Preparing packed lunches, for work can be quite a task. It can be challenging to find the time to put together meals every morning especially when you’re already in a hurry. However there is a solution, to this predicament. Simply prepare your lunches in advance! By doing you’ll always have nutritious food ready to grab and take with you on the go.
Preparing your lunches for the workweek in advance minimises food waste, saves time and money over dining out, and helps you remain on track with your dietary goals. Once you have a few go-to recipes, it’s easy to get into the habit, even though it may seem scary at first. You’ll stroll through ten healthy, pre-made lunch choices that are ideal for bringing to the office with this beginner’s guide.
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1. Burrito Bowls
Burrito bowls are a filling and nutritious lunch option. To make them ahead:
- Cook your grains like quinoa, rice, or farro. Portion into containers and refrigerate.
- Roast or sauté vegetables like peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Store in containers in the fridge.
- Cook beans from scratch or open canned. Store in an airtight container.
- Grill or cook chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or tofu. Store in the fridge.
To assemble your lunch, layer grains, beans, protein, veggies, salsa, cheese, etc. in a bowl or container. The combinations are endless! Some tasty add-ins are avocado, Greek yogurt, hot sauce, and guacamole.
2. Mason Jar Salads
Salads built in mason jars allow you to layer ingredients so they don’t get soggy. Follow this formula:
- Dressings or wet ingredients on the bottom
- Hardier vegetables and proteins in the middle
- Delicate greens on top
Some fun mason jar salad combinations are:
- Greek salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, feta, onions, olives, tomatoes, and lemon vinaigrette
- Southwest salad with black beans, corn, bell peppers, chicken, cheddar, and salsa dressing
- Caesar salad with romaine, chicken, parmesan, croutons, and Caesar dressing
3. Adult Lunchables
Make your own luncheon kit by pairing items like cheese, crackers, fruits, veggies, hummus, olives, nuts, cured meats, hard boiled eggs, etc. Portion them out into containers in fun, grab and go combinations.
Some ideas for DIY lunchables include:
- Cheese, pita or bagel chips, grapes, carrots
- Hummus, snap peas, mini peppers, olives, pita bread
- Cheddar, salami, marinated artichokes, crackers
- Goat cheese, apple slices, dried cranberries, pecans
4. Buddha Bowls
Buddha bowls are similar to burrito bowls, but often Asian-inspired. Here are some elements to include:
- Grains like quinoa, brown rice, soba noodles
- Vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, shredded carrots, cabbage, edamame
- Plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh, chickpeas
- Sauce like peanut, teriyaki, ponzu, sesame
Some tasty combinations are quinoa with stir fried veggies and teriyaki tofu or soba noodles with edamame, shredded cabbage, carrots, and ginger dressing.
5. Baked Potatoes
Meal prep baked potatoes for a hearty lunch option.
- Bake a batch of potatoes and let cool
- Prep toppings like broccoli, beans, salsa, chili, cheese, etc. and store separately
To pack your lunch, place desired toppings in containers and reheat the potato. Top with ingredients when ready to eat.
Warm up with a hot soup for lunch. Great make-ahead options include chili, chicken noodle, minestrone, lentil, and veggie soups.
- Make a big batch and portion into containers over the weekend
- Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage
- Reheat on the stove or in the microwave at work
- Pair with bread, crackers, or a salad
7. Wraps and Sandwiches
Wraps and sandwiches make portable, tidy lunches. Prep them ahead with fillings like:
- Chicken, avocado, peppers, hummus, feta – any combination works between tortillas or bread
- Tuna or egg salad with lettuce and tomato
- Peanut butter and jelly or banana
- Leftover roast beef with cheese, lettuce, tomato
- Turkey and pesto with roasted vegetables
Cut in half or roll up tightly so they pack well.
8. Healthy Leftovers
Leftovers from dinner shine for next day’s lunch. Some options include:
- Chili, soups, or stews over rice
- Stir fries with quinoa or whole grain noodles
- Casseroles like enchiladas, lasagna, or eggplant parmesan
- Roasted vegetables and chicken or tofu
To prevent sogginess, store sauce separately and heat it up at work to mix with the food.
Spiralized vegetables noodles make healthy, low carb lunch options. Try combinations like:
- Zucchini noodles with tomato sauce, tofu, and spinach
- Butternut squash noodles with pesto and shrimp
- Carrot noodles with ginger peanut sauce and chicken
- Beet noodles with marinara and meatballs
Other spiralized veggies to use are sweet potatoes, turnips, cucumbers, and beets.
10. Bento Boxes
A bento lunch box with divided compartments lets you organize a balanced meal. Fill it with favorites like:
- Brown rice, vegetables, fruits, hardboiled egg
- Quinoa salad, snap peas, mini peppers, crackers
- Chicken, broccoli, sweet potato, grapes
- Nuts, cheese, apple, carrot sticks, dried fruit
Get creative with combinations, colors and textures. Bento boxes make lunch fun!
Tips for Success When Meal Prepping Your Work Lunches
Follow these tips and tricks to stay motivated with your meal prep!
First, choose recipes that use similar ingredients to streamline grocery shopping and cooking. For example, plan chicken burrito bowls, chicken cobb salads, and chicken pasta dishes for variety.
Next, assign a day to be your meal prep day whether it’s Sunday or another less busy weekday. Get your prep stations ready with cutting boards, knives, containers, etc. Put on music or a podcast to make the time enjoyable.
When cooking, make extra portions to freeze for laterlunches or dinners. Soups, stews, and cooked grains freeze well.
Invest in good food storage like mason jars, bento boxes, and divided plastic containers. This will keep your meals fresh and organized.
Lastly, clean up as you go and do a final wipe down of counters. Coming home to a tidy kitchen makes you more likely to stick with the habit next week.
With a plan in place, you’ll find meal prepping for the workweek to be satisfying and time-saving. Just a few hours of prep means lunch is grab-and-go all week long. Enjoy the variety, nutrition, and peace of mind your home cooked lunches will provide.
Preparing nutritious lunches to bring to work helps you save money, eat healthier, and gain back time. With a little planning, it’s easy to fill your week with satisfying meals like salads, bowls, sandwiches, soups and more made ahead of time. Start small with a goal for 2-3 prepped lunches per week and go from there. Your future self will thank you for the extra time and wholesome meals you’ll gain from the habit of meal prepping. Give these 10 make-ahead lunch ideas a try for easy office lunches all week long.