We all know that bringing a lunch to work is less expensive and usually healthier. But it can be a hard task to keep up with if you aren’t prepared. Here are some tips that have helped me bring my lunch at least 95% of the time.
A few of my past lunches. Want to see the details? All these lunches are on Flickr.
First, develop a system for carrying your lunch. It could be a fancy lunch container, but it could just as well be a nice bag to hold your ancient mismatched containers. The key is to give yourself an option that makes you look forward to bringing your lunch so you’ll do it more often. Make sure it fits your lifestyle – if you don’t do dishes daily, you might be better off with a few identical containers.
I own a Mr. Bento and Mr. Bento and use them often, but if I hadn’t had an amazon.com gift certificate to spend, I would have been perfectly happy bringing reusable tupperware-style containers. My current favorites are Ziploc Twist & Loc, and I also love reusing glass jam jars like the beautiful ones from Bonne Maman.
Second, narrow your food options. What type of lunch food satisfies you? Not just your hunger, but your senses? You might like biting into a sandwich, or you might prefer something that requires a knife and fork (I do – it makes me feel like I’m eating something substantial). Do you have a microwave at work? Is messy or fragrant food going to be a problem? These questions will give you a place to start.
Third, develop a formula. Preparing lunch is a lot easier if you don’t have to think about it too much. Usually I’ll prepare a main dish and a side. I don’t mind leftovers and don’t require variety, so I usually make a large quantity of something on the weekend and eat it for several days. If you do crave change, think about freezing a portion of each dinner you make for later lunches.
Here’s my basic formula:
Main dish favorites:
Turkey patties (usually spiced with curry)
Veggie burger on an English muffin
A chicken dish that reheats well
Beef stew (like beef burgundy or goulash)
In summer, makings for a big salad
Grain or pasta with vegetables (today: Israeli couscous with golden beets)
Pureed vegetable soup (my favorite is butternut squash)
Frozen mixed vegetables with a squirt of hot sauce
A compact, raw salad like grated carrot or diced red pepper
Hummus and raw vegetables
Before or after:
Yogurt with a spoon of jam or honey
A piece of delicious dark chocolate