During the week, I rarely spend more than 5 minutes preparing my work lunches. On weekends I do take a little longer, but still favour speedy meals in the middle of the day. I was reflecting recently on how my lunchtime routines have been streamlined and improved over the years, and so I thought...why not post about them? Why not, indeed.
Without further ado, here are some of my favourite lunch options for weekdays and weekends alike.
|Cabbage salad with tofu and mango|
1. Dinner leftovers.
I know this is only easy if you have dinner leftovers, but at least three weeknights a week I make a little more in the evening and am rewarded with a ready lunch the next morning. Stir fry, homemade pizza, legume dishes...they are all very easy to make a little more of and package up for the next day's lunch.
|Dinner leftovers ready for work|
Preparation time: All of 10 seconds (pulling a container from the fridge!).
2. Giant salads.
I have a standard formula for my salads, which feature on weekends more commonly than in the week. I take 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens, at least 1 serve of a brightly coloured vegetable (carrot, tomato, pepper, corn...), at least 1 serve of fruit (I like mango, berries, figs and pear), and at least 1 serve of protein or fat (such as tofu or nuts or both). Sometimes I make a nut butter dressing, sometimes I add lemon juice or chilli sauce, and sometimes the salad ingredients are sufficient all on their own.
|Lettuce, carrot, sweet corn, radish, strawberries, and tofu|
Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much chopping you need to do.
3. Pita or wrap based meals.
I often combine this option with #1, by using leftover stir fry vegetables or pre-made salad with a pita or wrap bread. I've found that stir fried vegetables work perfectly on top of a pita, especially if drizzled with almond butter. Cooked sweet potato and kale are great in a wrap with hummus. If that sounds too hard, you can pair a pita or wrap with any vegetables you have on hand. Add legumes, tofu, nuts or hummus to the veggies and you have a meal.
|Stir fried cabbage and peppers on top of pita bread, with almond butter|
Preparation time: Again, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on what you're starting with.
4. Couscous with veggies and almonds.
This is one of my 'emergency' workday lunches, and as such I tend to keep a packet of plain or flavoured couscous in the cupboard at all times. It takes all of 3 minutes for couscous to cook in hot water, just enough time to chop up whatever vegetables you have available. When the couscous is ready, package it in a container with the vegetables and a handful of almonds. If working with plain couscous, some dried herbs or condiments to taste (soy, apple cider vinegar, chilli sauce...) will make the make the meal more appealing; dried fruit can achieve the same.
Preparation time: 5 minutes if you work efficiently.
5. Nori wraps.
I don't make these as often as I'd like, but they do provide a very easy option and a nice alternative to bread-based wraps. I make mine by spreading the nori sheet with hummus or nut butter, adding salad, and simply rolling up.
6. Soup and crackers or a roll.
This is another 'emergency' lunch for me. If you have made soup up in advance, you are already set to go. If not, a tin of soup in the cupboard is a good fall back. I always have crackers in the cupboard too, and tend to keep a pack of rolls in the freezer for days I need to round lunch out quickly.
7. Quinoa anything.
If you cook up a batch of quinoa at the start of the week, I think lunch can almost take care of itself. As quinoa combines protein and carbohydrate, it doesn't take much to turn it into a meal. I like to add spices, vegetables and dried fruit, and not much more. If you have legumes to hand, they make a great addition too.
|Quinoa with fig and kale|
8. Pick and mix items.
Really stuck for time? Grab a vegetable or two (carrot, tomato, pepper, broccoli...), a piece of fruit, some crackers or a roll, and a (non dairy) yogurt. Take the picnic mentality to work, and have a grazing lunch.
|If you have items like these to hand, you have a meal |
(albeit in this case with store bought items on the go, and from 2012 at that!)
I think most meals are rounded out well by chocolate, so feel free to add your own sweet conclusion to the above too!
The above is not a comprehensive list, but it highlights some of the options that make life easy for me. Obviously some advance preparation is required - cooking things in advance at one end of the scale, and keeping couscous, soup and perhaps legumes in the cupboard at the other. I'd love to hear what works for you with easy lunches too.
What are some of your favourite quick lunch options?