Sandwich. Wrap. Chicken salad. Sandwich. Ugh, bringing a lunch to work can get boring — but it doesn’t have to. With a little more effort the night before, a delicious and creative lunch can easily be made.
Why bother bringing a lunch at all? Well, if there aren’t a bounty of lunch options near the office it might be a necessity, but more importantly, bringing a lunch generally means eating one that is healthier and has fewer calories. The tricky part is thinking of what to bring, and not toting in exactly what you ate for dinner the night before. Yes, that’s an option, but isn’t it more fun to eat something new the next day?
This requires a little creativity, but let’s try breaking it down. Take a protein for starters. If there is leftover chicken, beef, salmon, pork, etc., from dinner, try to think of how this can be made into something new. Shred larger pieces of meat for variety and because the change in structure may convince you that it’s something entirely new. Keep quick-cooking grains and pasta on hand to turn roasts into a tasty pasta dish or add chopped chicken to a salad of quinoa or couscous and leftover roasted vegetables. Don’t have vegetables? Peek into the pantry and open up a can of chickpeas or beans — they add protein, texture, and heartiness to anything, be it pasta, grains, or salads.
Have chicken or vegetable stock in the fridge? Heat it up on the stove and add diced vegetables or canned beans to it (canned tomatoes or tomato paste doesn’t hurt either). Any leftover protein can be dropped in at the end, stored in a leak-proof Tupperware, and brought to work the next day.
Unused bell peppers or vegetables can be chopped and made into a quick and easy stir-fry made even tastier with protein, canned beans, or grains for lunch the next day.
The point is to think outside of the box and experiment with throwing together whatever is in the pantry for a healthy, easily transportable meal. Stocking the pantry and fridge with staples like nuts, canned beans, quick-cooking grains, stock, and pasta will only make life easier and lunch that much tastier.
If you really love salads but detest soggy lettuce, think about storing a small bottle of olive oil at or under your desk (away from bright light) and bring in a lemon or lime. Together, they make a fantastic dressing that’s bright and flavorful — plus, it works on almost anything. For sandwiches, wrap them tightly and separately wrap ingredients like tomatoes that can make the bread soggy and add them in just before eating. Don’t be embarrassed to turn your desk or a hidden drawer into a condiment stash. Hot sauces like Tabasco that don’t need to be refrigerated can add heat and flavor to a bland dish; "borrow" mustard packets from a sandwich shop and use to flavor sandwiches or rice dishes. Save those packets of flavorful sauces from takeout Chinese and the soy sauce from sushi delivery — they’ll work fabulously on stir-fry dishes or brown rice with vegetables.
Below, are some suggestions that our office enjoys bringing to work. We hope you do as well and please feel free to share any insider tips that we may have missed!
My mother always likes to say this is the firt thing she ever made that was so good, my sister and I literally licked our plates clean...
— Jessica Chou
Crunchy and slightly bitter, this easy salad is a healthy and tasy dish to make for dinner or the night before for lunch the next day...
— Yasmin Fahr
Perfect in its minimalism, cacio e pepe, directly translated as cheese and pepper, is a real crowd-pleaser...
— Valaer Murray
This recipe was actually the result of a happy accident...
— Maryse Chevriere
This soup is comforting and wintery while also having a bit of zest and spice just to keep it interesting...
— Ali Rosen
I had the good fortune of growing up with a 20-minute drive of Los Angeles' Little Saigon, where it was common to find...
— Will Budiaman
Let's face it, you can put literally anything in enchiladas and they'll still be delicious...
— Jane Bruce
This dish is a riff on a delicious creation at one of my favorite Italian restaurants...
— Carly Goldsmith