Portable: A vegetarian chili makes for an easy portable lunch.
Portable: A vegetarian chili makes for an easy portable lunch.

If you’re like many, often finding yourself busily buzzing through chock-full scheduling, navigating human interaction, and, of course, taking care of the basic needs of self and others, grabbing take-out is too easy. 

However, maybe you’re needing a little lifestyle change and looking for tips and tidbits on packed meals.

Whatever the determining factors may be for packing your own meal (PYOM) –– whether a newly discovered dietary restriction, taboo, striving to consume limited foods or eating clean, trying to impress a special someone, limited budget, or the fiery passionate chef that’s been dormant dwelling within awakening with the urge to create and carry meals –– this brief entry aims to present a few pointers for successful scrumptious meals ready for journeying.

With time on the mind and always on the grind, one may say, ‘I don’t have what it takes to prepare from scratch.’ 

When rushed for time, lacking care can create more than slightly embarrassing, unworthy containers of mushy substance. 

Feeling like a waste, you revert to old ways of dining out.

Planning

Here are a few pointers supporting the quest to successfully and sustainably PYOMs.

Organization. Having a clean space to create is a must.

Pack the pantry with useful goods such as whole grains, nuts, legumes, flours, spices and dried fruits/vegetables/herbs.

Things like vinegar, mustards, oils, pickles and preserves are also handy to have around when concocting in the kitchen.

Keeping like ingredients near each other and putting them back in their zone is obviously efficiency 101.

I hate to sound like a hoarder, but hitting the shops one to two times per week and loading up the kitchen with goods will save time. Spend some time before heading to the store and generate a list of things you need to make the stuff you want to eat.

If you eat meat, frozen meats can be pulled out in between shopping days and utilized for general use or in stews.

Storage/containers. Fancy or not, plastics (BPA-free), glass or metal units to hold components of the packed meal is a must.

While the summer months are over, food borne illnesses are still relevant.

Insulated devices are ideal during transport. The last thing you want is to subject a loved one to biotoxins from the microorganisms found in the foods we eat.

Keeping food safe after it has been prepared in a clean environment is vital.

Having plenty of containers around gives the option of packing components separately.

Sauces for dipping? Salads and stews?

Thinking ahead to who will be consuming and when consumption will take place will support your success in PYOM.

If the meal is saucy, one may wish to contain that component separately to preserve preferred textures of other components.

Zippy bags are useful but not always reliable. Busted bags found in lunch boxes can really damper the day.

Natural flavours. Herbs, spices and fresh ingredients like garlic and ginger are not only highly bioavailable they stimulate neurological function.

Work them in as much as possible to stimulate the senses in making meals palatable. Perhaps a garnish of cilantro in your vegetable chili? Rather than the powdered instant beverages, squeezing and juicing your own fruit provides nutrients other than simple carbohydrates.

Micronutrients are key to balanced consumption. Eating and drinking a variety of whole foods ensures you’re covered and consuming a well balanced diet.

Leftovers. Often enough, last night’s dinners end up in the next day’s midday meal. Fine and dandy, but breakfast cereals can be harnessed with a container of yogurt, milk, or milky like substitutes to provide a feasible well rounded packed meal.

Here’s a quickie recipe that you can have by itself, with a baked potato, a biscuit, over a cup of rice, quinoa or millet. It’s versatile, freezable and shareable.

 

Vegetarian Chili

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup onion, diced

4 ounces tomato paste

1 green or red bell pepper, diced

2 carrots, diced

1/3 cup celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

3-4 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons thyme

2 cup black or small red beans

1 1/2 cups corn niblets

16-ounce can tomatoes, diced in juice

16-ounce bottle apple juice

20 dashes hot sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon oil

2 to 3 cups water

Directions

1. Wash, trim and cut all the fresh veggies into 1/4in dice.

2. Heat a large heavy bottom pot over high heat.

3. Pour oil into hot pot followed by fresh veggies. Reduce heat to medium low and cover the pot. sweat the veggies, stirring every couple of minutes.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and gently simmer for 20-35 minutes.

 

Chef’s Notes

This is something that can be tossed into the crockpot before you head to work. Start with two cups of water, add the third cup if necessary. It’s nice to serve this with some corn bread, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime.