I’m Working at an Office and Need Lunch Ideas. Help!

Hi Billfold! I am preparing to go back to working in an office after five (!) years of working from home, and I am a little panicked about lunches. Y’all linked a while back to a Mark Bittman piece about why you should bring your own lunch, and the comments there at the Times had some suggestions but also a lot of sanctimonious “You need a recipe for bringing a salad to work????” nonsense. But I kind of want a recipe for bringing a salad! And other ways that I can replicate the experience of going to Chop’t without spending $15 on lunch every day. I will be working in Times Square and I already kind of want to die thinking about the options that I have there. — Katey

Have any really good bring-your-lunch-to-work ideas? Let’s help Katey out by posting them in the comments section.

I usually bring a turkey or ham and swiss sandwich (or if I’m up for something different, one of my favorite sandwiches is a play on the BLT: Bacon, arugula, and sliced mangos on ciabatta bread), and a simple salad.

My favorite salads only require three or four ingredients, and the key to bringing salads to work have always been to keep the salad dressing separate (in a container like this one), and then mixing it in when it’s time to eat to avoid having it become soggy. Some combinations that I regularly put together:

• Mixed greens or baby spinach, beets, goat cheese
• Mixed greens or baby spinach, grated carrot, cucumber slices
• Arugula, chopped red onion, shaved parmesan
• Black bean/corn salad: black beans, corn, red onion, olive oil, lime, salt + pepper, and a dash of cumin and hot sauce.

I also love this Mr. Bento stainless steel lunch set which comes with four microwavable compartments.

There are a tons of places out there with ideas on what to pack in a Mr. Bento (i.e. see here, and here).

And of course, the easiest way to bring lunch is to pack leftovers—pasta dishes are good for this.

Billfolders, give Katey your best ideas!

 

Photo: Chipita666

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71 Comments / Post A Comment

Blondsak (#2,299)

For a few months in grad school, I used to bring a container of pb & a loaf of bread to work every few weeks. Then, every morning, I’d throw an apple or bag of veggies into my purse. Using this method, I managed to eat lunch for less than 50 cents (yes, I calculated it) every day.

Not the most exciting lunch, but it filled me up and I saved tons of money doing it.

kellyography (#250)

@Blondsak I pretty much do this exact same thing, except I make the sandwich every day and bring it to work with carrots and some chips or wheat thins, and cookies or a granola bar. On really exciting days, I bring leftover pasta or chicken and quinoa or whatever was for dinner last night.

AitchBee (#3,001)

I like to deal with lunches for the week on Sunday, so if I want to do salads, I prep the ingredients for the week, put them in separate containers, and just combine them the night before.

That felt very wise in my head, but seems stupid-obvious now that I’ve typed it out.

CubeRootOfPi (#1,098)

@AitchBee Me too! Though I go with recipes from Budget Bytes (budgetbytes.com)*.

* Though you’ll want to make more than what the recipes say – I’ve found that the serving sizes are often too small.

clo (#4,196)

Leftovers are the bomb for me. Also I buy TV dinners when I’m lazy so I always have something to bring, even if I’m in a rush. And even if you buy them at CVS in Times Square, they’re still pretty cheap. I’m also bad at making sandwiches/salads in the morning…. My other fave thing to do is throw broccoli slaw on top of lettuce and some tuna on top of that cause it only takes like two seconds cause the broccoli is already chopped up for you.

gyip (#4,192)

A few things about salads:

1. Include protein and fat. They go a lot way towards making you feel full and also giving some flavour. Cold chicken dark meat, tofu, nuts, cheese, ham, avocado, hard-boiled eggs.

2. Think texture. I find salad hard to eat because it’s boring to chew leaves. Again, nuts are great, if you don’t have an allergy. Throw in all kinds of veggies. Don’t feel like a salad has to be mostly greens to be a “salad.”

3. Make your own dressings. Don’t buy any. They’ll go bad. There are lots of recipes on the internet.

4. Season! Salt and pepper help make salads more exciting. Keep salt and a pepper grinder (seriously …. I gotta do this) at your desk. Anyone else who brings a lunch will borrow them all the time. You can also just pre-season your washed-and-dry veggies or mix into your dressing.

Also, just apropos of nothing, raw corn is really great. I never got over this since last summer when I “made” a raw corn salad.

I once brought pate and crackers to work and just ate that for lunch. It might have been my favourite lunch ever, but I’d add frozen grapes next time :)

shannowhamo (#845)

@gyip I’m a very, very lazy person who typically rolls her eyes at “make your own” anything but the thing about dressing is true, it’s the easiest thing ever and way better than a bottle. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and ta da delicious.

sherlock (#3,599)

@shannowhamo Everyone tells me this but I am still resistant. I feel like the oil and balsamic vinegar never mix well, and then my salad just ends up alternating tasting like raw olive oil or straight vinegar.

@sherlock I find a bit of dijon mustard adds a pleasant and helps emulsify the dressing a bit better (that could be my imagination though?)

sherlock (#3,599)

@This is my new user name Maybe I’ll try that, thanks! I’ll admit that I gave up pretty easily on this for the ease of store-bought bottles.

@sherlock Honestly, I still have store bought salad dressing as well for when I just don’t feel like dealing with it so I do understand. I like making my own when I am making big batches of salad, but honestly, if I am just having a quick salad, sometimes I just wanna dump something from a bottle in the fridge.

clo (#4,196)

@sherlock i jsut leave a bottle of dressing in the work friend and bring a dry salad in.

ocello (#5,234)

@sherlock @This is my new user name Yes on the dijon mustard! Another thing I find helpful is to measure out the vinegar first and then add the oil slowly, whisking the whole time.

@ocello I prefer putting it all in a jar and shaking it like a maniac because I find that enjoyable.

@clo To be honest, I just keep a bottle of decent balsamic vinegar at my desk and pour it on the salad. It helps that my mom was big into low-fat stuff when I was a kid so I’m used to no-oil salad dressing.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

No panic! It seems like you might be overthinking this, Katey. I am guilty of this, too. Here’s how I deal:

I tend to make maybe two big dishes during the week (Sunday and mid-week when I’m out of Sunday’s food, or make both on Sunday and alternate), and take the leftovers to work, along with some snacks like a piece of fruit, cheese (like Babybels or cheese I’ve cubed and put in bag), nuts, veggies (celery sticks, cucumber, sliced bell pepper). Things like nuts will keep just fine at your desk, ditto most fruit for a few days, at least.

Ditto Mike’s advice re: salad, especially keeping the dressing separate!

@LookUponMyWorks Leftovers are pretty much what I do as well. I purposely make extra for dinner to bring for lunch the next day. Then pack fruit, chips, and something sweet for the rest of the lunch. I keep tea and various other snacks in my desk also.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@Heather Yamada-Hosley Yeah! And it seems like most recipes are geared towards the finished dish having multiple servings, so it just makes sense.

@LookUponMyWorks Yep, I live entirely on leftovers. Crock pot + weekend afternoon = food all week in little plastic containers (which will most likely give me cancer one day, but whatevs).

That works better if you have a microwave at work, though. I also keep a stash of cheap protein bars around for emergencies when I don’t want to spend money out of the office on healthy food and there is super tempting free junk food flowing freely.

echolikebells (#3,272)

I am so excited to see the comments here because I desperately need to get back to packing my lunch. In no universe am I making enough money to spend $10 daily on lunch out– and yet it keeps happening!

I have only really “mastered” two non-frozen/non-soup lunches beyond just bringing dinner leftovers:

1. Tuna salad (I make mine with a can or foil pack of tuna [highest quality you can afford], mayo or avocado, garlic, a tiny bit of dijon mustard, and [freshly cracked if possible] pepper) with crackers **NOTE: I work in an office where I have a private office and the ability to burn a scented candle to diminish the smell effect on others. So tuna salad isn’t great for everyone but if you can take it, it is a great quick lunch option???**
2. White beans, spinach, sundried tomatoes from a jar, and farfalle pasta tossed in olive oil, again with pepper, maybe some basil– eaten as pasta salad (with the added step of whisking the olive oil with some vinegar before adding it) in the summer and warm pasta dish in winter

Also I buy clementines by the 3-5lb bag when I can, because they are perfect for throwing in my bag to enjoy with lunch.

(If you need some frozen things to take along on days when making lunch seems like torture, the frozen Amy’s Kitchen Bowls are great? I’ve never tried one I didn’t like, and they are healthier than a lot of packaged options so I feel less like crap when I take them.)

(Also I always keep a shelf-stable box of soup in the office. Just in case.)

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@echolikebells Yeah, I like to keep one or two Amy’s frozen meals on hand (Trader Joe’s when I lived near one. Sigh. The good ol’ days). They’re always good and a lifesaver when you don’t have time/leftovers to toss in your bag!

echolikebells (#3,272)

@echolikebells I sound like a monster with tuna salad and scented candles. The scented candles are in a scent agreed upon by all three members of my floor of the office building. We all have them in our office for stinky lunch days.

echolikebells (#3,272)

@LookUponMyWorks They are TOTALLY a lifesaver. I genuinely really enjoy eating the Mexican Casserole, Ravioli, and Pesto Tortellini versions. I buy 4-6 every 2 weeks, roughly, and use them for lunch or if I’m really fighting the urge to eat out for dinner and convenience is the main reason.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@echolikebells Yeah, there’s a Thai bowl that I’ve only been able to find in specific Targets (so random) and it is legit delicious.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Also budgetbytes dot com has great suggestions for pretty easy meals that make up multiple servings.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

That bento box is awesome. Thanks, Mike, for showing me a $50 lunch box I do not need but now very much want.

Lunchez: I really like to make chickpea salads because (in my opinion) they taste and fill me up better and keep longer than most things. I make mine on Sunday night and then they usually last me one week. I usually supplement with fruit cups, carrots, pudding, rolls, hummus, and/or random other things I have around. Otherwise, I frequently use leftovers (as mentioned above), peanut butter sandwiches on days when I run out of time, or deli meat sandwiches. …and sometimes, you just gotta suck it up and eat healthy choice frozen dinners. I get those because they are $2.50 at my grocery store, and I use them on days where I lack time/ingredients to make lunch and don’t want to be tempted by going out.

Other things I like… when I have crazy amounts of time, I will try to make empanadas with whatever we have lying around, or else something like pasta with all the vegetables/meats in our house stirred in.

(On the grad school thing: when I was in grad school, I never had enough time for lunch, so I just bulk bought Clif bars and ate them as meals. DON’T DO THAT.)

@Caitlin with a C I have the box pictured and it is awesome! I take public transportation to work so it is nice to have a compact lunchbox with a strap that won’t spill anything. It does indeed keep food hot or cold (bottom two containers). The only issue is sometimes fitting in non-round items to the containers can be difficult.

VelourFog (#5,077)

@Caitlin with a C as an art student in college I went nearly a year eating mainly Triscuits. I’m sure all the salt was terrible for me.

sschulz (#3,652)

I love Heidi Swanson’s website when I’m looking for inspiration. http://www.101cookbooks.com/salads/

OllyOlly (#669)

I would separate your salad into components, then keep a doc with ideas/ways to mix up different ones

1. Protein (Nuts [roasted w/ different seasonings], cheese [all the cheese], meat [maybe marinated flank steak one week, left overs from a baked chicken], beans [chick peas works well])
2. 2 Crunchy Vegs (Carrots, chopped celery, cucumber, shredded cabbage, chopped snow peas)
3. A little something sweet (maybe not in all salads), mainly dried or fresh fruit or a honey drizzle
4. Your base, (lettuce, kale, arugula, sturdy grains like quinoa)
5. Herbs
6. Dressing (get some different vinegars, mustards, misos to alternate)

Dried fruit, nuts, and dressing items will keep for a bit, so you could have a few on hand to mix and match. Leaving each week to just choose a new recipe to prepare your protein, and to pick out a few veggies.

OllyOlly (#669)

@OllyOlly Chick Pea Salad that keeps well
A fav quinoa salad of mine
A good 101cookbooks salad

Also for non-salads, make your fav burrito fillings and wrap them in tin foil and freeze them, then you can grab a homemade freezer burrito if you don’t have anything else on hand. Just microwave for about 3 min.

gyip (#4,192)

@OllyOlly Dried cranberries are the bomb.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@OllyOlly Yeah, protein is really important, I find.

When I was bringing salads to work for lunch, I used several different containers for each, and did all the prep on Sunday. So I had (ideally) five containers with lettuce and other dry veg, five containers with meat, cheese, olives, and one container with dressing.

BananaPeel (#1,555)

1. If you like to snack, don’t forget to pack snacks in addition to your lunch. A little container of fruit salad from home mid-morning is the BEST.
2. Check mealprepmondays for general inspiration: http://instagram.com/mealprepmondays#
3. You can buy containers at pyrex.com or anchorhocking.com way cheaper than you find at Target.
Good luck!

BananaPeel (#1,555)

@BananaPeel PS my favorite salad is spinach, walnuts, cranberries, gorgonzola, raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette. You could easily add chicken.

garli (#4,150)

I go the cheater route of bringing trader joe’s salads to work or lunch every day. Under 4 bucks, some fresh veggies and you’re done.

I used to always make extra food and bring leftovers and be happy but since I moved in with my husband leftovers have mysteriously gone missing from my life.

shannowhamo (#845)

@garli I never can actually make anything for lunch and my husband has dibs on lefotevers (he doesn’t like frozen stuff like I do and has a gluten thing so he has more limited options) so I buy an assortment of frozen Trader Joe’s delicacies and have a mini-feast…mini tamales, gyoza, and a turkey corn dog for lunch? Yes please!

sherlock (#3,599)

@garli I also have gotten really into buying TJ’s cartons of soup to supplement whatever I’m bringing for lunch – I love that they are big enough for multiple servings and are easy to re-close and store. I basically buy one every week, and have a small bowl each day along with my salad/sandwich whatever. They also make the best good, cheap sandwich bread. To me, nothing makes a boring turkey sandwich more appealing than using their delicious tuscan bread.

garli (#4,150)

@sherlock @shannowhamo I’m glad to see that other people are as fully addicted as I am. I didn’t used to get 80% of my diet from trader joe’s, but my husband works there so I don’t even have to go shopping anymore.

shannowhamo (#845)

@sherlock Yes on the soup! The black bean is so good for something such a weird grey color. I got my wisdom teeth out recently and couldn’t eat real, chewy food for a few weeks and that soup saved my life!

I make lots and lots of stew/soup. Mostly vegetarian…

The base is always some kind of canned tomato (crushed, chopped, puree depending on what texture I want) and chicken broth. Sometimes I add canned pumpkin if I want it to be really thick.

After that it’s pretty much a free-for-all based on whatever is on sale at the grocery. A bunch of almost-wilted veggies ( sometimes roasted, sometimes just chopped up and dumped into the broth) and a grain (quinoa, barley, brown rice). If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add chicken or chorizo or something.

The biggest difference is the spices – chili spices, indian spices, whatever I’m in the mood for.

It’s super quick to throw together and it’s hard to mess up – it’s all just whatever you like! Plus it freezes really well and is healthy.

I usually make two of these at the beginning of the week and it’s enough for my boyfriend to eat all week (having two choices makes it more likely that we’ll pack instead of buying).

eraserface (#1,628)

Wow, I really want a bacon lettuce and mango sandwich on ciabatta now.

Fear Biter (#981)

My platonic ideal of bringing lunch from home is Albert’s lunch from “Bread and Jam for Frances”
I would for reals cry if I woke up one morning and that lunch was in my fridge waiting for me to take it to work!

@Fear Biter I just googled this, and I am right there with you. That sounds like a great lunch.

Ellie (#62)

@Fear Biter Yes! Yes! Yes! I remember this so vividly. My mom occasionally made me lunches that approached that level of interestingness and delightfulness.

dotcommie (#662)

make your own version of deli salads with whole grains! my current fave is boil a cup couscous (the big kind), roast and chop a couple zucchini/squash, and mix it together with minced garlic, curry powder, olive oil, and a 30oz can of chickpeas. it’ll last for several lunches and is delicious. would probably be good with goat cheese, too.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

@dotcommie ooh that sounds really good! I especially like those style of salads because they’re just as good when warmed up. A salad lunch doesn’t satisfy me in the winter because it seems sad and cold. One of my faves in this vein is a warm lentil salad from Molly Wizenberg.
I really need to get on the make-a-salad-of-roasted-veggies train again. It’s pretty awesome.

I have been really into making a salad that is basically this:

- large pile of salad greens
- sun flower seeds
- hemp harts
- feta
- dried cranberries
- store bought or homemade depending on my mood

I also usually put some cooked chicken (usually just some grocery store rotisserie chicken) and have a slice of french bread with it because I am a hungry monster at lunch time, but apparently not everyone is?

Another good method is to keep several days worth of ingredients at work, so all you have to do is assemble. So will often put a package of salad greens, dressing, and cheese (and chicken if present) in the fridge at work, and the cranberries, sunflower seeds, and hemp harts are in a bag at my desk.

@This is my new user name

Oh, oh, my other favourite! This one requires more prep, but is all ready to go at actual eating time.

- cook like 1 and a half cups of quinoa in broth (water + boullion cube)
- cherry tomatoes cut in half or other fresh diced tomatoes
- cucumber (in my case I like loooooooooooots of cucmber)
- fresh mozzarella cut into cubes
- chopped fresh parsely and/or basil (I have done it with just one and with both)
- I definitely recommend making homemade dressing for this one (some glugs of oil, fewer glugs of vinegar (i use a bit of balsamic and a bit of red wine vinegar), salt, pepper, a mushed clove of garlic, a squirt of dijon mustard)

You can also add some bell pepper too, but I kind of like it without. I portion it into lunch sized containers right away so all I have to do is grab one on my way to work.

Hoot (#5,403)

I like making a big batch of something (soup, veg-filled curry, other rice dish) on Sunday night and taking a big container to work to feed off of for a few days.

The advice about remembering snacks is key – I’ll sometimes bring a big bag of almonds to keep in my drawer, and I bring a piece of fruit most days. Watch your energy/hunger levels while you can and then work around predicting that. And you might want to stash some Clif bars or dried fruit or something in your desk until you can better predict your habits.

I also eat breakfast at work these days, which helps me keep hunger away longer during the day. This almost always means pumpkin granola and vanilla yogurt mixed together in tupperware.

The only downside: I often feel like I’m going camping when I pack my food in the morning. Leftovers + salad + fruit + side of bread or something = a fair amount of bag space. But it works!

sony_b (#225)

I’m a big fan of slow cooking large batches of things and freezing them for later lunches, and usually by lunch time they’d be thawed out and easy to nuke at work. The thing to do is get a rotation going so you’ve got a variety of things in the freezer so you’re not eating 13 servings of the same soup in a row. We keep the pint size containers that come with Indian takeout and freeze things in them (but reheat them in glass/ceramics). When I had an office I kept a bowl, a fork, and a spoon that I would just wash. I had a chicken version of this for lunch today: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/02/original-taco-soup-crockpot-recipe.html

Pro-tip: If you want to try this with something that you’d put over rice, put the curry/stew/whatever in the bottom of the bowl and then the rice on top. So when you invert it in your bowl the meal is right side up. I might be a little bit obsessive.

muggles (#1,525)

I wonder if the Katey in question happens to be a film writer newly employed by Vanity Fair…?

Detective Mode: Engaged [Disengaged]

Anyway, my favorite thing to do is go to Starbucks, write down the components of their delightful little lunchboxes (muesli bread + white cheddar + grapes + apples + almonds + whatever) and then just replicate those! Presentation is the most important part though, so bento boxes/other cute containers are vital for me.

Reburkel (#3,383)

This site will make you very jealous of these children, and I need to eat both of their lunches combined to be full, but great ideas! http://food52.com/blog/category/169-amanda-s-kids-lunch

MissMushkila (#1,044)

I am super salad/soup oriented when it comes to lunches, because they are both dishes that I can play with to get fruit, veggies, protein, whole grains, and dairy.

My go-to salad is a base of dark greens (baby kale, baby spinach, arugula, etc.) topped with walnuts or pecans, crumbled goat cheese, dried fruit (usually cranberries or cherries) and homemade vinagrette. I buy the trader joes mini-servings of goat cheese, because soft cheeses never last very long in my fridge. Then I can just throw the packet on top and crumble it when I mix up the salad at work. I keep little dressing containers and glug vinegar and olive oil in them in the morning, then shake to combine. Since everything but the greens last, I waste less.

Soups are my favorite though, because you can freeze some and they don’t get gross. I have done all types. My favorite is spicy butternut squash with spelt. Honestly, whatever appeals to you – make it from scratch on Sunday in a big batch, take some that week and freeze some for later in the month. We are currently doing a lunch soup club at work – three people bring soup to share with everyone each week, and we rotate – so you make a big serving once every three weeks or so and then have lots of options. IT IS THE BEST THING EVER.

Oh, the other thing I do is make hot dishes. This week it’s mexican lasagna: I layered corn tortillas, lime rice, beans, poblano peppers, salsa, and cheese a couple of times and baked at 350* for 40 minutes. I’ve also done ham and potato hot dish and MN hot dish (but with bechamel instead of cream soup from a can).

xenu01 (#4,239)

I AM THE QUEEN OF LUNCHES! My husband and I bring lunch every day and mine are subway and grad school proof.

Here’s what I have learned:
On salads I want to second the commenter above who said to keep things in separate containers. I had a frustrating time for years (I know! So sad!) because if I didn’t eat my (prepped on Sunday) salad fast enough, it all went bad and/or slimy.

Here’s my current salad prep configuration:
1. Large tupperware full of 1 chopped head of romaine (goes bad much slower than green leaf lettuce) and kale or chard.
2. Small tupperware with three vegetables in it. Currently we’ve got radishes, carrots and peppers.

Every morning I make a salad, then put dressing in my dressing container, which is small enough to fit inside because spilled dressing in your lunch bag= :(

For salad dressing, keep the following in your house:
Lemons
Vinegar
Mustard
Oil
Tahini
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Oregano
Dill

Mix and match as you wish. This is how I have been making dressing for the past five years.

Get into the habit of making leftovers every time you can while cooking dinner. While one of us dishes out dinner, the other fills tupperware with leftovers and puts them in the fridge. Usually we’ll have chili, curry, pasta with grilled veggies, chicken/fish and rice with veggies, things like that.

Also great to have? Bean thread noodles- the ones that have individually portioned bundles. Here’s a quick morning recipe that we do a lot for lunches when we don’t have leftovers:

Ingredients (makes 2):
2 bundle bean thread noodles** you can also substitute packs of ramen!
1 squash, zucchini or eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
salt & pepper to taste

Boil water, put bean thread noodles in, cook until no longer stiff (takes about 2 minutes). Drain and put into 2 tupperware containers.

Chop tomatoes and put in pan with garlic, salt and pepper and saute for a minute or so, then add chopped squash. Cook until soft. Throw onto noodles. Done.

I know it isn’t fancy, but it works in Chez Moi.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I will usually buy one of the bigger box of spring mix salad on grocery day as well as fixings – cucumbers, red onion, olives, tomatoes, etc. I try to cut up the fixings (except the tomatoes) so I just have to grab a handful of salad, add the extras. In the past I’ve been good at cooking chicken breasts in advanced, cutting them up and grabbing some of that too. I also like feta cheese crumbles and sunflower seeds/pepitas, and pecans that I will toast and leave in t a jar. I make dressing for the week in a jar so I just need to shake it and add it.

One thing that is really easy and cheap to do – hard boil a dozen or half a dozen eggs in the beginning of the week and keep them in a large tupperware or one of those cutesy ceramic egg cartons (I found one at homegoods for $4 compared to the ones at anthro that are like something dumb like $14). I stick them in my fridge, so if I don’t have chicken or any cash on me to buy a little from my work’s cafteria salad bar (they only take cash!) I peel two of them and throw them in my salad, or eat one for breakfast (I bring both breakfast and lunch to work).

Leftovers are also key – with every dinner I plan to take at least one day’s worth of lunch out of it. I also am a fan of big batches of quinoa and then mixing it with whatever bits and pieces are left over, and for protein scrambled or poached eggs on top. Slow cooker meals on Sunday are also the best because I’ll have a lot leftover.

And when I’m lazy or we haven’t gone grocery shopping, I’ll buy those evol or amy’s frozen burritos – which I just did for Wednesday since Thursday is thanksgiving and I don’t need any groceries until Friday. But I’m so in for the idea of making your own frozen burritos as per previous posts above! Probably a lot cheaper and I can customize.

clo (#4,196)

@ceereelyo totally with the hard boiled eggs. two eggs and a string cheese is a breakfast in a pinch for me.

Make quinoa and mix with a whole cucumber diced, diced tomatoes, lemon juice from a half lemon, pepper and feta cheese. This should make you lunch for at least three days of the week and tastes fantastic! I can’t stop eating it.

xenu01 (#4,239)

@Lorien Seret Clarrisa Olsen@ What an amazing idea, like tabbouleh salad with quinoa and no parsley! Totally stealing this. :D

by the way I also work by Times Square. Europa cafe has the same Chopt salads pretty much and is literally half the price. They have less options for dressings and toppings but they have everything I ever need.

megra (#2,906)

This was my go-to lunch side for a while this spring when spinach was in season:

toss a handful or so of raw spinach (baby or otherwise) into a pyrex or tupperware with a slice or two of lemon. When you are ready for lunch, rinse the spinach and don’t try too hard to shake them dry. Microwave with the lemon slice for 30-45 seconds and squeeze the lemon over the spinach! *salt+pepper are always a good addition*

This works nicely with most leftovers, but I did it with pieces of salmon (sorry, office-mates!) or chicken. Sometimes leftover rice or quinoa.

Liz (#504)

I usually just bring leftovers, but when I don’t have any for some reason, these are my go-tos:

–> Pita sandwiches. I am a fancy pants weirdo who doesn’t like sandwiches made with normal sliced bread, so I always go with a nice pita. I am a also a weirdo who likes hummus/salami/cheddar sandwiches (yes, all at once) but you can use other ingredients if you like! Pita sandwiches are also somewhat easier to transport since they don’t fall apart as easily.

–> The Greek-ish appetizer platter. I’d make sure to always have the following on hand, and just bring some of each (usually not all, but go for it if that’s your bag!)

- baby carrots (other veggies if I had leftovers, for example, from a recipe that only calls for half a red pepper or something)
- hummus (also used in sandwiches for variety!) or baba ganoush
- crumbled feta
- kalamata olives
- crispy pita (just throw that pita you usually use for sandwiches in the oven for a few minutes while assembling other bits)
- apples or grapes
- hardboiled egg
- salami pieces
etc.

concrete_dreams (#5,413)

I don’t have a microwave at work, so I tend to go for salads, yogurt & granola, smoothies, and cold noodle things. I love making pasta salad. Any kind of pasta, red wine vinegar & olive oil, fresh mozzarella, peppers/edamame/basil/cherry tomato, done. I make a batch and have it for a few days. I also like making Japanese soba noodle dishes that are great cold. I make smoothies with some quick oats blended in so they’re more filling.

themmases (#1,959)

I used to really love bringing leftovers, but in the winter it’s more important to me to keep those leftovers at home and skip cooking dinner a couple of nights a week. So honestly, I bring frozen meals a lot. Where I shop, the sweet spot is big brands that aren’t explicitly vegetarian but just happen to have no meat. If there are no sales, that can be a $3+ difference between rice and beans for Lean Cuisine vs. Amy’s, when they’re both really pretty good.

This week one brand was on sale for $2 each, so with yogurt I’m eating lunch for about $2.90/day. That combination is really filling and can be different every day if I want, and I save my giant Crock Pot full of soup for home where I appreciate it more.

Keep snacks in your office though, seriously. I’ve bought such overpriced/weird/large amounts of food on the occasions where I got hungry and wandered over to the cafeteria mid-afternoon.

antheridia (#2,995)

I use a large tupperware to make a “box of salad” once a week. Throw in a whole bag of spinach, an entire chopped cucumber, an entire chopped green pepper, and half of a chopped onion. When it’s time to eat, dish out as much as you want and add feta and olive oil. Quick and easy greek salad!

I’m all about snacks, and I prep this on the weekends. 5 little baggies of almonds, 5 little containers of carrots or celery, 5 little Laughing Cow wedges, 5 bananas, and 5 breakfast bars.

may june july (#2,862)

I usually am pretty lazy about lunch. I also don’t eat very much because lunch makes me sleepy. At least every other day I bring an apple and a jar of almond butter. This may not be enough for you, but it doesn’t require refrigeration and it doesn’t take any morning prep. Otherwise leftovers.. I need to start working on being good at salads, too.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

Usually I make a big pot of something- lentils with swiss chard and goat cheese is a favorite- and bring it for several days in a row. But last week I tried something different. I bought half a rotisserie chicken, a mixed green salad and a small container of potato salad from the grocery store on my way into work. This cost about $10 total, and there was room in the refrigerator to store it all. I was able to have easily available chicken, salad and potatoes for three lunches, all for a little over $3 per day.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

my lunch staple that hasn’t been mentioned yet is frittata, basically a baked egg pie with lots of stuff mixed in. Easier/healthier than quiche (because no pastry or cream) and it’s an awesome way to use up whatever veggies you have lying around. My favourite is usually some variation on sautéed kale, cubes of leftover cooked potatoes, grated cheddar, and onion.

I bake my frittata in an ovenproof non-stick pan, but if you don’t have one, you can use any ovenproof pan lined with parchment paper. They’re also good hot, cold, or at room temperature. If I really have my act together, I like to bring a wedge of frittata and a small thing of soup or salad, so I don’t get bored. And I keep a bottle of hot sauce or ketchup in the office fridge :)

Ellie (#62)

For lunch I usually eat a Tupperware container full of frozen vegetables (lately, always green beans but I used to do peas or peas and carrots a lot) with a healthy amount of olive oil, and black pepper, hot pepper and salt (sometimes Parmesan too). It’s pretty cheap. It might be cheaper to cook your own vegetables from raw (though it might not be – I’ve never calculated it) but this is SO much easier. I often just have that but sometimes I also have half an avocado, or if I’ve got some leftovers or prepared food or something, I’ll take some of that and add it to frozen vegetables. Today I had frozen green beans and some leftover plain boiled potatoes. It was seriously the most delicious lunch. (Hot pepper and decent olive oil really add a lot.)

I eat breakfast at work really late (plain instant oatmeal and banana or raisins or strawberries and a ton of cinnamon and splash of milk) so I usually eat lunch pretty late and not a big amount. The other thing is that sometimes I buy a container of premade soup and split it up into three containers, adding frozen vegetables or fresh baby spinach to it. I also keep brown rice cakes and almond butter, clementines or crackers for snacks and sometimes I make cookies (or buy a cookie) and keep them in my desk too.

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