This is a guest post from Valerie of City|Life|Eats (see her bio below). If you missed it yesterday, be sure to read Gluten-Free Lunchbox Tips Part 1.
Rethink the sandwich – While there are some good gluten-free breads out there, I find they tend to get soggy when made into sandwiches that are then packed until lunchtime. My approach it to have the bread on the side and assemble the sandwich right before I eat. Another option is to use crackers as a base for a snack plate, which is definitely more interesting and varied than a plain sandwich.
Rethink bread completely – To add variety, I also like to stuff sandwich fillings in brown rice tortillas (for tips on how to soften them, see here), collard wraps, Swiss Chard wraps and red pepper boats. Sometimes I stuff the filling into the wrap when packing lunch, but sometimes I keep the wrap component separate and wrap as I eat.
Embrace quinoa – When I am at a loss for a lunchbox, I often cook some quinoa and throw it together with whatever herbs and vegetables I have, and round it out with leftover tofu or some cooked beans (or both!). You can use just lemon juice and olive oil to dress the quinoa salad, or make a homemade salad dressing and pack that on the side. Another approach to quinoa is to top it with tomato sauce mixed with canned sardines or wild salmon for a fast but filling meal.
Be willing for items not to match – I used to really like my lunchboxes to follow a certain theme (i.e. Asian flavors, or mostly raw, or hearty mashed sweet potatoes and a protein and other sides), but that required too much work. Now my lunchboxes sometimes a noodle stir-fry with some veggies topped with vegan parmesan. No, the flavors do not go together, but since I bring lunch and two snacks, it is fine if the flavors do not match up completely.
Consider drinking part of your lunchbox – This is one of my favorite time-saving tips. I often have smoothies for breakfast, and it is not that much more work to make an extra smoothie and bring it to work for a late-morning snack. I am fortunate that I have only a 10 minute walking commute, so the smoothie does not spend a long time outside of a fridge, and I often use a small ice pack to keep it cold. I pack smoothie in glass jars and fill them to the top before putting a lid on them. I usually pour the smoothie for work into the jar before drinking my breakfast smoothie. Smoothies are also an easy way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables when your lunchbox would be a bit bare otherwise and you are short on time.
Finally, a note on time – I follow all the tricks to save time (cook ahead on weekends, make batches of things, freeze portions of leftovers) but I cannot deny packing a varied meal day in and day out takes time. I am lucky my husband also cooks many of our meals and that we both like leftovers. When I am really short on time, I tend to rely on more raw components in a lunchbox, but we all have to find the time savers that work for us. I hope these tips give you some ideas on packing tasty food to go.
Valerie blogs at City|Life|Eats about food, life, work, and living with food allergies and a modified diet. Her lunchboxes and recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and often, but not exclusively, vegan. You can subscribe to City|Life|Eats via RSS or email or connect with Valerie via Twitter or Facebook.