Looking For Some Good Lunch Meat Alternatives

I’ve taken 2017 as a time to really focus on improving my health.  I’ve been trying to get in better shape and make some healthier decisions.  I’m 42.  In the past, I would often brush off decisions I knew weren’t healthy by telling myself I could fix them down the road.  Well, after hitting an age that’s roughly half of my expected life exptency, give or take a few years, I realized that road was getting shorter.  One of the things I’ve thought to do is to come up with some lunch meat alternatives.

My Typical Lunch

I’m a brown bagger, which is something I’m proud of.  Keeping my costs down for lunch has always been a big thing for me.  I see people go out to eat every day, but I’m fine to sit at my desk and eat.  This also gives me time to go for a walk.

Lunch for me is usually four items.

  • A few baby carrots (have recently switched to organic).
  • A sandwich with wheat bread, deli meat, cheese, and condiments (usually mustard, maybe a little mayo).
  • Fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries, or pineapple.
  • A cup of yogurt (I’ve switched back to the Yoplait brand which has 1/3 less sugar than what I was eating).

Lunch Meat

I’ve always thought that getting lunch meat from the deli was a reasonably healthy alternative.  But, then I did some

Image from morguefile via lauramusikanski

checking and realized that deli meat is not very healthy at all.  It’s very processed, containing lots of fillers and preservatives, and it’s also very salty.


Some of my favorites are salami and bologna, which turn out to be among the worst.  Even low sodium versions still have quite a bit, and they still have the preservatives and fillers.

I also like ham, turkey and chicken, which aren’t as bad, though you still won’t hearing anyone call them healthy.

So what to do?

My Ideas On Lunch Meat Alternatives

I’m looking for ideas on what I could do to substitute in healthier options for lunch meat.  Here are some of the things I’ve thought of.

  • Tuna – I like canned tuna.  While I’ve seen fish on ‘very healthy items to eat’ lists, tuna never really seems to show up.  So, I’m wondering if this is healthy or if there are problems.
  • Egg Salad – It’s Lent, so we don’t eat meat on Fridays.  Egg salad is a fun Friday option, but is this a good option to eat regularly?  I know that many have backed off eggs as being bad for you, which was once thought.  Still, I always thought it was something to eat in moderation.
  • Left overs – I already eat left overs now and then as opportunity arises.  We often hold back left overs from lunches and make an entire dinner out of them after the cache grows.  Whether they would be healthier than a sandwich would depend on the dinner.
  • Salads – I know salads are a good option, but I get sick of salad quickly.  Too many salads and I tend to move on after a while.
  • Slice My Own Meat – One option I’ve seen is to buy fresh meat and slice it yourself.  This sounds great but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Would I have to buy my own meat slicer?  That sounds expensive, hard to maintain, and one more thing to take care of.

What Are Some Other Alternatives to Lunch Meat?

I know I can’t be the only one out there that brown bags it and wants to keep it simple and healthy.  So, what are some ideas of you have or that you’ve seen?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Qdoba vs Chipotle: We Finally Tried Qdoba For The First Time

Both Qdoba and Chipotle have been in business near our house for years.  We don’t go all that often, maybe once every few months, but when we’ve wanted a big old burrito wrap (or bowl), we always ended up in the nearby Chipotle.  However, Qdoba recently moved about a quarter mile down the road on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the area.  The short move definitely seems to have helped business, as it’s always hopping.  It got us in the door, and we can now do a Qdoba vs Chipotle comparison.

Qdoba Vs Chipotle

OK, I’ll admit, part of what got us there was that we got a coupon in the mail.  A good ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ deal will work anytime.  But after we went, it made us realize that we’d been missing out!

It was pretty darn good!  It wasn’t perfect but it definitely made the list as far as places we’d visit now and then.

Here are some of the things we learned:

Qdoba has Queso

Chipotle is very well publicized for offering only fresh ingredients.  So they don’t offer anything the lines of gooey melted cheese.  Well, as much as I like fresh ingredients, I also like gooey melted cheese, so Qdoba gives you that option.  They have a couple of different varieties and they’ll put it on willingly for you.

Qdoba has free guacamole

I don’t like guacamole, not even a little bit, but my wife does, so regardless of my preference, it’s coming home with us.  Chipotle charges you a couple of bucks for a side of guac, where Qdoba feels that it’s part of the experience, so you get it at no extra charge.

Limit the rice

One thing that both my wife and I did was say ‘both’ when they asked what kind of rice we mb-2016-04-shellswanted.  They have two kinds.   I think that they basically doubled the amount of rice as both of ours seemed to have a LOT of rice.  Next time, we’ll either stick to one or ask for both but note that we don’t want as much.

Get some spice

I like a little spice but nothing overly spicy.  As such, I didn’t order anything that was spicy, and I probably should have.  You can get spicy queso, spicy salsa, and I think even one or two of the other things has some spice.  I got them all non-spicy and I realized that while what I had was tasty, it could have used a little bit of zip that would have come from getting something with a little extra spice.  Next time, I’ll order either the salsa or queso with spice.

Don’t forget the basics

There’s a lot to choose from when you get your burrito.  You can choose the type of meat, all the veggies, what kind of queso, salsa, etc.  I totally forgot to get sour cream, and realized it when I came home to eat.  Drat!  I love sour cream with my Mexican food.  Luckily we had some in the fridge, but considering it’s all included, I will make sure to get it next time.

So Which One Wins?

Quite honestly, the differences between Chipotle and Qdoba were so minimal that if you did a blind taste test, I would probably struggle to figure out which is which.  For us the determining factors are where we might have a coupon as well as which one is more accessible.  Believe it or not, the side of the road makes a big difference where both are located.

In the end, both can be considered, though we have been at Qdboa a lot more, as they’ve been more aggressive with coupons.

Readers, have you been to Qdoba?  What do you think?  Any ordering tips or secrets that I should know about for next time?  

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12 Items We Always Have In Our Pantry

We don’t have a walk in pantry, but we do have some shelving downstairs at the bottom of the stairs that houses our stock-up items and overflow items.

I was taking a look and noticed that there are some things that we always have.  They either:

  • Are used in many planned meals we make
  • Can be used to throw something together

Twelve Pantry Items We Always Keep On Hand

  1. Breakfast Cereal – We love eating cereal either for the breakfast meal or for kids snacks.  We usually have some combination of Chex, Cheerios, or Crispix.  Source: Costco, Meijer
  2. Oatmeal – This is another common breakfast around our house, and we have instant oats and regular oats.  Many times we’ll make some regular oats on the stove, and some instant oats in the microwave, and mix it together to provide food for everyone.  Source: Costco
  3. Pasta – We always have some boxes of pasta on hand as it’s a center of many meals or can just be used if we"Not

    don’t have any other ideas. Source: Meijer

  4. Pasta Sauce – We always have some ‘red sauce’ on hand as well.  We got away from using the stuff loaded with sugar (e.g. Ragu, Prego) and instead typically stock up with Kirkland or Bertolli.  Source: Costco
  5. Canned Mushrooms – This always goes into our regular pasta dishes and we use them for other meals as well.  We often use fresh mushrooms, but if we don’t have any on hand, these are a good alternative.  Source: Aldi
  6. Canned Tomatoes – We love things like chili or lasagna or other items where tomatoes provide the base.  So we always stock up when we can on the various types of canned tomatoes for these recipes.  Source: Meijer, Aldi.
  7. Canned Beans – Again, we use a lot of recipes where beans are great to have on hand, so we’ll typically stock up on black beans, kidney beans, and other types that I can’t even remember, but always work well.  Source: Meijer, Aldi.
  8. Soup – When you don’t know what to have for lunch, a can of soup is always a good option, either by itself or along with something like a grilled cheese sandwich. When there are sales plus coupon opportunities, we will stock up regularly.  Source: Meijer
  9. Macaroni & cheese – Boxed mac & cheese is a favorite.  Our cat even used to love it!  It isn’t the healthiest thing so we don’t always eat it regularly, but it is nice to have some on hand for a quick meal or a side dish.  Source: Meijer, Kroger.
  10. Starchy sides – Our meals usually consist of a main dish, a vegetable and some sort of side.  We stock up on things like the aforementioned mac & cheese, but also things like rice, Rice-a-Roni, couscous, and other stuff that might be on sale.  Source: Meijer, Kroger, Aldi
  11. Chicken/Veggie Stock – We start many meals with some kind of stock.  We’ll often have liquid stock or a stock like Better than Bouillon to get things started.  Source: Costco, Meijer
  12. Snacks – We always have some sort of snack items for adults and kids.  Typically they vary between what’s on sale, what’s in season, and what we have a taste for, but we try to keep a few different things on hand.  Source: Costco, Meijer, Aldi, Kroger.

We usually have a variety of other things mixed in and the shelves can get full depending on how much we stock up, but chances are if you came at any time to do an inventory, you’re definitely going to find these twelve things.

Readers, what do you keep as ‘in-stock’ items at all times?


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Why Thursday Night Is Pizza Night (For Now)

Tonight is pizza night for us.  And Thursday nights will be for a while, at least the next couple of months.  And, it all has to do with….swim lessons!

How Swim Lessons Beget Pizza Night

Both of our kids have attended a not-for-profit co-op preschool during their age appropriate years.  In order to keep tuition low, they do various fundraisers, and the biggest one has always been a silent auction held in March.

One of the items that has always been donated is a month membership to a nearby swim school.  We have bid on it and been lucky enough to win every year.  It usually saves us a bit of money for at least the free month compared to the regular tuition, plus we get some accessories like goggles and such.

This year, we found ourselves with two month passes to use, as we won both last year and this year, and hadn’t yet used either one.

Both of our kids have had great times and learned a lot there, so we decided to enroll them each in swim lessons.  This worked out great because you can only use one month per child.

As it so happened, we were able to schedule their lessons at the same time, which is 4:30pm on Tuesday.  This means a pretty mad scramble to get ready and get there after our son gets off the bus at 4pm.

My wife and I both like to go and watch how they’re doing, plus at their ages (6 and 4), getting them cleaned up and changed afterward is definitely easier when you split the duties.

The lessons are about half hour, and by the time we’re done getting everything ready, often another half hour or so has passed.  This puts us squarely at dinner time.

The crook in the story might be getting heartburn from his pizza
The crook in the story might be getting heartburn from his pizza

My wife and I decided, in a pretty short conversation, that pizza would be a great fit for Thursday nights.

Simple Is Fine

We’re not fancy when it comes to pizza, so we have a few different options on the way home.  We like Little Caesar’s, either the $5 round or $8 deep dish pizza.  Last week Domino’s had a coupon code where we got 50% off, so that’s what we had.  We also have Papa Romano’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut all on the way or not too far off the direct path.

If needed, we’ll order the pizza in advance and pick it up so that when we get home, all we do is throw together a salad.  Then, we’re eating in no time!  This is especially good with children who are hungry after their swimming!

The tradition won’t last forever.  We anticipate that we’ll run the lessons through May.  By that point we’ll start getting busy with camping trips or other summer activities.  Eventually,  so  the Thursday pizza night tradition will fade.  But, for now it’s definitely a fun little family tradition, and not too expensive at all!

Readers, do you have any ‘regular’ meals that stem from other things going on in life?   

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.