How to pack a lunch that you’ll really eat

packed lunch
CC BY 2.0 James Theophane

If you love to eat, then a packed lunch can sometimes seem like a disappointing excuse for a meal. The trick is to make it something you look forward to eating.

Packing a lunch can save you a lot of money and help you stay on track with healthy eating. The only problem is that a packed lunch, especially if it consists of the old sandwich-and-apple combo, often lacks the appeal of something store-bought. Here are some ideas for packing lunches that will make you want to eat them, five days a week.

1. Plan ahead

If you leave lunch prep to the very last minute – when you’re scrambling in the morning to eat breakfast and get out the door – chances are you’ll end up with a sad-looking desk lunch. Give it a couple minutes of thought the day before, so you know whether to cook extra dinner or pick up some lunch items at the grocery store.

2. Eat "real meal" food.

I know that if my lunch doesn't look like something I'd sit down at the table to eat for dinner, I'm usually not too keen on it. Who says you have to stick with boring sandwiches for lunch? Heat up soup and take it in a thermos. Make super-quick udon noodles with peanut sauce. Do a wrap or salad or a frittata. Go French-style with a baguette, a wedge of Brie, and some fruit. Take lentils or beans, a can of smoked fish, a tomato.

3. Use and rework those leftovers.

When cooking dinner the night before, prepare enough for your lunch to save prep time later. Take the food as it is, or rework the leftovers to make them more appealing, i.e. cut up a chicken breast to top a salad, or turn veggies and beans into a burrito.

4. Consider the aesthetics of packing.

Reusable containers are not only environmentally friendly, but they help to present food in a more appealing way than when it’s in plastic Ziploc bags. Use real cutlery and a plate, if you can. The surprising benefit of eating your lunch in a formal manner is that people are less likely to disturb your mealtime than if you’re munching out of a disposable wrapper.

5. Have the right tools for the job.

There’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of food prep on the spot. Stock your office desk with a small cutting board, a paring knife, a can opener, a napkin, and metal cutlery. In addition, you may want to keep some condiments on hand at work, such as hot sauce, salt, a pepper grinder, and a little jar of olive oil.

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