I spend most of my days working from home, typing words on a computer, baking and photographing cookies, then posting pictures of those cookies on the Internet. That sentence makes it all sounds idyllic, and while I’m certainly not complaining, my job presents its own set of challenges. Take lunch for example.
It's the toughest meal of the day for me, so I recently made a change. I'm spending a little time on Sunday nights prepping food, labeling containers, and getting my refrigerator ready for a week of lunches. Want to see what I make?
The Sunday-Night Lunch Plan
It might be counterintuitive to think that someone who blogs about food for a living can’t get it together enough to put food in their face around noon. I know, there’s no real excuse other than the fact that I tend to hit my stride around that time. The work starts to flow; I get lost in my computer or go down one of the various Internet rabbit holes with cat videos, Pinterest, and Amazon Prime. The next thing I know, I look up at the clock and it’s 4 p.m. Food has not made its way into my face since sometime that morning. I’m on the ugly side of a sugar crash, wonky-eyed, desperate, and reaching for a fistful of cookies.
So, knowing that lunch seems to be a challenge for me, I decided to change things up. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been putting in some time on Sunday night to prepare for lunch. I’m finding it strangely therapeutic. It’s a method of self-care. It’s telling myself, "Hey, you’re better than a frantic fistful of cookies at 4 p.m."
I come out the other end of this meal-prepping meditation with stacked containers filled with healthy, nourishing food. I label each item with its contents and the date it was made. For all of you list lovers and organization enthusiasts, this can feel like the best part.
My early morning commuting husband is also welcoming the change. The prep time I’ve been putting in has made it easy for him to sleepwalk through packing a healthy and balanced lunch before he runs out the door. It’s a win for everyone.
My 5 Make-Ahead Lunch Essentials
The exact things I make vary from week to week, but my blueprint is pretty much the same. Here’s a look at the five things that kept us happy and satiated this week!
With the lingering winter weather, this has been the perfect comfort food.This week I made a spicy sausage soup with plenty of kale. These are my favorite types of soups — the ones that feel hearty, filling, and satisfying. A huge pot of soup is the gift that keeps on giving. I was able to get several meals out of this one pot. It might have even fed me for the occasional breakfast or dinner.
2. Roasted Veggies
This week I roasted up a couple of sweet potatoes, but you can roast any veggie that you like. I’ve been known to roast Brussels sprouts, beets, broccoli, or cauliflower. The fact that it’s already cooked and prepped makes it easy to grab and go or add to a bed of greens for a more filling salad. This week I found myself smashing up sweet potatoes and topping them with fried eggs.
3. A Giant Salad
I like to take the biggest mixing bowl I have that comes with a lid and fill it to the gills with prepped greens. I prefer non-delicate greens such as kale, shredded Brussels sprouts, or shredded cabbage — if not a combination of all three. The heartier cruciferous greens are friendly when it comes to adding dressing. This way, I can dress my whole salad ahead of time and it only gets tastier.
If you don’t like these type of greens, you can make a giant salad with whatever suits your palate and just keep a container of dressing on the side.
This week it was baked chicken. I knew I could easily chop it up and serve it over the salad or pair it with the sweet potatoes for a super easy meal. I’ve also turned on my slow cooker on a Sunday and let a brisket or a pork butt cook. It really depends on what you’re in the mood for and what you have on hand. Hard-boiled eggs are another super easy protein to prep ahead of time.
I’m a sucker for this grain (although it's technically a seed). I add it to salads, put a little bit in some soup, or throw some chicken on it for a quick lunch. I made one-and-a-half cups and we had more than enough to dip into it at breakfast and dinner time.
That’s what my week looked like! Grab the ingredients you like, add in a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, and you’ve got an instant lunch.
Do you plan ahead for the week? What are your favorite things to prep ahead for lunch?
Originally published March 2014
(Image credits: Gina Eykemans)