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Healthy, Sustainable Diet in the Office  RSS feed

 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 441
Location: Ohio, USA
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Perhaps I am asking the impossible, but if your seeking answers to the impossible, permies is the best place to start.

During the day I live mostly in an office. The evenings and weekends I go home and vigorously work on my garden-farm. For food we throw on spaghetti, organic pizza or burritos, and whatever veggies are avialable between the grocery store and home. We do manage soup, and other food items occasionally, but what I'm getting at is those burritos have traveled way too far & have way too much wrapping involved in their life. I always sigh when I grab one unwrapp the plastic, wrapp it in napkins, and throw it into the office microwave. I know there must be some other way to live more sustainably and without constantly eating Amy's burritos and apples for lunch, but I'm hard pressed to find something fast to make and eat, requiring less use of packaging, having a smaller overall environmental footprint, and tasting really good (so I don't starve myself unintentionally). Cheaper would be nice too. Yes, leftovers would be a good thing, but we never manage to have it because we have an evening snacker. I've made my own frozen burritos, and wrapped them in cloth, but how many burritos can a person eat?!?!?

Thanks!
 
joseph wittenberg
Posts: 57
Location: aguanga, california
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Can you grow enough to feed yourself or have the time to go to a local farmer or farmers market? If so maybe you can just get whatever is in season and local, cook a bunch of different stuff, freeze it in reusable containers, and take it to work.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 713
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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as a cube monkey, i can offer up what i do.

if you are eating good for dinner then its pretty easy.
we generally cook enough food so there are leftovers. (homemade pizza, ohno ribs/cabbage/rice, stirfry has been the most recent meals)
when its clean up time, i package the leftovers in meal sized containers (Glass preferably) and put them into the fridge.
in the morning (or the previous night) all i have to do is pick an choose what i want to eat at work.
we got to a point where we were having trouble coming up with new meals each week, but then we found "emeals". they give you a menu and a shopping list that includes all the needed items. makes the list making/dinner deciding easier for us.

once i work, i use the local microwave to heat my food.
then use the sink to rinse dishes when im done.

i went from ~$200 a month lunch budget to ~$20 a month.
i did buy a decent insulated lunchbox for ~$20 and we use glass "tupperware" with plastic lids.
i also acquired a spare set of silverware that i leave at work. napkins i get in bulk and stash them in my desk.

the hardest thing to get over was declining to go out to lunch as had been the case for years prior.
now i am to the point where i would rather eat my food.


pro tip: dont bring in and heat up smelly fish if you work in a small office

hope this helps.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 441
Location: Ohio, USA
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Thanks! I have thought of that, but dinners are 70% my husband and 30% me and he doesn't usually like input. I guess I can go all-out when I get to make dinner and make like 5 different large dishes. If I do that sunday, then I'll make it moslty through the week. 2: I hate the microwave. It's plastic and it has to be plugged in to a strong power source to zap the food. It's supposedly less power consumptive than re-heating in an oven, and I do use it regularly because that's how the burritos get hot, but I'd like to move away from zapping my lunch, especially since 90% of the time there's a certain amount of plastic or non-edibles in the microwave with the food heating up next to it. Maybe I'm just paranoid, since I know people who have lived long healthy lives eating zapped food off plastic, but I have the distinct feeling it's not healthy. Glass containers are a good idea, but all lids seem to be plastic and the containers don't seal real well. Maybe mason jars would work? I have a water boiler pot at work for tea, so maybe I can water-heat the food & then have tea with my lunch? Maybe I can make condensed soups & just add water?

As for the menu: our dinners still usually travel miles and miles to reach us, mostly because we just moved last October and it's only May 1st. Does anyone know a few good yard-stuffs cookbooks that have high-caloric type meals (esp. proteins)? If I try to live off of Kale I'll probably end up going mad and eating the neighborhood cats raw in flurry of hunger. Or, any particular meal ideas here?

Thanks!
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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I don't work in an office anymore, but when I did, I liked to have some good healthy snack foods to bring with, as well as a light lunch. That way, I could snack a bit throughout the day, and the lunch part could be less complicated and fewer calories, but still satisfy. Find a couple of good granola/nut bar recipes and make a big batch, then freeze them in snack sized portions and bring a few with you to work. Keep fruit on-hand, especially fruits that last at room temp for a few days, like apples and oranges - you can bring a bowl of these with you at the beginning of the week. Keep a jar of homemade nut mix at work, I like to add sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to mine, as well as dried fruit.

As for lunch, I'm a big fan of salads. You can add all sorts of things on top of greens, and if you want to, greens are wicked easy to grow, even in a sunny windowsill. An easy protein-rich addition is chickpeas - cook up a batch at the beginning of the week and keep them in water in mason jars in the fridge. Drain and add to salads. If you have a fridge at work, you can make some homemade salad dressing and keep it there (some easy healthy dressings include good quality olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and you can add tahini, nutritional yeast, healthy herbs, etc). Other cold salads like pasta salad, lentil salad, quinoa salad are also easy to make in largish batches and will last for 5-7 days refrigerated, and help you avoid the microwave.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 361
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Do you have to eat a hot lunch, or is cold/room temperature an acceptable alternative?

At our house we eat a particular diet (low carb) which has made us think outside the box in terms of lunches. Hard boiled eggs, vegetables with cream cheese (or cream cheese rolled up in meat slices), chunks of cheese, olives, and cold sausages all feature heavily in our lunches. I almost never heat up my lunch at work, even if it's leftovers; at work I generally leave my leftovers out of the fridge and eat them at room temperature. They're usually out for about 3-4 hours before I eat them. If it's cold food such as hard boiled eggs or cheese, I keep them in the fridge and eat them cold. And if you have it, hot tea after cold lunch is nice

I also make a big batch of cream of (insert vegetable here) soup about once a week, which can be transported in a thermos--I use plenty of cream to make sure it satisfies and keeps me fuller for longer. Or occasionally a big batch of oatmeal cooked with milk, eaten at room temperature, with a teaspoon of jam and cold cream drizzled over.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 713
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Amit Enventres wrote: I hate the microwave. It's plastic and it has to be plugged in to a strong power source to zap the food. It's supposedly less power consumptive than re-heating in an oven, and I do use it regularly because that's how the burritos get hot, but I'd like to move away from zapping my lunch, especially since 90% of the time there's a certain amount of plastic or non-edibles in the microwave with the food heating up next to it.


im in the same boat, we wanted to move away from using a microwave but havent yet figured out a way to do it.

we even bought a toaster oven and moved the microwave out of the kitchen as a test.
we were able to get the food evenly hot enough in a toaster oven. the toaster oven takes 4x as long to heat the food up. the food also needs to be put on a oven safe plate.
after 2 toaster ovens and a month of frustration, we took the oven back and brought the microwave back out....

either my eating habits arent conducive to toaster oven use, or maybe we were using it right, but i was not a fan


another good lunch is a sandwich and cup of soup. sandwich doesnt need heated up and you can home make soup.
i also 2nd the idea of snacking throughout the day.
i generally bring a few types of fruits and some nuts, especially when leftovers are low.
 
tim rew
Posts: 13
Location: Cortland, NY USDA zone 5
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I use the microwave, but if I didn't want to, here's what I'd do. When you get a chance to cook, make gobs of food, freeze it immediately after dinner (to help fend off the evening snack attempts), and get yourself a 1 quart or so slow cooker (still electric heat, but no zapping and little to no plastic touching food, if you get one with a glass lid). Mason jars would certainly work as a freezable container that avoids plastic, if that's what you're after. Mixing it up with salads, sandwiches, and snacks are all good ideas too.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 441
Location: Ohio, USA
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Thanks all! I love all the ideas & Kelly, I know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like we're a battle ship when it comes to change. One of my other problems, now that I'm in the midwest, and atleast half the year nothing's local accept corn, beans, and wheat. I'm working on changing that with my 1/4 acre and buying local eggs and honey. With local eggs, I can sure work those sandwhiches and egg salads better. That and a blender and it shouldn't take much time. Potato salad (another of my favorites) also a cold yummy. Quinnoa is good, but I need to learn to grow it prior to making that a staple, same with tihini. Chickpeas are pretty easy though, so that'll be my next seed purchase, I think. I'm going to keep this thread open since so many good ideas are floating here and I have been in such a rut!

Thanks!
 
Patrick Mann
Posts: 303
Location: Seattle, WA, USA
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Legumes are very versatile, nutritious, and satisfying. You can make a hummus style dip with almost any bean - doesn't need to be chickpea - and eat that with raw veggies or whole-grain bread. Bean salad, again with lots of fresh veggies or herbs. Vegetarian chili.
I usually take leftovers to work; but today I just grabbed a hunk of home-made bread, a quarter cabbage, apples, and nuts. I guess I'm not a very demanding eater. A prepared meal that works really well for me: a giant dish of scalloped potatoes that I cut into portions and freeze.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 441
Location: Ohio, USA
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My only concern about beans (and this is a real one) is that I have to work with other people that may not want the after affects if I have too much.

As for the trick for no microwave, at home I think it's just think of food prior to being hungry. We haven't owned a microwave in 5 years. Fry up some tilapia, sprinkle salt & lemon juice. Takes 15 minutes and less to eat. Stick a whole butternut squash in the oven at 350 for 1 hour. Pull it out, place butter on top, serve. If you blend & freeze garlic and basil, pull out the cubes & melt them into a pesto topping. Potatoes can be treated similarly, but glorp on the sour cream instead of the pesto. Pasta's another 30-minuter. Chicken's an hour & a quick sprinkling of whatever herbs makes it perfect. We like the things that require less than 5 minutes of our time to make, even if it takes them an hour to cook, we just put them on at 5:30 for a 6:30 meal. Spaghetti requires a little more paying attention or the ground beef will stick together. but noodles, a jar of pasta sauce, and 1 lb ground beef seems to always disapear. Throw frozen spinach into the sauce for extra vitamins. Frozen veggies, in a pan with a 1/2 inch of water and a table spoon of butter. Walk away, wait for the frying sound, serve. We don't use a toaster oven much, just a regular stove & if we're really hungry, we focus on quick fry-ups and have a glass of juice to hold ourselves over.

Can't do that with a 1/2hr lunch, limited fridge space, and only a microwave.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Completely opposite to the low-carb thing-the traditional NZ 'school lunch':
Sandwiches-as has been mentioned, I often find it better to take the 'fixings' separately,
and put the sandwiches together on the spot so they don't go soggy.
Fruit
yoghurt. Just spoon it into a jar and add a dollop of jam or honey if that's your thing.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 212
Location: New Hampshire
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A friend of mine makes salads in Mason jars. She builds 5 at a time and the last all week. The key is how you add the ingredients to the jars.
This is a link to the first description I found on how to assemble them to keep the greens form getting soggy.
http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-pack-the-perfect-salad-in-a-jar-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-192174

I do a lot of pressure canning. This allows me to can jars of soups, chicken, chilies, stews, pulled pork and other heat and eat meals. This saves up when we don't have time to cook, easy meals when camping and good food if the power goes out. It all stores on a shelf for up to a year and I can control the quality of the ingredients. A small crock pot would be an easy way to heat theses meals up at work.
It is time consuming to make and can the meals but you can do 7+ quarts of food at a time.

This is a great book that covers canning.
http://smile.amazon.com/Ball-Complete-Book-Home-Preserving/dp/0778801314/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402411374&sr=8-1&keywords=ball+canning+book
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 203
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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You might want to look into Japanese style Bento lunches too. They tend to be eaten cold, often incorporate leftovers, and can be as simple or as fancy as you like. I pack them regularly for my daughter where I get a little fancy with cookie cutters but it's not necessary at all. http://justbento.com/ is a good place to start for adult versions. I take advantage of the lunch being out of the fridge to defrost meatballs I throw in straight from the freezer in the morning. Veggies, muffins, and egg items (quiche) can be prepared ahead of time too. While they traditionally included rice they are very adaptable to any dietary preferences.
 
Topher Belknap
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Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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Look into the 5 minute bread method.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 441
Location: Ohio, USA
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After contemplating and testing, I think I found my method. I love the ideas out there and have incorporated them into this method. The method is mass cooking, using mason jars (excellent storage - better than freezer bags or plastic containers), the refridgerator, the freezer, the pantry, the blender, and a large pot.

Day 1: Breakfast + A month meal (like 15 mason jars of smoothies)
Day 2: Fish/meat enough for 3 meals (most likely all in a row)
Day 3: Juice (blender + old fruit) (1 gallon or approximately what will last 1 week)
Day 4: 1 weeks worth of a dish such as mashed potatoes, coleslaw, chickpeas, carrot salad, quinoa, etc. (freeze some, fridge some, depending on the dish to make it last fresh)
Day 5: Cook up snacks (if necessary) (I usually make some pickles, though I've threatened granola bars)
Day 6: 2 more week meals + a meat dish.
Day 7: Off!
*have fresh fruit/berries, cheese, frozen veggies, & nuts at the ready to fill in the blanks and pizzaz it up.

It's been 2 weeks and I don't keep to the exact schedule, but I think I'm down to about 1 hour-ish of prep time 5 days, 3 hours 1 day, and off 1 day - and no more daily frozen burritoes! I have set a goal for myself to get the prep time per meal around 30 minutes 5 days and 1.5hrs 1 day, and 1 day off. We'll see.
 
Zach Muller
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When I am at work it is a similar situation with only a microwave and a short amount of time to eat. I have tried those frozen burritos but they just cost so much for their size. Everyone I work with will just drive over to a fast food place. What I found works best for my daily meal is
-cheese
-bread or crackers
-multiple pieces of fruit
-peanut butter
-piece of chocolate
-fresh raw pecans sometimes

If I have leftovers from dinner I will take them once a week or something to break things up. Sometimes I will also buy an organic roasted chicken and break it up into four pieces for meals.

If I eat everything over the course of a few hours I feel satisfied and good. By using different fruits, cheeses, and breads I can still have a variety and not feel like I am eating the same meal every day.
 
John Saltveit
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My wife is a vegan and I am accused of being a vegetarian all the time but I eat meat maybe 0-2 times a week and yogurt/kefir say 3-4 times.

We almost always have general categories of food on hand: sprouted grains and beans, leafy vegies (from the garden Feb-Dec 1) , solid vegies: roots, celery, carrots, broccoli, and herbs, many from garden. Then we take leftovers and new foods mixed in appetizing proportions and with seasoning.  Most frequent seasonings: soy sauce, weeds, chile, sliced quince, vinegar, dried lemon balm and other herbs from garden, real Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, citrus juice (garden Sept-Dec 1).  I put in glass container with plastic top in fridge night before, bring to school for my 30 minute lunch.  Don't heat in microwave, it just heats up to lukewarm naturally. I am anti-microwave.  Sometimes I add fruit from my orchard.  Cheap, delicious, healthy, sustainable.
John S
PDX OR
 
Nicola Marchi
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I work in an office every day and commute an hour and a half half to work, so cooking time and ease of preparing the meals is really important to me. Over time I've come up with these simple meals that I put together that all cook while I'm at work. Remember that the slow cooker is your friend.

The cheapest and simplest thing I make as far as main course is a roast chicken all in the slow cooker. All I do take a chicken that I bought at the store, spice it, and put it in the slow cooker while I'm at work. I set a timer on the slow cooker so that it only cooks 6 hours. When I come home it's still warm and it's pretty much ready to eat. Interesting thing about slow cooking a chicken is that the chicken meat becomes really fragile and you can make a really good pulled chicken out of it. This means after I had my drumsticks that first night and I shred the rest of the meat, which is really easy, so I can put it into the containers I'll be using for the next 2 or 3 days for lunch. The morning of work I'll take one of the containers out and pour a sauce on it whether that's a homemade or storebought BBQ sauce, honey mustard, red ranch, or even a homemade salsa. I then put some greens on the side to convince myself I'm eating enough of them. I eat this generally at room temperature, so after I take it out of the fridge it stays out on my desk until I'm ready to eat it for lunch.

If you've got a little bit more time you can use the pulled chicken to make chicken salads and those are absolutely fantastic cold. I personally adore curried chicken salads (i copykat the whole foods one) and could eat that for lunch almost every day of the week.

The same technique can be applied to a pork shoulder which I can use to make pulled pork after slow cooking. However I don't personally like cold pork as much as chicken.

The best part about all of this to me is that I don't have to worry about overcooking it; I don't have to worry about cooking it at all because it's happening while I'm at work. And taking what's coming out of the slow cooker and making something every day, that's actually pretty easy.

I'm going to rattle off a few other main dishes I make for lunch at work though I won't explain them: Steak salds, cold tomato soup, half a baguette and cheese, just about any appetizer you'll find at a nice party, sandwiches with cold cuts (keep mayo or other sauces separate until you are ready to eat so you don't have a soggy mess),  and pasta with pesto (it's not too bad reheated in a microwave).
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I have shared my mixed seed cereal on here several times. I have gotten into the pattern of starting my day with a high fat fruit smoothie and saving the cereal for lunch. It is cooked to a solid consistency with dried fruit, nuts, ginger and chocolate chips so I am eager to eat it at lunch. By putting it in a tea cozy in an insulated lunch carrier it is still warm at lunch time.  That's when my body is running low on fat and wants to switch to carbohydrates.
 
Maureen Atsali
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I read on another thread how someone had "donated" some microwave alternatives to their office... a small electric oven, a hot plate, and a toaster oven. They suck up the power, but I think they are preferable over a microwave.  They timed it so that they would pop into office-kitchenette and start their food heating before their actual lunch break, so that it was all ready to eat by break time.

 
Genevieve Higgs
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When I have no time (student + working part time + commute)  the following things help me eat well

Lining up 5 piles of one day's worth of fruit on the counter.   Often one day's worth is an apple, a mandarin and a banana but other things get swapped in when they are on sale. My kitchen nook is by the door and I literally sweep the fruit off the counter into the top of my purse as I head out the door.   Then the fruit is on top tempting me. Any fruit that comes back home is uneaten is baked in deserts chopped salads etc when I have time.

In fact assembling the next day's food the night before is much more successful than same day prep for me.

Making breakfast bagles:  toast a whole wheat bagel,  fry an egg,  add cheese, sliced lunch meat,  spinach and slabs of red pepper.   This keeps well for making two days worth of breakfast  + lunch at a time. You can add sauces or remove cheese or lunch meat to line it up with your preferences. The protein will tide you through with a zing in your step and if you add a thick layer of spinach it has a nice crunch.  (plus there is red veggie green veggie,  carb and protein in one place)

Keeping bags of mixed frozen veggies on hand - it may be inferior to fresh local veggies but it is superior to no veggies.   If I have leftovers with sauce and flavour I usually add a handful of veggies in to fill up my lunch container.   Taking 3 Tupperware type containers and putting 1/3 can of beans,  1/3 can of soup and filling with frozen veggies will make you 3 lunches of passable nutrition and flavour.   Is it gourmet?  No.   Does it surpass a personal pizza from a fast food place? Yes.

Bag salads and pre washed lettuce is good too. Just lay down a lush bed of green in a container and add your protein and carb over top. Is it as good as a leisurely walk through your garden muching on things? No.   But you can eat it in the hallway between lab and lecture.

Cooking 4 or more chicken breasts in a "Dry pan",  baking potatoes or yams, hard boiling eggs, stock piling mini yogurts, buying a pack of wholewheat raspberry scones, then having them in the fridge for grab n go will give you fuel.

Personally I have no problem with microwaves.   You just have to remember that they are "wet heat“ similar to boiling or steaming.   They work for soups not for toasted bread products.   As long as you microwave in glass there is no health worries.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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