Improve Your Lunch. Improve Your Life
It’s time to end that toxic relationship with your delivery guy. If you’re getting takeout everyday at the office, you’re eating more calories and spending more cash than you’d need to.
But your alternative isn’t a sad desk salad – you can feel better and save money with a packed lunch. Here’s how.
The best part of bringing your own lunch is that it’s prepared just to your specification. Menu substitutions are allowed and encouraged. If you don’t have a lot of experience cooking for yourself, though, you might not know where to begin.
Start on Pinterest where you can browse menu options in categories like healthy, easy, and adult lunch. Food52’s appropriately titled Not Sad Desk Lunch column is another visual-driven source of inspiration.
Buzzfeed Food is good for quick meals and dishes that incorporate precooked items you can get at the grocery – perfect for the cooking novice. Start with their list of “awesome, easy work lunches” and move on to “meals you can make with rotisserie chicken”. For even shorter and simpler recipes follow Tiny Recipe’s Twitter feed for dishes in 140 characters or less.
Now that you’ve chosen some recipes to try, don’t leave your cooking for the morning before work. Start planning weekday lunches over the weekend and make sure to pick up all the groceries you’ll need before Sunday night.
Jenni Avins at Quartz recommends a seasonal and staple approach to grocery shopping in her excellent guide to taking your lunch to work.
“Canned beans, canned fish, and nut butters are all good to keep in the pantry for protein in a pinch,” Avins writes. “Avocado makes salads and sandwiches richer – or is pretty delicious by itself, halved with a little dressing and/or the aforementioned canned fish where the pit was. Plus: avocado toast. It may be an Instagram cliché, but it’s still delicious.”
When considering your lunch game plan, think about cooking in bulk. Rice three days a week won’t get boring if you try it with artichoke hearts, lemon, and chicken on Monday; sausage and peppers on Tuesday; and stir fry on Wednesday.
The Thermos lunch box with your favorite character served you well in elementary school. Now it’s time to find the grown-up version that calls to you.
Colorful Bento boxes separate mains from sides and this one from ModCloth or any of the bento boxes from TAKENAKA will serve you well. If you want to go with a more industrial-looking lunchbox, try a Tiffin lunch pail.
Did you brown bag it growing up? This waxed canvas sack version from Artifact will bring back fond memories.
The Ziploc has also modernized since you were last in school. Stasher bags are reusable, self-sealing bags that can be safely frozen, microwaved, and thrown in the dishwasher. It was one of Inc’s 2016 Iconic Design Award winners.
The Kickstarted lunchbox Prepd Pack, offers a bento box-style modular containers and magnetic cutlery that fits snugly in a well-designed bamboo carrying case. There’s an accompanying app to help you figure out what to pack, too. It ships in October.
Serve in Style
Studies have found that an attractive place setting makes for a tastier meal. Keep a china plate and real silverware at your desk and enjoy your lunch a little bit more for making the effort of plating it.
Stock a Desk Pantry
Clear aside the ketchup packets and add some seasoning and spice to your desk drawer to quickly bring flavor to your lunch creations. A small salt-and-pepper set, some crushed pepper flakes, and a mini Sriracha bottle should do the trick. If you want to get fancy, Bon Appétit has a handy guide to stocking a more extensive desk pantry.
Office Lunch Swaps
Before long, your coworkers will be jealous of your lunches and if you’re honest you’ll be a little tired of planning them every week. This is the time to start a lunch swap at your office. Lunch swaps take various forms, but the easiest way to go is by finding four coworkers with similar palates and divvy up the workweek. Most recipes are for a family and not a single adult, after all, so cooking for five is sometimes easier than cooking for one.
As Epicurious editor Anya Hoffman says, lunch swaps can change your life, and not just by keeping you fed. “Although my coworkers didn’t intend to eat their swapped lunches together, it happened naturally a couple of times over the course of the week,” Hoffman wrote. “There’s something about sharing food that kind of makes you want to be around other people, instead of hunched over at your desk getting spaghetti sauce stains on your keyboard.”
And by the way, your desk is disgusting. For a truly healthy lunch, you shouldn’t be eating there anyway.
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