The two greatest challenges to overcome with Eric's lunchbox are space and heat (either the challenge is to pack foods that may not require a microwave, as not all hotels have one in the room, or to pack foods that don't necessarily need to be kept cold, as his days can be upwards of 14 hours long). I scoured the internet a few weeks ago looking for suggestions and ideas for healthy meals for pilots, but there was a remarkable silence on the subject. SO, I decided to offer up my tiny reservoir of ideas, especially to other women and men out there who are trying to feed hungry pilots!
There are some foods that are pretty obvious choices: crackers, nuts, snack/meal bars, fruit cups, chips, oatmeal and ramen (both can be cooked on the plane using hot water from the coffeemaker), muffins, breads (we love banana and zucchini-pumpkin), and cookies.
But let's face it, those foods get tiresome quickly, and they don't necessarily make up a filling meal. So we have come up with a list of other foods and ideas that work well:
- leftover pastas and casseroles, which I freeze rock solid before a trip so they will keep cold during flight
- cheese sticks, mini cheese wedges, individual guacamole cups and tortillas
- sometimes Eric will carry a jar of peanut or almond butter and sandwich bread for a cheap lunch
- individual microwave meals that don't need to be kept cold, such as Velveeta skillets mini-meals
- chicken salad (frozen for travel) and tortillas, to make wraps
- burritos (the possibilities here are endless!)
I have made two varieties of burritos so far, breakfast and chicken, but I plan to make some beef and even some pork burritos in the next batch. These work so well because you can pack many different flavors and food groups into a small package that travels and heats well, and they are so inexpensive to make!
For Eric's breakfast burritos, I diced and fried some potatoes, sauteed some onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos (he likes a lot of heat!), I cooked up some chorizo sausage, and scrambled some eggs. I put a spoonful of everything onto a tortilla and topped it with shredded cheddar cheese.
I was able to make a dozen burritos using only 6 eggs, 4 potatoes, 1 jalapeno, half each of an onion and bell pepper, and 1 cup of cheese. Like I said, these are inexpensive! Eric usually fills up on two of these burritos, and I just use the medium-sized tortillas.
To finish assembling the burritos, I wrapped each one in plastic wrap (to keep them from getting freezer burn, and to make them more transportable) and then stored them in the freezer in a gallon Ziplock. When he's packing his lunch, he just grabs a few and tosses them in the lunchbox.
I made a batch of chicken burritos, too, and the timing was perfect, as I had some leftover refried beans and some leftover fresh corn and salsa. To make the chicken burritos, I put some shredded chicken, beans, corn, salsa, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese in a tortilla and wrapped it up! Again, I was able to get about a dozen burritos out of 2 chicken breasts. That's 6 meals!
Knowing that Eric is eating real, healthy, whole food while he's away AND is not having to spend any money to do it is comforting to me. I may not be a traditional home-cooked housewife, but I do want to know that my almost-husband is being taken care of, even while he's working.
Hopefully this post has been helpful in providing some ideas for on-the-go lunches and snacks, especially for pilots!