This year, the Engineer has resolved to pack lunches to go to work, in an effort both to eat better and to save some money. He says he would be happy with a plain old sandwich every day, but I know that wouldn’t do it for me. So I decided to round up all the links I had saved for packing lunches – a lot of them are from The Kitchn, but I’ve got a few other sites, too. I’ll use this post as a reference for lunch ideas as well as gear like lunch boxes and thermoses. Don’t hesitate to leave your own tips and ideas in the comments!
For starters, here is a link with 10 healthy lunch recipes that happen to be vegan: bean dips and spreads, a chickpea sandwich, noodle salads, lentil salads, couscous, stews and vegetable rolls. The Kitchn also has five complete lunches under 400 calories, for those of you watching your weight, as well as a photo gallery of inspiration for lunches. Lentil salads are particularly convenient, because you can make them ahead of time, freeze them and just let them thaw in your lunchbox – they’ll be just right by lunchtime.
This article is also extremely useful to help you make lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated! Keep in mind that certain herbs, like basil, keep very well at room temperature and can be added to your lunches when you’re ready to eat. There are more ideas here and here, in the comments especially. And if you can’t reheat your lunch, try one of these 15 salads (meat, grains, pasta and bean salads, not lettuce salads, though those work too). If you want to bring dinner leftovers to lunch, remember that they should be easy to reheat or good cold, easy to eat (think chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken breast) and easy to pack. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. There are also various things you can cook ahead of time on the weekend and use in your lunches that week, like rice, beans, quinoa and more.
For snacks, check out these 15 ideas (like granola, yogurt, roasted chickpeas or nuts), if you're bored with fruits and veggies.
If you are looking for healthy lunches that your kids will actually eat, please read this great post on The Kind Life. It’s full of tips and ideas, such as making sure your child is involved in choosing what goes in the lunch, making the food fun (cutting the sandwich in different shapes, for example), giving a variety of tastes and textures, and having an adequate lunch box. There are also ideas for meals and snacks. I have to mention bento boxes as well, though I wouldn’t have the patience to pack those. If you’re making sandwiches for lots of people and want a way to streamline your morning routine, make yourself a prep station!
Lunch bags and accessories
As far as interesting gizmos go, I really like the idea of the Toastabag: it’s a reusable (and dishwasher-safe) bag in which you slip a sandwich, then you put the bag in the toaster and get a grilled sandwich, without a mess! This is great when you don’t have a stovetop at work (or don’t want to go through the trouble of using it). As a bonus, for anyone eating gluten-free, it prevents the bread from coming in contact with crumbs of gluten in a shared toaster. I also like the Fit & Fresh Salad Shaker, which keeps your salad and dressing separate and has a cooling pack right in the lid.
For those of you who want to minimize the amount of trash at each lunch, here are a few resources for reusable straws that aren’t plastic. Obviously, take reusable utensils with you! To replace disposable sandwich bags, take a look at this post on The Kitchn, which has tons of options; there are also reusable bags on Etsy (like these, to name just one) or, if you’re crafty, you can make them yourself (here, for example, but use Google to get dozens more tutorials). There are also 18 resources here. Plus, there’s a neat container designed to keep your sandwich from getting soggy: it separates the contents from the bread until you are ready to eat the sandwich, but still makes it super easy to actually make the sandwich. Be sure to watch the video!
Lunch boxes can be hard to find for adults, but check out the Zojirushi lunch jars, which are both stylish and extremely practical! They come in a variety of sizes and are insulated. OM Goods makes great tiffins out of stainless steel, which is both hygienic and eco-friendly. I also like the Planet Box and especially the Goodbyn, both of which have compartments for your main course, snacks and dessert. Oots has a lunch box with nestling containers that looks sturdy enough for kids, but could be used by adults. And Built has some great lunch totes. The Container Store also has lunch boxes and containers.
This is a fun video from two of my favourite stores that has both lunch ideas and resources for specialized carrying containers. Unclutterer also has some tips – and don’t forget to read the comments. I hope this was useful to those of you who have kids starting school soon and to those who were looking for new inspiration.