to admit that I despise packing my officer’s lunch. It’s not like it’s an overly complicated task-I just don’t like doing it! When I add it onto my schedule and his ever-changing shifts, lunch packing and meal prepping can seem like a nightmare.
I used to feel a lot of guilt about his boring lunches and the shortcuts we take, but lately I’ve been trying to give myself some grace. Sometimes, when my caseload is low, I have the time and energy to cook elaborate meals and make extra goodies for lunches. And sometimes, I forget to put ANYTHING into the lunchbox until he’s trying to head out the door! But that’s just life, friends. I made a list of our go-to food items below, that I’ve found (through a lot of trial and error) make prepping meals as easy and as healthy-ish as possible. Obviously the “single serve” options are pricier than buying in bulk, but this is where time versus money “cost” comes in. On weeks I have more time, I’ll divvy it up myself. On the weeks I feel like I don’t even have time to breathe, we buy them ready to go.
A couple of months ago I shared some of the lunches my officer takes to work on Instagram and SO MANY of yall asked “how the heck do you get him to take a lunch to work instead of eating out?!” My unhelpful answer is this: we simply try to avoid eating out, especially when it comes to work meals. We still remember being poor college students living off of Top Ramen, and find that the easiest way to make cuts in our budget is not eating out and ordering out that often. We still have regular date nights and do order take out sometimes, but we try to think of those times as treats and not necessities. The reality is we would WAY rather have the $5-$10ish a lunch out costs put into our savings account or going to a new gun or future vacation. It also helps that my officer works graveyards and not a lot is open at 3 am!
Single serve peanut butters. I used to be really against this one, since it seemed like a waste of money and packaging. But then I realized I hate cleaning out sticky peanut butter remains from Tupperware almost as much as I hate packing lunches, so single serve it was! Is this the healthiest option? No. The cheapest? No. But it works for us! I buy the Jiffy Natural in bulk or when it’s on sale. Find them on Amazon here.
P3s. These are such a convenient option! Again-could I pack the seeds/nuts/jerky separately? Yes, and sometimes I do! But these are awesome for the days we’re in an extra hurry. Find them on Amazon here.
Apples/celery/carrots. We always have easy and non-messy fruits and veggies in the designated drawer in our fridge. My officer loves dipping celery or apples in his peanut butter. These particular fruits and veggies are also easy to snack on and don’t require utensils or give off messy crumbs or juices.
Watermelon. This is one of our favorite fruits, especially in the summer when the weather is in the 100’s. It’s definitely on the messier side, but I always pack a fork with it and that seems to keep the sticky hands to a minimum. I like it because not only is it a fresh fruit that seems like a treat, but it’s also super hydrating.
Cliff bars. We buy the Costco pack, which lasts quite awhile, as often these bars come back unopened in my officer’s lunch on days where he didn’t need an extra snack. I like them because they’re hefty enough to fill him up and not particularly messy. They also last for a long time without going bad-if it doesn’t get eaten that day, it just stays in the lunchbox for next time. My officer’s favorite flavor is the white chocolate macadamia or the nut butter stuffed ones. Find them on Amazon here.
Jerky. We typically go through spurts of different kinds of jerky-teriyaki, turkey, BBQ, etc. It keeps well, isn’t messy, and is a great source of protein. We typically buy it at Costco under the Kirkland Signature brand.
Nuts and seeds. We also typically get these at Costco in the giant bags. I then divvy them up into small snack size baggies, or we buy the 100 calorie packs. My officer prefers the flavored kind of almonds, although they tend to be a bit messier, as well as peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and cashews. Sunflower seeds are also a win, especially on night shift! Find the almond packs on Amazon here.
String cheese or cheese slices. You guessed it-we also buy these at Costco. We alternate between string cheese and the Tillamook mini single serving sliced cheese. They’re good on their own or with apples or nuts for a heartier snack.
I typically spend one night a week (whatever our “Sunday” is for that week) cutting up a watermelon and packing it in tupperwares, sticking baby carrots in baggies, and slicing up celery. I also portion out nuts/jerky/snacks and put them all in a basket in our pantry. That way, everything is easy to grab and stick in our lunches the mornings of.
What are some of your favorite snacks to have on hand?