My partner and I both work Monday to Friday, banker type hours. We, like many others out there, are on a fairly tight budget, and can’t afford to eat lunch out every day of the week. Not only for financial reasons, but it is often difficult to find a fast, on the run type of lunch that is still reasonably healthy. You can only eat a ham and cheese sandwich for so long, before it gets incredibly boring. We are so over canned soup, raviolis, and other simple canned lunches, and the frozen meat pies just don’t do it when you eat them repetitively day in and day out.
We no longer deal with the work lunch blues!
It is now our ritual to go out on Saturday or Sunday, whenever we find we have the most time, and select a number of ingredients we want to make out work lunch soup from. Sometimes, we go as far as looking up a recipe online, but generally speaking, soups are simple, and we like the creative option of throwing into the pot whatever we feel like eating for the week.
Once we get home, the food is prepped. If we have a busy rest of the day planned, everything gets thrown into the slow cooker, and it is set on low and cooked for the day/night. If we are just bummin’ around home, everything goes into the big soup pot, turned on relatively low, and we let it cook for as long as is necessary.
How much more simple can it get? Not only can we change up the soup every week, but if we really get crazy with our soup lunch plan, we can make a couple of soups each weekend, and freeze each soup in servings, and then within each work week, we can eat a different soup each day! (I’ll be honest, we haven’t got quite that coordinated YET… we’ll see.) You can also spice up your lunch a little by adding crackers (not so healthy, but gives a bit of variation), or having a piece of really nutty, grainy bread to go along with the soup.
There are, however, a couple tips to the slow cooker that we have found in our trial-and-error soup adventures. Some recipes direct you to put all ingredients into the pot and let it all cook together. This is a major issue if you are adding any kind of ground meat to the soup. If the meat is not cooked prior to addition to the slow cooker pot, the texture of the soup will be thick and there will be no defined portions of meat. It is kind of just a big vat of sludge – tasty, but if you are anything like me, that texture is hard to deal with. The next tip we’ve found is also very important, is making sure that you don’t overcook the soup. Your veggies will get mushy and at some point, it will turn again into a big vat of sludge. Make sure if you have time, to just cook everything on low and monitor the texture and condition of the soup every couple of hours. With any soup or stew, be careful as to how much barley, pasta or rice you add to your soup. If you add too much you won’t have much of a soup, but a thick, thick stew. Ensure that you have enough liquid to be absorbed during cooking, and to leave the soup at the consistency of your liking.
In the last couple of weeks we’ve done up a big turkey soup, which was amazing! (If you are having turkey over one of the holidays, save the carcass, toss it in the freezer and take it out for soup at anytime!) Last week was turkey, three bean chili and this week we’re going to do a very rustic chicken soup with barley, carrots, celery and a number of other veggies, whatever tickles our fancy while we’re at the grocery store.
During the winter months, I find there is nothing better than diving into a big, hot bowl of soup. This work lunch solution is perfect for the chillier months. Once it starts to warm up out there, we may have to adjust or rethink the lunch-saving plan of having soup, but there are so many options with a slow cooker, that even spring and summer lunches should be easily planned and executed, with lots of variety. Stay tuned for some of those yummy ideas…