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Affordable, healthy lunch option ideas

Growing your own produce takes practice, skill and luck but can be wonderfully prolific for many people (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Well I did think the comments might get a little feisty on last week’s column! If you thought $18 was pricey for an “affordable” lunch, please note that we did say we appreciated $18 was high for many people, that we were excluding weighted salad bars, that we were only assessing healthy dishes and that it’s usually cheaper to prep lunch from home. I get it, the price of food here is astronomical, but prices are rising everywhere and getting supplies to a rock in the middle of the ocean is increasingly expensive.

So what can we do? Firstly, growing your own produce takes practice, skill and luck but can be wonderfully prolific for many people. Even those without proper gardens can grow tomatoes or herbs in a window box. If you’re lucky enough to have more space, then potatoes, carrots, green beans, kale, passion fruit, butternut squash and watermelon all do well here. I have a notoriously black thumb (and recently killed a beautiful plant I was given for Mother’s Day … parenting fail!) but some things are easier than others. I have most successfully grown rosemary and green beans … what I need are friends that can grow other things and then we can all swap!

If you need a little help on the growing front then Aberfeldy offer classes, as does the Agra Living Institute (@agra_living). You could also follow @creative_explained on Instagram for some fast and fun, simple fruit/veg/herb growing tips.

However, for many people, growing enough produce to make a significant difference to their bottom line is not a reality. This is where we have to get more practical, and, despite last week’s column, making your OWN lunch can be impactful when it comes to your weekly spend.

One of the tastiest ways to bring a healthy lunch to work (and have it be something you actually look forward to) is to make a mason jar salad. Mason jars are affordable and reusable – you could in fact use any glass jar with a lid. I bought a tray of 12 mason jars for around $25 at Gorhams and we use some of them as glasses for cocktails or vases for flowers from the garden.

Layering salad in a jar with the dressing at the bottom, means that all your ingredients stay crisp and fresh. It also looks really pretty and there’s no doubt that good-looking food is simply more appetising. Once you are ready for lunch, you just tip it all out in a bowl and toss it!

The recipe below is for my classic Moroccan Salad which has been a big favourite over the years. You can make this for one or multiply this by as many servings as you like and make several jars or serve it family-style as per the instructions below.

This concept is really easy to edit. So if you don’t like quinoa, try pasta or wild rice (use rice within 2 days though.) Not sure what you think of cumin? Try curry powder instead. Don’t like chickpeas? Switch for another bean or nut. Not a cilantro person? Try basil or parsley. Pistachios too expensive? Try almonds. Be creative and make whatever switches you like. Enjoy!

Mason Jar Moroccan Salad

You will need one medium-sized mason jar per salad. Once prepped, these keep in the fridge for up to 4 days, so you can prep several ahead of time.

Ingredients: (Serves 1)

Large handful green leaves

1 cup cooked quinoa

¼ cup dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds

1 orange (peeled and sliced)

Handful chickpeas (garbanzos)

Handful chopped cucumber

1 tbsp each of chopped fresh mint and cilantro

1 tbsp crushed pistachios

Spiced yoghurt dressing:

2 tbsp plain yoghurt (organic dairy or plain alpro non-GMO soy)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp maple syrup

¼ tsp ground cumin (more to taste)

White pepper and salt to taste


1, Prep the dressing and ingredients. Whisk your dressing well. You could simply shake all the dressing ingredients together in the jar but this will make your finished product look a little messy.

2, So, once whisked, add your dressing to the bottom of a mason jar. Then layer in the rest of the salad ingredients in the order listed above – beginning with the green leaves and ending with the pistachios. Pop the lid on and store in the fridge. When it’s time for lunch, simply empty it into a large bowl and toss!

3, If prepping for a crowd, you can increase the quantities and prepare this family style. Spread the quinoa over the base of a large dish. Once cool, cover the quinoa with the green leaves. Layer on the pomegranate/cranberries, chickpeas, cucumber and orange. Drizzle with the dressing and then top with the pistachios and herbs.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your doctor if you have any health concerns.

• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist. Look for Nutrifit & Natural Nutrition, Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram

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Published August 18, 2023 at 7:58 am (Updated August 18, 2023 at 7:18 am)

Affordable, healthy lunch option ideas

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