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There are two great reasons to take a packed lunch to work.
The first is that it will save you money. Whilst the actual amount it will save you depends on what you pack in your lunch box versus what you used to spend on eating out or buying prepackaged sandwiches and salads I can guarantee that it will pretty much always work out cheaper. (I mean, unless you regularly put caviar and truffles in your lunchbox).
The second is that it can help you eat healthier. Eating out is generally higher in fat and salt, and packaged sandwiches are often lacking in vegetables. A packed lunch creates a great opportunity for additional vegetables – essential if you are aiming for the recommended 10 portions of fruit and veg a day.
But if you pack the same old peanut butter sandwich everyday, a packed lunch can get monotonous. So here are 15 of the best packed lunch ideas to help you break your rut! 🙂
5 Quick and Easy Packed Lunches
You’ve got fifteen minutes to pack your lunch and get out the door. Quick! What do you grab?
Pretty much any leftovers can be repurposed into a lunchbox. Use a thermos to take leftover soup*, throw leftover grains or rice together with some salad, or chuck some leftover meat and leafy greens into a box and head out.
2. Couscous + salad veg
Couscous takes five minutes to cook. Add a cup into a heatproof bowl, pour over a kettle of boiling water, cover. (Note: you want a 1 to 1.5 ratio of couscous to liquid.)
Chop some salad veg while it cooks, then pack them into Tupperware and head out. If you have glass Tupperware you can make your couscous straight into it, chop your veg into a second and mix them together at work. I have this VonChef set* and they work great for lunches.
A sandwich does only take five minutes to make. Bread + filling. Away you go. Some classic combos include: peanut butter + jelly/jam, ham and cheese, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and avocado, ham and coleslaw, fishpaste, marmite, or, indeed, whatever you have in your fridge.
4. Chickpea Kettle Soup
You can bung the ingredients for this in a heatproof jar and then cook it with hot water when you get to work. Recipe for chickpea kettle soup.
5. Tinned fish + salad veg
Tinned fish like mackerel or sardines make a protein packed and tasty topping for a bag of salad veg. I like to keep a tin of fish in my cupboard at all times for fast meals. If you get one packed in olive oil you don’t even need to worry about salad dressing.
5 Packed Lunches to Prep the Night Before
The best time to plan your lunch is the evening before. Having an evening routine that includes preparing for the next day will always make your life run more smoothly. Here are five ideas for packed lunches to prep in advance.
1. Pasta Salad
We’ve all bought those gloppy and disappointing pasta salads from supermarkets to eat on the go. Well, you can make a far tastier one for yourself. There are, literally, hundreds of variations on pasta salad. But it’s a lunchbox classic for good reason, it stands up to travel well, it’s filling, and you can pack it high with vegetables.
2.Roasted cauli-broc bowl with tahini hummus
You can make it in 10 minutes, it keeps well, and it’s perfect for a lunchbox. Vegan and gluten-free. Get the recipe.
3. Frittata plus crunchy carrot salad
This meal was actually designed to take on a plane, so you can be confident that it travels well. Frittata’s are great because you can put almost anything you have in them. A few straggly bits of mushrooms in the back of the fridge? In they go. A handful of tomatoes without a plan? In they go. A bit of leftover roast from the weekend? In it goes. Get the recipe for the frittata and carrot salad.
4. Pita bread pockets
Take some pita breads. Stuff with your favourite salad combo. Enjoy. If that’s not enough guidance and you prefer a recipe, try this greek salad pita pocket with chicken.
5. Taco salad lunch bowl
We eat tacos pretty regularly, and the leftovers make for great lunchboxes. Here’s a description of the process. You can switch out the ground beef for mushrooms or refried beans or whatever your preferred taco protein is.
5 Packed Lunches to Lovingly Prepare in Advance
Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, I have a bit of spare time and decide to put it towards making myself some really exciting lunches. The kind I will look forward to all day.
Truthfully, food and love are concepts that are inextricably intertwined… and making yourself delicious, nutritious and exciting meals is an act of self-love. So with this in mind, here are five packed lunches to prepare in advance – with love to your future self. <3
Curry is amazing. It’s full of vibrant and complex flavours, it can take highly varied combinations of meat, pulses, and/or vegetables, and it is one of those things that often tastes even better the day after it’s been made. So dig out your favourite curry recipe and get simmering. Not sure where to start? Try this vegetable korma.
Soup freezes well, transports well and reheats well. It’s perfect for a packed lunch. I recently made this chicken and wild rice soup and it was gorgeous. Alternatives include broccoli and stilton, or lentil soup.
3. Homemade bread
Look, so many packed lunches revolve around bread. Sandwiches obviously include bread, but even soups and curries are better when paired with a delicious loaf or flatbread. So if you want to boost your lunches, why not develop some baking skills? Homemade bread is just better than even the most artisan of artisan loaves that you buy.
Start with the no knead crusty white loaf, and then experiment with focaccia, sourdough and flatbread. Good bread will take your lunch from meh to marvellous. Add hummus, olives and some salad and you’re sorted.
4. Takeout style sesame noodles with cucumber
What about when you really crave eating out at lunch? Well, something like this will meet those cravings and then some. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen will keep to whenever you’re ready to eat it, making it perfect to prep in advance for a packed lunch.
5. Bento box
Bento boxes have long been a staple of Japanese lunches, but they have more recently become popular everywhere. Bentos elevate simple ingredients into show stopping lunches through careful prep. They are designed to travel well, and you can stick to traditional items like onigiri rice balls or put your own twist on it. Check out the below infographic from Quill to find out more about bento box lunches! And don’t forget that bento boxes come in all shapes and styles*!
Simple, healthy bento box lunches perfect for the office
Infographic by Quill