The clock strikes 12:00 p.m. My stomach rumbles. I dash to the kitchen, grab my lunchbox and slow myself down to rest and refuel for the second half of the day. I’m joined by fellow co-workers from many departments, and the 15-seat island in the upstairs kitchen is full of fragrant scents. My friends look around the table and ask, “What do you have to eat today?” and I respond with glee. Food is one of my many passions—from prepping lunches I get excited about sharing a meal with good company.
Peek into my lunchbox and tap into my meal prep plan as I share with you my hacks for healthy, sustainable and easy-to-make lunch options to take on the go, and either reheat in a microwave or eat cold right out of the fridge.
Even if I only have 15 minutes to enjoy it, the lunch hour is where I gain energy to complete the rest of the workday. Preparing meals at the start of the week makes it easier for me to step away from my desk and find moments of peace and stillness. It’s a way to save time and money while giving me a sense of control.
Meal prep how-tos:
Choose recipes that inspire you
Search cookbooks, blogs, family favorites, or recreate a dish you had at a restaurant that made your heart sing. The recipes below will make you look forward to the lunch hour. Some websites to help you get started are Minimalist Baker, Food 52 and Epicurious.
Create a grocery list
Select recipes with similar ingredients so you can create multiple things from one trip to the store. Remember to check your fridge and cupboards before you go!
Schedule yourself in the kitchen for an hour or two once a week
This time upfront will save you loads on the backend. Also, it forces you to not let your food go bad since you know exactly when you will be making it.
Safely store your food
Whip out the Pyrex or other clear containers and stack them in your fridge FIFO (first in, first out) so they’re easy to grab and take with you whatever your day may bring.
Below are some quick and easy lunch options that go beyond your traditional PB&J. They’re easy to reheat or can be enjoyed cold. Make them early in the week or the night before to save time.
Adobo Chicken Sweet Potato Burritos
These burritos use sweet potatoes instead of beans and are packed with protein and flavor to keep you awake.
Prep Time: 1 hour
- 1 lb. chicken breasts (about 3-4 chicken breasts)
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. salt and pepper
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 3 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4–5 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 3 sweet potatoes
- A handful of fresh spinach, chopped
- Tortillas (flour or corn, your choice)
- Cook the chicken: Mix the whole breasts, spices, olive oil, garlic, onion and red pepper in a large bowl until chicken is fully and evenly coated. Cover and set aside in the fridge to marinate for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Lay the breasts on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake until easy to shred, about 35 minutes.
- Make mashed sweet potatoes: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into quarters and boil for 30–45 minutes, or until mashable. Mash and set aside.
- Shred the chicken: Place cooked chicken in a large bowl and use two forks to shred.
- Assemble the burritos: Heat the tortillas on the stovetop in an ungreased pan over medium heat, 20 seconds per side. Spread 2 heaping spoonsful of potatoes along the center of each tortilla. Add shredded chicken over the potatoes and top with spinach.
- Fold the burrito in half, with the top edge extending about an inch above the bottom edge. Fold in the 2 sides and roll up your burrito.
- Wrap in foil and enjoy in the next 2–3 days.
Mediterranean Veggie Sandwiches
This sandwich can be made the morning of or ahead of time and is a go-to for road trips. You can substitute wraps for bread (or even use tortillas left over from last week’s burritos).
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4–6 sandwiches
- 1 large red bell pepper
- ½ red onion (optional for added flavor)
- 1 (8–10oz.) container of roasted red pepper hummus
- 1 (6 oz.) container of feta cheese
- Handful of greens (your choice: spinach, arugula, lettuce, etc.)
- Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
- Salted rye bread, half a loaf, sliced
- Dice the pepper and onion. Chop the greens.
- Lay half the slices of bread on individual squares of parchment paper. Slather a spoonful of hummus on each slice. Sprinkle with a bit of feta to cover. Add the peppers and onions.
- Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Top the sandwich with another piece of bread.
- Wrap sandwiches in parchment paper and store in the fridge. Will keep for 2–3 days.
Cranberry-Apple-Walnut Salad With Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
A simple summer salad with dressing that will last for 10 days. Top with baked chicken for added protein.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4–6 salads
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. oregano
- Small handful of fresh cilantro or parsley
- 2–3 cloves of garlic
- Bundle of your favorite greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce, etc.)
- 2 granny smith apples
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- ½ red onion
- 1 (6 oz.) container of feta cheese
- 1 cup walnuts (optional)
- Lime juice (a splash or two keeps diced apples fresh for the week)
- Prepare salad dressing: Mix all dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Store in a small mason jar in the fridge. Lasts up to 10 days.
- Dice the apples, splash with lime juice and store in a small container. Dice the onions and store separately. Clean and cut the greens, and store in a container with a piece of paper towel.
- Pack your lunchbox with salad ingredients. Mix on a plate and top with a little cheese and dressing just before eating.