I am a person who likes to plan ahead. I try to know my schedule the day before, right down to what I will be eating for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. However, I, like just about everyone, find myself in unplanned, pinched-for-time situations in which I need to put a meal together fast. This happens especially at 7:45 AM, right before school.
The recipes here are some of my best quick school lunches. I talk about a variety of foods, and I hope that at least some of them are standard kitchen staples for those of you reading this. The times for preparation of these meals range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. And, while some are only ideas for the extraordinarily desperate last minute lunch packer, many are legitimate recipes that are both delicious and wholesome.
I hope you enjoy these food tips and recipes. Good luck with your last minute lunch!
Bunch of bananas (30 sec): Bananas are actually really healthy and okay to eat in large quantities. They contain almost every nutrient the human body needs, including a bit of protein. For this lunch, just grab a bunch of bananas, and bring it with you to school, work, etc. If there is time, you can also take some nut, seed, or peanut butter to eat with your bananas.
While I am sure most people reading this have seen bananas before or at least know what they look like, I have included the image of them for a reason. The bananas here are fully yellow, covered in spots, and relatively soft, which means that they are ripe and ready to eat. Unripe bananas, which have green areas and no brown spots, are much harder for the body to digest than ripe, spotty bananas. This makes it more difficult and less likely for the body to absorb all of the good nutrients bananas contain. Unripe bananas can also cause stomach aches, acid reflux, and constipation. You certainly should not eat a whole bunch of underripe bananas. Save your bananas for when they are ripe, and your body will thank you.
Melon (1 min): Cut a melon (or two if they’re small) in half, and pack a spoon to eat it with. Done!
Bag of fruit and/or vegetables (1 min): Fill a grocery bag or several smaller bags or containers with whatever random fruits and vegetables you can find. Clementines, oranges, baby carrots, and small bits of leftover vegetables are typical at my house, but the possibilities here are, clearly, endless. If you go with this meal, just make sure you bring a lot because fruits and vegetables are low in calories and will not get you as far as you think.
Dried fruit and/or nuts (1 min): This is something I bring all the time. Just grab whatever dried fruit or nuts you have, and throw them in a container. I like dried mango, raisins, dried cherries, and almonds.
Cereal (2 min): While I personally have never brought dry cereal for lunch at school, I do know people who bring it regularly. Ensure the vegan-friendliness of your cereal, and pack along some plant milk or yogurt to eat it with. If you are super low on time, you can just grab the box and go.
Juice (2 min): In most situations, I would not recommend juice as a meal. However, something is better than nothing, especially at school, so bring a big container of juice (100% juice is best), and sip it throughout the day to get you through as a last resort. Because pulpy orange juice contains most of the nutrients and fiber of a whole orange, it works well as a meal replacement. If there is the option, choose orange juice for a last minute lunch.
Now onto some simple recipes…
Hummus and vegetable sandwich (5 min): Take two pieces of bread or a wrap (ensure vegan-friendliness) and smear lots of hummus or other hearty dip (ensure vegan-friendliness) on both pieces. Fill sandwich with whatever vegetables you have. Here I used baby carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, and sunflower sprouts. I also like spinach, other types of sprouts, tomato, avocado, lettuce, cooked potatoes, and banana peppers. I recommend using whole wheat or gluten free bread for optimal nutritional value. Also, because my bread is small, I will eat about two or three of these sandwiches for a meal.
Can of beans (5 min): While you could just eat a can of plain beans, you could also turn those beans into something a little more exciting. Make a dressing for your beans using apple cider vinegar and mustard, Sriracha and soy sauce, or salsa and mashed avocado, then add in some vegetables. The very easiest thing to do is to add frozen vegetables, especially peas or corn. The vegetables can thaw throughout the morning, ready to eat around lunchtime. Here I took black beans, frozen corn, and chopped bell pepper with no dressing. I only used about half a can of beans here because I ate this along with a microwaved sweet potato, described below and shown above.
Leftover grains (5 min): Leftover grains are probably my favorite
lunch food. You can eat them plain, with raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, frozen vegetables, other grains, and/or with some kind of sauce. Here I took barley, raw spinach ripped into pieces, frozen mixed vegetables, and a little apple cider vinegar and dijon mustard. There are so many possibilities with this kind of meal. The next time you cook grains, make a little extra for quick lunches like this.
Microwaved potatoes (10 min): I normally stay away from the microwave. Even though I know (roughly) how it works and that it is safe, the microwave still kind of freaks me out by cooking food so very fast. However, I do recommend trying a microwaved potato at least once because it is a huge time saver in those moments when there is nothing else to eat. Wet a paper towel, and wrap it around a clean white or sweet potato. Microwave the potato on high for 5-8 minutes until soft. My medium-sized sweet potato took 6 minutes. Enjoy the potato as is or pair it with my quick bean recipe described above!
If you try any of these tips or recipes, let me know in the comments, especially if it saved you time, was good as a school lunch, or was eaten at another time of day and/or place. I love to read feedback!