For college students living off campus, planning and preparing a lunch for the next day can seem like a real bother. What if you live on campus and don’t have lunch as part of your meal plan?
How can you find a pre-made lunch or create one on your own so that you can just grab it and go? Finding a healthy, easy, cost effective way to assemble a pre-made lunch can be a big challenging. Many of the prepackaged kit lunches you find in the grocery store contain a lot of processed or high sodium foods.
Here are some ideas for quick, easy pre-made lunches that won’t break the bank.
< LUNCH AT HOME OR IN THE DORM > –
*Peanut butter and jelly –
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is very quick and easy to make. It’s also very cheap. Most brand name peanut butter doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but the jelly may need to be.
*Prepackaged dried fruits and nuts –
Prepackaged dried fruits and nuts are a good and easy thing to grab in a pinch. If you have a piece of fruit to eat with it, this will tide you over until you can eat a real meal.
TAKE AND BAKE PIZZA –
You can buy a take and bake pizza at a number of places. Pappa Murphy’s is the national chain that introduced the take and bake concept, and their pre-prepared pizzas are oven ready. Now you can find these pre-made pizzas at grocery stores, Walmart and Sam’s Club as well as other places. Papa Murphy’s pizzas are very reasonably priced.
FROM THE FREEZER –
*Frozen entrees –
Stouffers makes excellent macaroni and cheese and lasagna that can be found in the freezer section at any grocery store. The only work involved in preparing it is unwrapping the package, putting it in the oven and taking it out. These aren’t as fast as microwaveable entrees.
The Budget Gourmet makes it possible for you to have everything from shrimp scampi to fettuccine Alfredo for lunch. Lean Cuisine has similar offerings as does Healthy Choice.
*Frozen pizzas –
As frozen pizzas go, Totino’s makes a tasty inexpensive pizza with a deliciously crispy crust. If you want a pizza that is loaded with toppings, then go for Tombstone Double Stuff. Great pizzas for a modest price.
If you are looking for something really fast and you want a hot lunch, consider something like whole wheat lean pockets. You can get a package of two lean pockets for under $2. Wrapped in a whole wheat or whole grain crust, you can find anything from ham and cheese to broccoli, chicken and cheese. In 2 1/2 minutes, your microwaved lunch is ready.
*Healthy Choice Steamer Bowls –
Healthy Choice Steamer Bowls offer hungry college students a healthy, albeit small serving of an entree that includes pasta or rice, vegetables and meat. They are packed in a two layer steamer bowl system in which the dry ingredients are in the steamer basket above and the sauce is in the bottom. All you have to do is take the outer package off.
Leave the plastic cover on the bowl and put it in the microwave. After just over two minutes in the microwave, your meal is done. Carefully pull the plastic off and lift the steamer basket out of the bowl. Dump the contents into the bowl and serve. For just over $2.00, you have a low calorie, low fat delicious tasting lunch that required no effort.
< SHELF STABLE CHOICES > –
*Instant organic soups –
There are several organic food companies that make instant soups to which you only need to add hot water. Available varieties include lentil soup, split pea soup, black bean soup and others. As long as you have access to some boiling water and a spoon, this lunch will take no more than five minutes to prepare.
*Macaroni and Cheese –
There is an instant type of macaroni and cheese that only requires that you add water. It comes in single serving portions. Then of course, there is the stuff in a box. Cook the macaroni, add milk, water and the cheese mix. Lunch is ready in 15 minutes.
*Soup On The Go –
The Campbell Soup Company has many single serving containers of soup on the go. They even have a classic tomato soup that can be heated in the microwave. These containers have a lid from which you can drink. The down side is that the can is still rather hot to hold. Still, for something that requires no more effort than pulling the top off the can, this is definitely easy and pre-made.
*Dinty Moore Beef Stew –
Dinty Moore beef stew comes in a can in single serving sizes. There is a huge size for very hungry people (although it would serve two,) and single serving sizes. Like the soup, the only thing you have to do is pull the metal lid off, put the plastic lid back on and heat it up. The price of these foods ranges from $1 to $2.
*Campbell Soup Meals –
Campbell Soup Company recently introduced new soups that contain entire meals for hungry people. They are now available in individual serving cans that can be microwaved. They tend to be more expensive, although $2 for a meal isn’t unreasonable.
*Packaged tuna, mayonnaise, relish and crackers –
Kraft food has assembled a packaged lunch that consists of a 3 ounce can of tuna, a packet of mayonnaise, a packet of relish, a knife, a spoon and some crackers. There is also a plastic bowl that you can use to mix the tuna salad in. This is something that is sold at drug and convenience stores.
REFRIGERATOR ITEMS –
*Cheese and fruit –
The cheese section of most grocery stores sells individually wrapped pieces of cheese. One can also buy individually wrapped single servings of string cheese. Grab a couple of hunks of this cheese and a piece of fruit, and you’ve got a modest, albeit healthy lunch that should tide you over.
*Yogurt and fruit –
Yogurt can be purchased in single serving cartons. It is also readily available in college and university cafeterias. A carton of yogurt and a piece of fruit can tide you over in a pinch.
*Pre-made sandwiches –
In the refrigerated section, one can pre-made sandwiches that are made by Hormel or other established companies. They are on the expensive side, but you can get hot ham and cheese on a croissant, on foccaccio, or hot beef and other varieties.
*Oscar Mayer cheese and crackers –
One can also find Oscar Mayer packages of individual lunches that include meat, cheese and crackers.
*Cottage cheese and fruit –
Breakstone introduced individual servings of cottage cheese in a dual package that contains fruit on one side and cottage cheese on the other. This is a perfect, easy, portable and inexpensive lunch.
Obviously this is by no means a comprehensive list of what’s available. It is an attempt to show a range of choices that are suitable for home or the dorm and shelf stable choices that can be eaten anywhere. There are many other prepackaged things from which one can choose.
For students who live off campus, an easy way to throw a lunch together is to use your previous meal’s leftovers. Leftover meat and left over salad can be thrown together in a plastic container. One can even find containers that are designed for salads and that have a special compartment into which to put the salad dressing. There are plenty of creative ways by which a college student can come up with ideas for pre-made lunches that are suitable for people on the go. With a little bit of advance planning and the willingness to use whatever is available, you can put together a “pre-made” lunch in no more than a few minutes.