Lunchjar is the New Lunchbox

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by Sidonie Maroon

Rule: Never get caught out and about hungry

I try to never get caught out and about hungry. Even if it’s for a short outing, I’ve learned the hard way to always pack food. The consequences of forgetting are too high—low blood sugar and then impulsively overspending with cranky kids in tow. With multiple food sensitivities, it’s ultra important for me to be proactive and think ahead.

At first, it was a learning curve, because I had to retrain my habits. I’d leaned into convenience foods in the past, but I wanted to decrease the processed foods we ate. I also wanted a leaner food budget. I spent some time learning how to plan and think ahead. It’s all second nature now, and I can’t imagine any other way, especially when I pull out my yummy homemade food, and am so grateful that I’m eating wholesomeness I can trust.

Tricks of the Trade

# think ahead
I know, we don’t want to have to think ahead. We’ve bought the idea that food should be fast and easy, but it’s not. At least, not if you want quality at an affordable price. There’s no need to make it complicated or labor intensive, but don’t wait until the last minute and then stress.

Make sure you have staples and stock up when you shop.

Plan in some extra time. It’s time or money, but not much time for a lot of money saved.

I’ve learned that heavy carb or sweet foods will quickly make me feel hungry again, while higher fat and protein foods will keep me happy longer, so I tend not to pack chips, bread, cookies or the like. Although, I pack my sunflower seed buns.

An easy and fun way to pack lunches or snacks is in wide mouth pint mason jars. They are readily available, inexpensive and easy to clean. Pack dry foods and sauces separately.

Layer different combinations of staple foods

●      Legumes

Instant Pot cooked beans ready to go in the fridge, even better pureed into refried beans. I use a lot of black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lentils.

●      Grains

Instant Pot or rice cooker grains ready to go like quinoa, rice, polenta, barley or bulgar.

●      Nuts and seeds

 pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts…

●      Dairy

 Cheddar, colby, jack, mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, Yogurt plain, sweet or savory 

●      Eggs

 Poached or boiled. Egg salad is great

●      Meat salads or shredded meats

 Tuna, salmon, ham, chicken, chicken liver mousse is an easy choice which you can freeze in small batches

●      Fermented Foods like olives, pickles, pickled veggies and kraut

●      Veggies

 raw, blanched, roasted, steamed, pickled, dried. Don’t forget roots baked or roasted

●      Fruit: raw, poached, roasted, sauced, dried


Three Mason Jar Lunch Menus

(layer ingredients in a wide mouth pint mason jar )


Instant Pot refried black beans (recipe below)

Chopped green olives

Halved cherry tomatoes

Shredded jack cheese

Chopped cilantro

Mexican cabbage street salad (recipe below)

Pickled onions (recipe below)  

Middle Eastern

Instant pot chickpeas

Chopped tomatoes

Chopped cucumber

Feta cheese, cubed

Kalamata olives, whole

Lebanese Tahini Dressing (recipe below)



Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Grated parmesan cheese

Halved sardines

Blanched and cut into small pieces: green beans, carrots, beets, cauliflower, corn or veggies of choice

Caesar dressing (recipe below) 

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 Mexican Recipes

Quick Curtido with hot dressing (Cabbage Slaw)

Makes 1 quart

4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup thinly sliced white onions

1 cup chopped cilantro


Hot Dressing for Curtido

Heat to a boil:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons fresh lime juice and zest

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon pickled jalapeno, or more to taste

Add onions to the hot dressing and cook for 1 minute or until they lose their bite.

Pour dressing over cabbage and veggie mix and let it meld in the fridge for 1 hour before serving. 

Pickled Red Onions - Cebollas Encurtidas para Panuchos

Makes 3 cups

4 cups thinly sliced red onion rings, halved

1 cup bitter orange juice or substitute

½ cup water

1 teaspoon dried oregano

10 black peppercorns

3 allspice berries

1 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

Sea salt to taste

Combine for Bitter Orange Substitute

1 teaspoon grated grapefruit zest

½ cup orange juice concentrate

Juice of two limes plus zest

1 cup fresh grapefruit juice

Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute and then shock in ice water. In a serving bowl, add the drained onions, spices, salt and water to the bitter orange juice. Will keep for several weeks refrigerated.

Middle Eastern Recipes

Lebanese Tahini Dressing—classic Lebanese style great with hot or cold veggies.

makes 1 cup

1 cup well-stirred toasted tahini

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Zest of lemon

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of ground cumin

Mince garlic in processor, add the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Taste to correct and balance flavors. Maybe add a little sweetener. This is also great adding some preserved lemon.

Caesar Dressing

Makes 1 cup

6 anchovy filets

2 soft boiled egg yolks

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine ingredients in a food processor except the oil. Slowly add the oil with the machine is running until emulsified.

Note: I make hard-boiled eggs for the salad and take a couple eggs out at 4 minutes to use in the dressing.

Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute and then shock in ice water. In a serving bowl, add the drained onions, spices, salt and water to the bitter orange juice. Will keep for several weeks refrigerated.