Ah, summer. Between the long weekends at the cottage, watching Bachelor in Paradise, and nights spent having a pint (or two) on a patio, bringing a packed lunch to work is often the last thing on my mind.
Is it just me or does summertime throw you off your entire meal routine, too?
Suddenly, it’s September. The smoggy air has turned crisp, flips flops have been put away and replaced by Uggs, and everywhere you look, someone is drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I think I am similar to most people in that I associate September with going back to school, even though it has been years since I went shopping for duotangs. (Do kids even still use those things?)
As Gretchen Rubin explained in her podcast, September is the other January, meaning, September can be a chance to reset your goals and reevaluate your priorities. A fresh start for all!
Now, there are already endless articles on the Internet about why packing a lunch is a great idea. I’ll save you some time and summarize. A packed lunch can:
Be Cheaper: Coming in at around $10 a day for a standard lunch, you can expect to save approximately $3,380 a year by bringing in your own.
Be Healthier: You have more control over what you’re eating when you prepare it yourself.
Give You More Time To Eat: A walk to the microwave is undoubtedly shorter than walking across the street and waiting in a line-up at a local joint.
Give You More Variety: You’re not restricted to what the lunch places near your office are offering.
That’s all well and good. In theory, sure, bringing a lunch seems to be a better option than buying. But that’s not what this article is about.
This article is about the how. That is, how in the world are you going to bringing a packed lunch day after day. I mean, we know from Vanessa’s article about horrible work lunches that sometimes bringing a packed lunch doesn’t always turn out for the best. Exploding bean chili anyone?
But never fear.
I have for you 5 tips for a packed lunch that will not only keep you on track but also make your co-workers writhe in jealousy.
Tip #1: Have Packed Lunch Staples At the Ready
One of the main reasons why you may end up resorting to buying your lunch is lack of preparation. This isn’t your fault. Life is busy and sometimes the groceries don’t get done or you don’t have time to cook. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
What’s going to save you is having recipe ideas for things you can make with staple items you probably already have on hand. Staple items include bread, canned fish, eggs, peanut butter and raw vegetables.
If you need ideas, here are some easy packed lunch ideas that will save you when you’re in pinch:
Quinoa mixed with a variety of chopped up veggies.
A can of chickpeas and a cut up tomato. Add some oil, salt, and pepper for more flavour.
Tuna and avocado with a splash of lemon juice.
In 5 minutes, your lunch is ready.
Tip #2: Cook In Bulk
I get made fun for this by my co-workers but I take this tip quite seriously. Meaning, I spend Sunday afternoon cooking a recipe for the entire week. Yes, I eat the same thing for lunch every day and I am not ashamed. This level of dedication to the bulk lifestyle might not be for everyone but it works for me. Not only is this an efficient way to prep your packed lunch but it is also a money-saving tip.
My favourite things to make in bulk that will keep for the week are stews, curries, and couscous salads.
If you can’t stomach multiple, consecutive days of eating Sunday stew, just make a little more for dinner and bring the leftovers for lunch the next day. It’s as simple as that.
Tip #3: Get Excited About Cooking
When I moved out of my parents’ house and became a “real” adult (still debatable), I was completely intimidated by cooking. I honestly thought I would never learn to cook. But, I started slowly with easy recipes to build my confidence. I actually created a Google Drive folder with recipes that I found at the back of my daily newspaper. The collection built quickly and from there I started to expand my repertoire.
Then, I started building my cookbook collection (you know my favs: The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes To Glow From The Inside Out and Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes and searching the Internet for other recipes.
If you’re excited about what you’re making, it will make the cooking process that much more enjoyable. Experiment with different types of cooking (Indian is my favourite) and new and interesting ingredients.
If you are looking for inspiration, Pinterest has (no exaggeration) millions of recipes. Or, check out Instagram. I heard there’s a pretty awesome account with tons of recipe ideas. 😉
Also, be sure to show off your creations to your co-workers! Chances are, if something smells delicious in the office, everyone will want to know where it’s coming from.
Tip #4 – Invest In Good Containers & A Lunch Bag
Ever had a leakage situation at the bottom of your lunch bag? You know, where the tomato sauce from your pasta and olive oil from your asparagus have mixed together to form a pink pool of nastiness?
After that happened to me more times than I care to count, I finally realized that my food containers might not actually be leak-proof.
Once I found containers that didn’t actually leak, I was finally free to bring whatever I wanted for lunch. I didn’t have to limit myself to just “dry” items. Life changing!
The containers I now use are the Glasslock brand: Glasslock 18-Piece Assorted Oven Safe Container Set
I also microwave these containers every day so I invested in glass instead of plastic.
Along with sturdy containers, I also invested in a good lunch bag. I look for lunch bags where the material is easy to wipe and there is an insulated lining on the inside.
Something like this:
Here’s one that’s more “adult” appropriate and if you prioritize utility over fashion:
Insulated Lunch Bag: InsigniaX Adult Lunch Box For Work, Men, Women, Boys, Girls With Adjustable Strap, Front Pocket and Side Pocket [Unisex Lunch Bags] . Size H: 8.4″ x W: 9.1″ x L: 6.3″ (Large, All Black)
This one is for you if you want something with a bit of flare:
Tip #5: Buy Your Lunch Once A Week (Or Once In Awhile)
This tip may seem counterintuitive, but trust me, it works. It’s all about tricking your mind (and treating yourself!).
Take the opportunity to catch up with an old friend over lunch or try out the new Mexican place down the street that everyone has been raving about. By indulging in the urge to eat lunch out once in awhile, you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
Also, the heaviness you feel after eating a burrito bowl with a side of guac and chips (I’m guilty!) will only further emphasize how much happier you are eating your packed lunch (and saving all that money).
Luckily, there are a lot of healthy lunch options popping up these days to choose from when you do decide to eat out. From buddha bowls to power salads, there’s always interesting and healthy alternatives to try! So go ahead and enjoy the experience.
I hope these 5 tips can help you when the struggle to bring a packed lunch feels too real. Take advantage of the September fresh start to give Sunday meal prep a try! Figure out what works for you!
Now it’s time to hear from you! In the comments, share your tips for a packed lunch. It could be an easy recipe or a simple way you ensure that you’re stuck in the morning with nothing packed.