Friday, November 16, 2012

Growing a Better Lunch

One of the things they don't warn you about being a grown-up is that you have to make your own lunches. Seriously. Like, either the night before (and who plans that far ahead?) or else early in the morning before work, as you're trying to get your sleepy self dressed and out the door in some sort of societally-accepted state. It's kind of a bummer, and makes us yearn back for the simpler days of being in school, when a brown paper bag would just be ready and waiting in the morning, full of delicious goodies for us to eat at lunchtime. Those days are sadly no more.

So, what's a grown person to do? Well, you can go out to eat, but that gets expensive and likely unhealthy in a hurry. Or you can just deal with the annoyance of having to make your own lunch, and try to offset that by making it as good a lunch as you can. We've certainly come a long way in that regard. It wasn't that long ago that we were packing baloney sandwiches with american cheese on white bread for some of our first working lunches. We gradually transitioned to higher quality lunchmeat on whole grain bread, but even that wasn't ideal. Deli meat is pricey, processed and loaded with sodium, and even eating grains is suspect now if you believe in all these low-glycemic index diets. We tend to have more of an "everything-in-moderation" philosophy, but even so we knew we wanted a change.

Lunch needs to have a protein source, so we started there. What sort of cheap, readily available, healthy protein do we have at our disposal at any time? It's hard to recall exactly, but maybe these gals can help us remember (gratuitous chicken photos!).

Of course, eggs! Our backyard chicken flock provides us with more than enough eggs to each eat one or two a day. The manner in which to serve the eggs was a little less clear though. There's egg salad sandwiches, which are amazing, and which we honestly haven't made enough of. But for the days when we weren't doing that, we decided to make chef salads of sorts, with hard boiled eggs and whatever veggies we had from the garden atop mixed greens. That's a tasty start to a lunch.

Only one problem. Many would argue that salad greens are healthier than deli meat, but honestly, they're not much cheaper. We use about a pound of either one per week, and if we buy what we think to be the higher-quality versions (as close as we can tell), that's still $6 or $7 in what amounts to pretty basic ingredients. Not a really big amount of money, but it adds up over the course of the year, and the greens are certainly not local at this time of year. So we started to think about ways to get salad greens more cheaply and locally. Being farmers, we would certainly grow them ourselves, if only it weren't fall/winter and getting so cold. We egregiously mistimed planting our fall garden, so we're out of luck. Or are we...

As you can see, we've already got a growlight on in the house, attempting to start some columbines (flowers, not even edible!) for a planter bed next spring, but they only take up the left half of the light. The right side was literally shining on nothing. The cats seem to enjoy laying under it, but that doesn't really do us a lot of good. So we ran to the local nursery and picked up a packet of mixed salad green seeds. We already have lots of spinach seeds which we also intend to plant. The goal, or the experiment here, is to try to not only start lettuce indoors, but to actually grow it to a full enough size that we can harvest it and use it to make our lunches. It's not terribly crazy - others online have done the same thing. But it's new for us and we're excited to give it a try.

It's possible this won't work very well, or that it won't save us much money compared to storebought greens. But we're farmers, darn it, and it just feels wrong not to be growing anything! We'll keep you informed as to how this is going, as we try to build a sack lunch that gets closer and closer to being truly "homemade."

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