Despite good intentions, planning ahead for lunch has always been the biggest pain in my meal planning routine. And while there is no magic solution that makes this task happen on its own, there are some smart and practical tips that make packing lunch feel easier and more manageable.
1. Make tomorrow's lunch while you prep dinner.
Your cutting board and knife are already out, and you're already dirtying some dishes, so why not make the most of your efforts? Using your dinner prep time to also tackle tomorrow's lunch is an easy way to get in the habit of making lunch the night before.
2. Set a realistic and sustainable goal for how many days you'll pack lunch.
The idea of bringing lunch to work every day sounds nice. And while that might be an easy feat for some, it can feel totally overwhelming for others. Just because you're committed to packing your lunch doesn't mean it has to happen every day. This is the long game, and to stick with it it's best to have a plan that makes it feel sustainable.
3. Use a better lunch container.
If you're packing lunch, it's time to arm yourself with some decent containers, which can be the key to a well-preserved meal. Stick with large, light containers for salads (the bigger, the better!), meal prep containers with snap lids, or a bento-style lunch box if you're packing a medley of items.
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4. Lean on grocery store shortcuts to make packing lunch easier.
Look to some smart buys at the grocery store to make packing lunch easier and less stressful. While you might pay a little extra for the convenience of things, like pre-cut veggies, hummus cups, grain salad, or marinated bean salad, remember that it's still cheaper than buying lunch out.
5. Include an ice pack when packing perishables.
When you keep perishables that are typically refrigerated at room temp for more than two hours, the risk of food-borne illness really increases. If you don't have a fridge at your office, the easiest way to get around this is by using an insulated bag and packing an ice pack to keep food cool.
6. Rely on batch cooking to make a week's worth of lunch at once.
When you're putting in the time and work to prep your lunch, make it count. Working in big batches rewards you for your efforts with a week's worth of meals. So while you're at it, double that batch of soup or pot of grains, cook another piece of chicken, or make extra burritos.
Get inspired: 25 Ideas for Make-Ahead Lunches That'll Last the Week
7. Don't be shy with spreads and condiments to keep sandwiches from getting soggy.
Go ahead and give your sandwich bread or roll a thick slather of mayo, mustard, pesto, hummus, or even butter. Condiments and spreads act as a barrier between the bread and meat, cheese, or veggies that make up the sandwich, and keep excess moisture from seeping into the bread.
Your turn! What are your best tried-and-true tips and advice for packing lunch?