Getting a nutritious, homemade lunch ready in minutes can seem next to impossible on a busy workday. But with some easy recipes, handy ingredients, and a little planning, you can throw together delicious lunches in no time.
This beginner’s guide will give you ideas and tips for assembling quick and satisfying homemade lunches to enjoy even on your busiest days. These recipes are designed to be easy and straightforward requiring preparation. Most of them can be prepared in advance allowing you to simply grab and enjoy them on the go.
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Assemble On-the-Go Meals in an Easy Jar
Salad jars are a fantastic way to have a healthy, homemade salad ready to eat in seconds. Simply layer your salad ingredients in a jar in the order you want to eat them. When you’re ready for lunch, give the jar a shake to mix everything together.
Some tasty salad jar ideas:
- Greek salad jar: Lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, red onion, feta, olives, tomato, lemon vinaigrette
- Southwest salad jar: Lettuce, black beans, corn, avocado, shredded cheese, salsa, Greek yogurt dressing
- Taco salad jar: Lettuce, ground beef or turkey, peppers, onions, cheese, salsa, Greek yogurt lime crema
Salad jars keep ingredients separated so vegetables stay crisp. Build several on your day off so lunch is grab-and-go all week long.
Make Your Own Portable Bento Box Meals
Adult lunchables, also called DIY bento boxes, are a handy lunch solution modeled after kids’ pre-packaged lunch kits. Simply pack compartments full of healthy snacks, veggies, proteins and more.
Some adult lunchable ideas:
- Leftovers bento: Chicken, rice, roasted veggies, grapes, crackers
- Snack box: Carrots, snap peas, grapes, cheese, nuts, crackers, hummus
- Sandwich bento: Whole wheat bread, sliced turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, peach, granola bar
Pack items that don’t need refrigeration so you can grab and go. Use silicone bendable dividers or container sets to easily separate ingredients.
Sheet Pan Meals
Cook Full Lunches on One Pan
With sheet pan meals, you can cook an entire balanced lunch on one baking sheet. Prep the pan in minutes, pop it in the oven, and you’ll have a homecooked meal with little effort.
Some easy sheet pan lunch ideas:
- Chicken fajitas with peppers and onions over rice
- Teriyaki salmon with broccoli and carrots over couscous
- Pizza pan with turkey pepperoni, veggies, cheese on flatbread
Get creative with sauces and spice blends! Sheet pan meals pack well so you can eat part at home and save the rest for lunch.
Prepare Portable Sammies in Advance
Sandwiches make for an easy grab-and-go lunch. Get ahead on busy mornings by preparing sandwiches up to 3 days in advance.
Tips for make-ahead sandwiches:
- Use sturdy bread (whole grain, sourdough) that holds up over time.
- Layer bread with cheese or condiments to prevent sogginess.
- Keep sandwiches chilled until ready to eat.
- Wrap sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap or foil.
- Fill a freezer bag with sliced bread and sandwich fillings to assemble on the go.
Some great make-ahead sandwich options:
- Italian sub sandwich with salami, ham, peppers, basil, cheese, oil & vinegar dressing
- Chicken pesto sandwich with mozzarella, tomato, spinach
- Overnight oats sandwich with oats, chia seeds, peanut butter, sliced banana
Mason Jar Oatmeal
Make Quick Overnight Oats
For a grab-and-go morning meal, assemble oatmeal in a mason jar the night before. Combining oats and liquid in a jar allows the oats to soak and soften overnight.
In the morning, add toppings like fruit, nuts, seeds and milk or cream. Shake the jar to mix everything together for an easy portable breakfast.
Some overnight oats combinations:
- Peanut butter and banana: Rolled oats, chia seeds, milk, peanut butter, banana, cinnamon
- Apple pie: Rolled oats, milk, diced apple, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg
- Strawberries and cream: Rolled oats, Greek yogurt, strawberries, honey
Make a batch of jars on Sunday so you have healthy oatmeal every morning.
DIY Instant Noodle Cups
Make Healthier Options With a Noodle Jar
Skip the sodium and preservatives in instant ramen and make your own healthy noodle jar meal. Fill a mason jar with broth, cooked noodles and unlimited mix-ins.
Some instant noodle jar ideas:
- Chicken noodle: Chicken broth, egg noodles, shredded chicken, carrots, parsley
- Thai peanut: Vegetable broth, rice noodles, edamame, shrimp, peanut sauce
- Beef and mushroom: Beef broth, udon noodles, mushrooms, onion, basil
To serve, dump the jar contents into a bowl and heat up. Customize each jar however you like for the ultimate homemade cup of noodle soup.
Breakfast Muffin Cups
Make Egg Bites and More in Muffin Tins
Use muffin tins to whip up grab-and-go egg muffins, frittatas, baked oatmeal cups, yogurt parfaits and more. Make a big batch over the weekend for quick breakfasts and lunches all week.
Some muffin tin ideas:
- Egg muffins with sausage, bell pepper, cheese and spinach
- Yogurt berry parfait with yogurt, granola and mixed berries
- Ham and cheese frittata with diced ham, cheddar, onion, potato
- Baked oatmeal with apples, raisins, cinnamon, milk, egg
Let your muffin tin creations cool then pop them out of the tin and store in the fridge or freezer. Reheat as needed for an easy meal in minutes.
Blend Up Pre-Portioned Smoothies
For instant smoothies, pre-portion smoothie ingredients into resealable bags or jars you can grab from the freezer. Add to the blender, mix with liquid and you’ll have smoothie magic in seconds.
Some pre-made smoothie options:
- Tropical – Frozen mango, pineapple, banana, coconut water
- Berry – Mixed berries, Greek yogurt, milk, honey
- Green – Spinach, avocado, banana, apple juice
- PB and chocolate – Banana, peanut butter, cocoa powder, milk
Make a week’s worth of smoothie packets on Sunday so you can blend nutritional drinks in a flash all week long.
Wrap and Roll Ups
Quick Handheld Meals in Tortillas, Flatbreads and More
For fast, fuss-free lunches on the go, roll up tasty fillings in flatbreads, tortillas, pitas and rice paper wraps. Endless flavor combos make this a great way to use up leftovers too.
Some delicious wrap ideas:
- Chicken Caesar wrap with grilled chicken, romaine, Parmesan, Caesar dressing
- Thai peanut wrap with tofu, carrot, red pepper, peanut sauce
- Falafel pita with falafel, tomato, lettuce, hummus, tzatziki
- Rice paper veggie rolls with rice noodles, tofu, carrots, basil, mint
Prep a batch of wrap fillings or use leftovers so assembling lunches is a cinch. Wrap in foil or a reusable container to eat anywhere.
Homemade Frozen Meals
Cook and Freeze Healthy Make-Ahead Meals
Cooking homemade meals in big batches is a time saver. Portion meals into reusable containers and freeze. Pop one in your lunch bag to reheat at work for instant homemade food on busy days.
Some freezer-friendly meals:
- Burritos and fajitas
- Chili, soups and curries
- Casserole dishes
- Pasta dishes like lasagna, baked ziti
Use meal prep days to make multiple meals for your freezer stash. Label with dates and you’ll have lunches ready in minutes for weeks.
With a little creativity and some prep work, you can put together fast, enjoyable lunches using easy recipes and ingredients you have on hand. Try out these tips and ideas to begin assembling your own quick homemade lunches to enjoy even on the busiest of days.
Do you ever hit lunchtime at work and realize you have no time to prepare a good meal? It happens, but with some easy recipes and ingredients on hand, you can throw together a homemade lunch in minutes. Check out this beginner’s guide for tips and ideas to start assembling fast, tasty lunches to get you through those crazy busy days.