Lunch used to be a problem.
It’s yet another decision that has to be made every day and it’s a strain on the wallet if you eat out every day. Eating out on the cheap usually means you’re eating garbage to boot.
A few years ago when I quit my job (again) and took the plunge to work full time on a startup (yet again), I made the decision to standardize my lunches.
By eating the same thing every day, Monday through Friday, I was able to eliminate a few problems:
- It’s one less decision to make. I’m decision fatigue truther and have a drawer full of the same gray and navy shirts to prove it.
- Going out for lunch would cut drastically into my personal financial runway. Longer runway means more time to invest in my project and potentially succeed.
- As I have become somewhat more health conscious, eating the same thing every day meant that I could have a really tight control over my caloric intake without experiencing much deviation week over week.
With standardizing my lunches every day, I did have a handful of requirements:
- Needs to be hot.
- Needs to be healthy.
- Needs to be something I can make once and eat off of for the week.
The meal that ended up fitting the bill was a recipe that I had found on Time Ferriss’ blog after reading The 4 Hour Body.
It’s a simple 5 ingredient beef and broccoli recipe that checks off all of the aforementioned items and even though it’s a “slow carb” recipe, you can add in pasta or rice to get your carbohydrate fix.
The quick and dirty version of the recipe is as follows:
- 1lb of ground beef
- 1lb of frozen broccoli
- 15oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed to lower the musicality ;)
- 4T of soy sauce
- 1-2t of red pepper flakes
- Brown the meat in a bit of olive oil.
- Once browned, add the broccoli, soy sauce and red pepper flakes.
- Once the broccoli is heated through, add the beans.
- Cook until everything is warm.
What I’ve always loved about this recipe is that you can get creative with it.
Swap beef for turkey or vegan “meat-inspired” crumbles. Swap the broccoli for cauliflower or greens. Allergic to black beans? Use a different bean.
Even the sauce and seasonings can be experimented with. Instead of soy sauce, use Teriyaki or Dale’s Steak Seasoning. Don’t like it too hot? Drop the peppers for garlic powder or your favorite spice blend.
Feeling really frisky? Sprinkle some cheese on top and enjoy!
Because of the near-infinite flexibility, it’s hard to fall into that rut of feeling like you’re eating the same exact thing week over week.
I should know, I’ve been eating some variety of this recipe nearly every week for close to 2 years!
To top it all off, this simple recipe has the added bonus of being extremely budget friendly.
For me personally, one batch of this will feed me for 4 or 5 lunches. Cost of ingredients (including a bit for olive oil and seasoning) will clock in at under 10 bucks.
Here’s one of my favorite combinations:
- 1lb Turkey Breast - $3.99
- 1lb Baby Broccoli - $1.78
- 15oz can of Black Beans - $0.72
- 4T Soy Sauce - $0.61
- 1t Crushed Red Pepper - $0.14
- 1T Light Olive Oil - $0.11
Grand total: $7.35 / 4 meals = $1.84 PER LUNCH!!~!
Hell, even if you buy prefer more expensive organic ingredients, it’s hard to get the price of the dish above $15 which is still less than $5 per plate.
Beat that Micky D’s.
If slow / no carb isn’t your thing, or if you want to stretch the meal even further, you could add in some pasta and it won’t sway the price per plate too much.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a spreadsheet I put together with a bunch of different options so you can see for yourself.
Just make a copy of the spreadsheet and edit away!
Please note that the prices are based on the prices of my local H.E.B. grocery store. Don’t shop at H.E.B.? Sucks for you :P