After rigorous scientific study and a good amount of honest self-examination, I have come to a very serious conclusion: When it comes to work lunches, salads and sandwiches just aren't going to cut it. At least not in my house. Here's why.
The basic, underlying problem is that a good sandwich or salad — a truly delicious one that you look forward to eating — takes a certain amount of TLC. You can't slap it together in the five minutes between launching an attack in your Clash of Clans game and rushing out the door to beat traffic. Believe me, my husband and I have tried. Those kinds of quick salads and sandwiches — the salad of limp pre-washed greens thrown in a Tupperware with some baby carrots and a tiny container of dressing, or the sandwich of cold cuts jammed between bready bookends with a schmear of mayo — those are the kinds of lunches that tend to make one sad. Or at the very least, hungry again 30 minutes after eating.
Even if you aim high and pick up some nice crusty bread at the market or roast a pork tenderloin for DIY cold cuts, you can't avoid that fundamental problem of daily assembly. Every morning, without fail, you have to take a half-dozen containers from the fridge and assemble your lunch. You also have to think about what can actually be assembled and what needs to be kept carefully separate to avoid everything turning into a soggy mess by break time.
And, of course, the "you" in this whole conversation is really "me and my husband." Perhaps you have greater mental fortitude in the morning than we do. Perhaps you find a good PB&J or an iceberg lettuce salad incredibly satisfying. Perhaps you are less addicted to Clash of Clans (him) or Plants vs. Zombies (me). If you are one of these people, we were clearly born under a different arrangement of the planets and I salute you.
If, however, my tale of lunchtime woe strikes a chord, let me share the conclusion that my husband and I have finally come to: We don't have to eat salads and sandwiches if we don't want to. Be free from the tyranny of the standard workplace lunch! Dance to the beat of your own lunchtime drummer! Find bliss in dishes that defy lunchtime definitions!
For us, this ends up being one of two things: leftovers purposely saved from dinner or dishes that can be prepared on the weekend and portioned out over the week to come. Basically, anything that can be put into an individual serving container the night before and then grabbed on the way out the door the next morning.
This is hardly revolutionary, but accepting that this is our standard — and ditching the idea of sandwiches and salads altogether — has felt surprisingly liberating. The only times I eat salad for lunch these days are when I'm working from home and have time to make it a good one.
Here are our favorite make-ahead, leftover-worthy recipes for planned work lunches:
- Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers, Sausage & Jack Cheese — I usually make one big pizza for dinner and one or two more to eat during the week.
- Chicken Ragu with Bacon — Best served over gnocchi or pasta!
- Polenta Squares with Spinach & Bacon — We switch up the fillings with other leftover meats, vegetables, and spices. Extra cheese never hurts either.
- Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew — This recipe makes a ton and freezes very well.
- Lighter Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Spinach & Red Peppers — Another one where it's easy to switch up the filling with whatever we have or are in the mood for.
- Roasted Vegetable Freezer Burritos, sometimes with Slow Cooker Chicken as the filling — Because, freezer meal. Easy peasy. Grab and go.
What are your favorite recipes for work lunches?