Even though I work mostly from home, the lunch struggle is real. I am not immune to the sad desk lunch. Probably like you, it happens more often than I'd like to admit. But right now, inspired by the back-to-school season, all of that changes. I'm putting an end to the boring lunches that leave me splurging on a pricey salad and instead putting together exciting midday meals that will fill me up. When it comes to packing lunch, join me in welcoming September as the new January. It's time for a fresh start and it all begins with lunch.
From ham and cheese muffins to protein-packed chickpea quesadillas, these five midday meals show you how to give your lunch routine a total reboot.
Your Lunchbox Bootcamp Starts Here
My criteria for weekday lunches is not unlike yours: I want a wholesome midday meal that will not only fill me up so I can power through the afternoon, but also tastes really, really good. Because we're all watching the clock and our wallets, I also want lunches that can be made quickly and easily in advance, and that won't kill my food budget for the week. Also, despite my best efforts, I'm guilty of eating at my desk, so fuss-free lunches that don't make a mess or come with any kind of serious smells are key. And if, on top of all that, it's something that makes coworkers totally jealous — well that's a very welcome added bonus!
This might sound like a lot to ask, but it's not far out of reach when you embrace meal prep and have a good set of recipes on your side. Here's how to get started and give yourself a week of better midday eats.
Rely on big-batch cooking.
Cook once and eat all week — that is the hallmark of big-batch cooking. Consider it a little gift to your future self. Instead of making a single lunch the night before or in the morning before dashing out the door, prepping a big batch of lunches will not only save you time, but also give you the glow of victory when you have one less thing to worry about in the morning. Find a day when you can set aside some extra time, gather extra ingredients, and get to work.
A batch of savory muffins with meat and cheese will last a week, or even two. Roasted veggie wraps are a great example of big-batch cooking, since it's not much more work to load up your baking sheets with extra veggies. The components for Niçoise salad, like potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled egg, and the dressing, can all be made well in advance and it couldn't be easier to up the number of servings you make.
Freeze meals for later.
This is my favorite way to really take advantage of big-batch cooking. After making a batch of chickpea and cheddar quesadillas or roasted sweet potato wraps, let them cool, them wrap each individually and stash them in the freezer. They'll last for months and can go straight from the freezer to the toaster oven. The same goes for ham and cheddar muffins.
Reimagine lunchtime favorites.
The key to a winning lunch is packing something you want to eat and are excited about. These recipes prove you don't have to go too far afield to make that happen. It can be as simple as swapping your ham and cheese sandwich for a batch of savory ham and cheddar muffins, or taking advantage of fresh herbs at the market to give classic chicken salad a twist with pesto. Do you jump at the prospect of anything stuffed in a tortilla? Wrapped chickpea and cheddar quesadillas are a filling and well-loved lunch, or make a wrap filled with roasted sweet potatoes and caramelized onions with an herby spread. Give your regular salad routine a serious fast-and-fancy refresh with Nicoise salad packed in a Mason jar. Once you branch out a bit in what you consider lunch and give yourself some time to prep it ahead, lunch will be something you can fully look forward to.