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You know COOK90 is in full swing when you start eating lots of nextovers. If you’re following the official COOK90 meal plan (like I am), you’re in that nextovers zone now. Last night we ate nextover’d saucy beans on toast. On Friday we’ll nextover tonight’s pesto pasta by throwing it into a pasta frittata. On Sunday we’ll make risotto, but make extra squash to use in Monday night’s soup.
Nextovering is nothing more than the rhythm of daily cooking; it’s the carrying over of food from one night to another, the thing that makes it possible to get an interesting dinner on the table in 20 minutes. There’s nothing to dislike about nextovers (even if you hate leftovers, which are a different and admittedly less exciting thing), except for this: when you’re nextovering for future dinners, that leaves almost no extra food to eat for lunch.
That means you have to put together lunch some other way. How exactly we do that is something I’ve been thinking about lately.
Lunch is the day’s most dangerous meal. It’s when I’m most likely to spend $15 on food I don’t really enjoy, or that isn’t particularly good for me. And while I’m not a climate scientist, even I know that lunch is probably the least sustainable meal of the day. For one thing, many people buy their lunch, and carry that lunch back to their workplace in plastic clamshell containers, or in a paper bag stuffed with plastic utensils. (I’m guilty of this, and I know from experience that even when you tell a restaurant that you don’t need the plasticware, half the time you get it anyway.)
Some people are also driving to lunch, which on one hand sounds dreamy—a midday getaway!—but with regards to sustainability, is just another opportunity to burn fossil fuels.
Even packing a homemade lunch can be problematic if it involves plastic wrap, sandwich bags, paper towels, and other single-use elements.
On COOK90, the problem of spending too much money at a restaurant is eliminated: we make our lunch, and we save money doing so. Finding environmentally-friendly ways to carry our lunches to work is also an easy problem to fix. (I’m carrying my lunches to work in this insulated bowl; my colleagues have lunchbox picks of their own.)
But the problem of finding time to make lunch every night? That’s real. I depend on dinner leftovers for most of my lunches, but this week I’ve batch-cooked a few staples that I can mix-and-match and stuff into my lunchbox. I made a big pot of lentils. A dozen steamed eggs. And I washed and dried a couple bunches of spinach. I keep salt and a bottle of good olive oil at my desk, which is really all these combos need (though you may want to stock some vinegar, too), and I’ll often bring in a thick slice of sourdough. And an apple. And maybe a cookie. (Okay, fine—I always bring the cookie.)
I will tell you, it’s the hardest part of COOK90 for me; though I try, usually by the end of February I’ve reverted back to that lackluster, expensive takeout. But this year, propelled in part by my concern for our burning planet, I’m determined to do better. Can you help? I just posted in the COOK90 forum asking for lunch tips. If you have magic lunch tactics, I’d love to hear them.
I’ll see you there. Or on Instagram. Or, if nowhere else, right here again on Friday. Until then, keep on truckin’ (and lunchin’).
Originally Appeared on Epicurious