You’ve heard this advice a million times: bring your lunch from home. If you work away from home, you need to eat lunch, and experts are falling all over themselves to tell you that packing a brown bag is the way to go. It’s healthier, more environmentally friendly, and can save you a surprising amount of money over the long run. But as we all know, it’s easier said than done.
Excuses are numerous and usually valid:
“I don’t know how to cook.”
“I’m rushed in the morning.”
“I have time to pack my kids’ lunches but not my own.”
“I get bored eating sandwiches for lunch.”
Nevertheless, the experts are right. Bringing your lunch from home is better for your health and your bottom line, and with a little planning and ingenuity, you can make the time to do this. This article will offer some tips and tricks for making lunch packing as stress free as possible.
Tip #1: The Night Before
It’s admittedly time consuming to pack a lunch, especially one that’s healthier and more exciting than a peanut butter sandwich and a sack of chips. If you’re one of those naturally chipper morning people, you’re probably already packing your lunch. But if you’re not, take advantage of your natural rhythms and do the work at night. If you combine dinner preparation and lunch packing, you’ll only dirty the kitchen once and you’ll wake up the next morning with a lunch waiting for you in the fridge!
Tip #2: Leftovers.
One of the easiest things to take for lunch is leftovers from the night before. If you make pasta for dinner, put a small portion aside in a Tupperware to take to work the next day. If you’re having roast chicken, use the leftover meat to make a sandwich. If you get the right kind of storage containers and have access to a microwave, you can easily bring a variety of dinner foods to work: soups, stews, chili, stir-frys, pasta, turkey and mashed potatoes, and so on.
Tip #3: Cook in Bulk.
If you don’t tend to have a lot of leftovers after dinner, consider doing some bulk cooking on the weekends. On Saturday or Sunday afternoon, make one or two main entrees that can be eaten throughout the week. The easier the dish, the better. Soups and stews are easy to make in large batches, and don’t forget about baked dishes such as tuna casserole or lasagna. Alternately, roast a chicken and some vegetables and portion them out for the week. Again, planning is key; taking a few hours on Sunday to plan and prep your lunches will make the rest of your week much easier.
Tip #4: The Freezer is Your Friend.
If you can’t stand eating the same batch of chili for five days straight, consider bulk cooking and storing individualized portions in your freezer. Example: if a batch of slow cooker turkey chili makes six servings, eat two during the week and freeze four of them. The next weekend, make lasagna; eat two servings and freeze the rest while enjoying the frozen chili for the rest of the week. The more you freeze, the greater variety you’ll have on hand!
Tip #5: Easy is Okay
If you’re not the cooking type, don’t feel bad about bringing extremely simple things for lunch! Cold cuts, cheese and crackers, nuts, string cheese, sliced veggies, and pieces of whole fruit can be combined to make an easy and portable lunch. These options may be easier to throw together in the morning as well.
Undeniably, it can be time-consuming to plan and prep meals for the week, but your increased health and decreased food budget is worth the extra effort. Take the time to make this small change in your routine and you will reap the rewards in the long run.