Quick & Easy Lunch Ideas

Like I’ve said before, I’m pretty OK at this whole bring-your-lunch-to-work thing.

So we’ve already covered the basics of successfully packing your lunch for work. Today I thought I’d share my 3 best quick and easy packed lunches.

These may not be the fanciest or most impressive lunches, but they are my go-tos when I’m really busy at work—and they get the job done. “The job” being feeding me mid-day so I don’t pass out from hanger.

Leftovers

This is probably the most “duh” of all lunch ideas, but bringing leftovers from the night before is cost-effective and helps prevent food waste. However, when bringing leftovers, make sure they will either reheat well or be OK chilled from the fridge—so, maybe avoid salads that are drenched in dressing.

I like to throw leftovers from the night before over some greens and make a salad. Confession: I stole this idea from a coworker. I have no idea why this never occurred to me, but it’s genius. In the photo above, we had grilled chicken kebabs for dinner, and I had an extra one that I put over mixed greens with some Tessemae’s ranch dressing for lunch the next day.

The Mindless Salad

A “mindless salad” doesn’t really have to be a salad—it’s just a very quick lunch that you will almost always have the ingredients on hand for. So for me, this is a salad: Arugula, dried cranberries, walnuts, chicken, and homemade dressing. It’s delicious and takes less than 5 minutes to throw together the night before.

I buy all of these ingredients at the grocery each week because I know more than likely, there will be one day where either we don’t have leftovers or I am uninspired to meal prep. To make it easier, I buy organicgirl baby arugula, which is prewashed, and Applegate Naturals precooked chicken breast. Sometimes I actually am not lazy and grill a chicken breast to have on hand, which saves a LOT of money, but having the precooked is a great backup.

Look in the Fridge

This last option is less of a planned meal and more of a strategy for utilizing whatever you have available in the kitchen. For each lunch, having a good source of protein and some greens is essential. If I’m out of almost everything, I can usually scrape by with a few staple ingredients.

Hardboiled eggs are easy to make in advance, especially if you have one of these egg cookers. At one point I thought an egg cooker was an unnecessary appliance, but then I realized the worst thing about hard boiling eggs is standing at the burner while they cook. Now I can make some eggs the night before without having to sit and watch a pot boil.

Sweet potatoes are another ingredient I usually have on hand—plus, they keep well so if I end up not using it, I can save it. The easiest way to cook a sweet potato is a tip I learned from Fed + Fit: Poke your holes in the potato with a fork (I usually do 4 lines of 3 holes with a fork), wrap the potato in a damp paper towel, and microwave for about 8 minutes (for a medium-size potato—adjust time according to the size). This is great for last-minute lunch packing the night before, because again, I just have to pop it in the microwave and not worry about it.

Lastly, like with leftovers, when in doubt, throw your food over some greens. I buy a few tubs of prewashed greens at the grocery each week, which come in super handy for these emergencies.

All that to say, plan ahead when you’re at the grocery store to have a few things on hand for emergencies—whether it’s a carton of eggs or some packets of tuna. Keep a few bags of frozen veggies in the freezer. ALWAYS buy some greens. Then you’ll have all the fixins for a last-minute lunch. Even if it’s not the most delicious, you managed to save a few dollars and eat something healthy and well-balanced. ❤

Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

As I was typing up my first post in a while, I was thinking about what kind of things I wanted to share on here. I started keeping a note in my phone with possible topics. Because while I love reading “day in the life”-type posts on blogs, they get kind of repetitive. Even more so when you’re a creature of habit, like me. Posting the same breakfast, lunch and snacks plus work synopsis would wear pretty thin pretty quickly.

One of the first ideas that popped in my head was tips on packing your lunch, because that is something I kind of have on lockdown. Packing a lunch bag for work (or school or whatever your current life situation is) is one of the most effective things you can do to make healthier choices throughout the day AND save some money. So here we go!

Tip 1: Get Your Shit Together the Night Before

Pardon my French, but this is THE most important thing when getting my lunch (and life, for what it matters) together. I am not a morning person (which if you know me at all, you know that about me), and I can think of the instances when I’ve actually packed a good breakfast + lunch + snacks the morning before work on like, one hand. So now I make it a point to put everything together the night before—and honestly, it usually takes no longer than 5 minutes. Then I can snooze in the morning and not worry about having nothing to get me through the day at work.

Tip 2: Get a Really Nice Lunch Bag

I got mine at TJ Maxx for less than $20, but you can find it on Amazon here. I love it because it’s big enough that I can get A LOT of stuff in there, but small enough that it can still fit in the fridge at work without taking up an obscene amount of space. It also has some nice outer pockets where I keep utensils, stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, etc.

Tip 3: Invest in a Few Reusable Containers

(I didn’t have any clean containers, so I used the ones with my lunch in it for tomorrow. Cooper was pretty interested haha.)

For years I used Gladware or other plastic containers, but I recently got a set of 4 Pyrex containers so I don’t have to worry about anything leaching into my food, especially if I put it in the microwave. I can’t find the exact set I got online, but here’s a similar one: mine has a 4-cup bowl, a 2-cup bowl, and two 1-cup bowls. I got them at Target for less than $20 (and they seriously go on sale all the time). I also got a set of these 4 ounce Ball jars, which are perfect for dressings or dips.

Lunch is usually a salad that I put in the largest bowl, and then I bring berries or some other fruit in one of the smaller bowls. The 4 bowls in this set plus the 4 ounce jars are basically all that I need. And, pro tip: If you are able, wash your containers at work, so you’ll have them clean when you get home—just throw everything together for tomorrow and you’re done!

The other thing I’ve started using recently that I really like are these reusable zip bags (like Ziploc, but you can reuse them). I used to use a TON of Ziploc baggies, and I started getting really convicted about how wasteful that was. I found this set of 5 online (3 sandwich size, 2 snack size) and am in love with them. They are BPA-free, freezer-safe, and I just wipe them out with some soapy water and a paper towel, then air-dry them overnight.

Tip 4: Overpack Rather Than Underpack

So ideally, pack the right amount of food, but I would much rather bring too much and then bring it home with me or leave it at work for the next day than not bring enough and be hangry all day or looking for change to use at the vending machine.

Most days, I bring my breakfast, lunch, and then a snack for midmorning (which I sometimes skip) and a snack for midafternoon. Breakfast is usually turkey sausage with a banana and almond butter (which I buy in pre-portioned packets, so I don’t go overboard with the AB), and lunch is either leftovers or a salad. I try to bring snacks that are healthy, filling, and portable. Most days I bring 2 cuties, a sandwich bag of baby carrots or some other fresh vegetable, and a Larabar. If I know I won’t be heading home right after work, I might have some grapes or jerky to hold me over till dinner.

This is based on years of research, fyi. Figuring out how much food to bring, plus what kind of food is filling without making you feel miserable, is a lot of trial and error.

Tip 5: Extras and Nice-to-Haves

OK, now we’ve basically covered what I consider are the essentials of a good packed lunch. Now we arrive at the things that are nice to have, but really up to you. A couple things I really love:

  • A good water bottle. I actually bring 2 big water bottles to work every day (each 32 fl oz) to cut down on buying bottled water from our vending machine (I’m really into recycling right now, guys). I still usually have to buy maybe 1 or 2 bottled waters each day, but it’s much better than before.
  • Reusable utensils. I came across these bamboo utensils while I was poking around online and they look pretty neat. The ones I keep in my bag are just plastic, maybe Tupperware. Honestly, I mostly use them when other utensils are not available—I should stop doing that.
  • Coffee tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold. I am obsessed with this Healthy Human tumbler I got. It for real keeps drinks cold for 24 hours (or after an entire day in 90 degree heat, in the sun, in a car with black interior). Plus it’s so pretty.

And that’s all I got! Let me know if you guys have questions or would like to see more of these types of posts. Oh, and have a happy and fun long weekend! ❤

Save