How to Pack Your Lunch for Work

A plated lunch with a poached egg on a white and gray tablecloth

You want to start packing your lunch for work. But how do you do it without turning it into a dreaded chore?

You already know about the benefits of meal planning, like how it’s great for saving money and eating healthier meals. And while meal planning sounds like a great idea, it’s not always so easy to do in practice. Not everyone has the time and energy to try new recipes and prepare their meals in advance. And besides, who wants to eat the same thing everyday? 

But it is possible to get the benefits of meal planning without expending all your time and energy. The solution? Packing your lunch for work.

Packing your lunch for work is a great way to cut down on dining expenses, be healthier, and add more variety to your current lunch options. 

Here are some tips on how to pack your lunch for work and make meal planning a breeze.

Brainstorm lunch ideas

While you can’t always predict what you’ll be craving for the upcoming week, you probably already have a good idea of what it is you typically like to eat.

So jot down a list of your favorite lunch options. This can be a mix of your tried-and-true meals or lunches you’d like to try.

We love our Meal Planning Pad for this purpose. There’s space to write down possible lunch ideas. And a column to schedule your meals for each day of the week. You also have a section to make a list of grocery items you need. 

Don’t forget to take note of the following:

  • What ingredients you already have on hand. Do a quick check of your pantry and fridge so you don’t buy unnecessary ingredients. 
  • What ingredients you like to cook with. While it’s good to be aspirational and try new recipes, you also want to be practical. So be honest with yourself and what you can realistically prepare. If you dislike handling chicken then don’t force yourself to cook chicken breasts for the month. If making a dish with puff pastry is too time consuming, then ditch it for something easier. Your ingredients won’t go to waste and you’ll actually enjoy the cooking process.

Opt for lunches you can be make in a big batch

While you’re brainstorming lunch ideas, include options that you can make in a big batch. You don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen just to make a meal that will only feed you once. Use recipes that will yield multiple lunches that you can eat throughout the week. This will save you from having to cook and meal prep constantly. 

Meals that you can make in a big batch include:

  • Chili
  • Lasagne
  • Roast chicken or chicken breasts
  • Hearty soup
  • Simple sheet pan meals 

Leftovers are your friend

Speaking of big batches, make your dinners do double duty by eating your leftovers for lunch the next day. Use leftover proteins like steak, chicken, or salmon for salads or sandwiches.  Leftover pasta can be reheated easily. And leftover roasted veggies can be the star ingredient of a salad or rice dish. 

Make sure your lunch is transportable

If you commute to work then you’ll want to make sure that your lunch is travel-proof. The last thing you want is to pack a delicious soup only to have it leak all over your work bag.

  • Use a food thermos to transport soups, stews, and meals that are sauce-heavy
  • Pack your salad dressing in a separate container to prevent leaks
  • Carry your lunch in a separate tote bag to avoid spills

Consider your reheating options 

If you work from home, then you’ll have no problem re-heating your leftovers or frozen meals. But if you work in an office, you may or may not have access to a microwave. So you’ll want to pack a lunch that can be eaten at room temperature or use a food thermos to keep your lunch hot. Meals like pasta salads, quinoa dishes, farro salads, chopped salads, and sandwiches won’t require any re-heating and will taste great at room temperature. 

Zhuzh up your lunches 

The good news is you’ve made a big batch of chili for the week. The bad news is you’re already sick and tired of eating it by day three.

We feel you. Here are some ways to zhuzh up your lunches for work so they don’t feel monotonous and you don’t get tempted to eat out.

Add fun toppings. You can add some variety to your lunches by playing around with your toppings.  So if you’re bringing chopped salads to work every day, then switch things up by adding roast chicken and tortilla strips for a Tex-Mex vibe, or goat cheese and nuts for a French-inspired meal. 

Include fresh herbs. Tired of eating the same thing for lunch everyday? Use chopped herbs to add depth of flavor. Add chopped cilantro to your soups or rice dishes. Or dill to your tuna salad. Or chives to roasted veggies. Herbs are a small way to create a big impact.

Use different marinades. You won’t get bored of chicken when you’re diversifying your marinades. Try marinating your chicken with yogurt and herbs one week. Lemon and garlic the next. 

Include a treat. You meal planned in advance and packed your lunches for the week. You deserve a small treat! Pack your favorite piece of chocolate. Or bring a box of your favorite tea to work. Enjoy it at the end of your meal. 

Don’t forget snacks

Here’s a familiar scenario: You’ve eaten breakfast but you still find yourself starving by the time 11 am rolls around. 

Instead of dipping into your packed lunch (and finding yourself empty handed come lunch time), bring some healthy snacks with you. This way, you won’t head straight for the office vending machine and buy a bag of chips.

Bring snacks that will keep you feeling full and satisfied without bringing down your energy. Think fruit and protein pairings like apple and cheddar slices. Or Greek yogurt with fruit and chopped nuts.  

Written by JiJi Lee

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