I think we can all agree that the lunch struggle is real and it can feel totally overwhelming when you're at a loss for what to pack. When it comes to packing a totally tasty lunch that you look forward to tucking into midday, I truly believe it's all a matter of inspiration. Sure, recipes help, but getting some good visual inspiration is a surefire way to jumpstart your meal prep process. Here are 10 photos that will get the ball rolling and help you pack a better lunch.
1. Make a salad (no lettuce required).
Can you guess what these five salads have in common? Each one skips the lettuce and delicate leafy greens in favor of a more sturdy base, like shaved fennel, zucchini noodles, shredded Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli slaw. Start there and you can make a week's worth of lunch salads on Sunday and they'll still taste fresh when you dig in days later.
2. Say goodbye to soggy noodles.
Grab your closest bento-style lunchbox and package the noodles up in a separate well. When it's time to eat, add everything to a bowl and smile as you dig in, because this how you totally win the lunch hour.
3. Bring breakfast for lunch.
Lunch doesn't have to mean a sandwich, salad, or soup. If you have a serious thing for breakfast foods, go ahead and make them part of your midday meal. Waffles, pancakes, French toast, eggs, and oatmeal are all fair game.
4. Assemble homemade noodle cups.
These are just like those instant noodle cups you remember, but so much better. There's a super-rich flavor base tucked on the bottom of the jar, so all you need to do is add hot water before digging in.
Get the recipe: How To Make DIY Instant Noodle Cups
5. Embrace leftovers.
Partner your leftover chicken, pork, steak, or tofu with a side of veggies and dip, a few bites of fruit, and a little something to satisfy your mid-afternoon sweet tooth.
6. Bring a little bit of everything.
If you have a tough time narrowing down your lunch picks, take inspiration from this Greek-inspired meal and pack a little of everything. Cook up a couple herb-coated chicken breasts and make a batch of tabbouleh, then partner them with a couple luscious dips, like hummus, tzatziki, feta dip, or baba ganoush.
Get the recipe: Greek Healthy Meal Prep from 40 Aprons
7. Make sure you can see everything you've prepped.
Talk about getting lunch in order! If this beautifully organized week of lunches and snacks doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will. Seeing everything prepped, cooked, and packed so it's ready to grab and go makes lunch prep feel a little easier and totally doable.
8. Make takeout favorites at home.
This is way better than the shawarma place near the office. This is the kind of grain bowl that exceeds your wildest lunchtime dreams, and you can make it ahead and eat it all week long.
Get the recipe: Chicken Shawarma and Sweet Potato Fry Bowls from Half Baked Harvest
9. Prep staples, then mix and match during the week.
This is meal prep in all its glory. When your fridge is loaded with a roster of prepped and cooked foods, pulling together a satisfying lunch (and snacks) feels pretty darn easy.
Read more: How Prep Food for the Week from Wholefully
10. Following a special diet? Meal prep is key.
If you're following a Paleo diet, embarking on a round of Whole30, or just want a good lunch refresh, it's time to take note of these lunch box combos.