Learning to Actually Pack (and Eat) Lunch: 3 Tips from a Recovering Lunch Buyer

Tips from The Kitchn

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The act of bringing my lunch to the office ebbs and flows to some unidentified beat: sometimes I'm great at packing my containers and bringing snacks and other times I catch myself buying everything from coffee to salads and soups. The first obstacle is that I work within walking distance of many pretty good take-out restaurants. But the real barrier to transforming into a brown bag expert? Planning ahead.

Yes, I'll admit, I'm not much of a master meal planner. And I'm less than realistic about what I'll actually eat. Should I pack lentil soup four days in a row? Sure, I'll eat it! I think, until I decide to just save the soup in the back of the office mini fridge, day after day, while running out to buy lunch, until the soup meets its eventual trash can demise.

So, from me to you (and with a little help from Mark Bittman), here are a few tips and recipes for starting up a brown bag habit:

1. Be Realistic - You know what you like, so why trick yourself into thinking you'll be fine with a few carrot sticks and hummus and no mid-afternoon snack (a must in my workday)? Think of packing for your inner kid: lunches you can look forward to with even better snacks.

2. Plan and Plan Again - Browse the grocery aisles with lunch targets in mind: a variety of sandwich or salad toppings, for example, and some so-called emergency granola bars or fruit that can be there when the planning fails (or hangry time kicks in). Set aside a Sunday and cook food to freeze for lunches (and dinners, too) later on.

3. Always Think Leftovers - My all time favorite packed lunch in school was a slice of cold Domino's pizza. Seriously. Cold noodle salads are ideal for bringing for lunch as well, and even if you plan on warming last night's dinner up in the microwave, think ahead to make it into a meal. Order an extra portion to take home, or, cook a few extra servings.

What are your brown bag tips?

(Images: Flickr member taiyofj licensed under Creative Commons)