Lunch is an important part of every workday.
It’s a time you can use to step away from your desk and recharge. It helps you do your best work.
But whether you’re an employee or freelancer, going out for lunch every day can be expensive. And depending upon where you dine, it might not be the healthiest option. Or you may work in an area with few nearby choices for eating out.
On the other hand, packing a lunch and snacks can be time-consuming and boring. So how can we have it all: tasty, wallet-friendly, interesting lunch breaks? Here are a few tips:
- Prepare! Tekeela Belk, R.N. at Colonial Life’s health resource center, says the secret to packing good lunches starts with dinner. “Finding the time to pack a healthy lunch requires preparation. Make enough for leftovers. Cook a big batch for lunch on weekends. It’s true: most foods taste better the next day. Pack leftovers right after dinner and do as much as you can the night before. If you have to pack your lunch in the mornings, make a list the night before and stick it on the fridge.”
- Collect lunch recipes. Find something fun you want to try? Save the recipe to Pinterest. Many magazines like Eating Well and Cooking Light regularly post recipes online that can be saved for culinary inspiration. Also, when you smell something delicious in the break room, ask colleagues to share the recipe.
- Coordinate a potluck. One way to try new dishes and spend time with work friends is to plan a lunch potluck. This suggestion on Lifehacker to take the potluck one step further and swap individual lunches with colleagues reminds me of the lunch swaps we used to do in school — a fun idea for small departments or offices.
- Find proper storage containers. Part of having a delicious lunch is having food the right texture and consistency. It also helps when it’s the right shape to carry. This salad cup container allows you to keep the ingredients crunchy, while storing the salad dressing in a small container that fits in the top. Belk reminds us that “items such as soup and even salads (without the dressing) can be prepared a few days ahead of time.”
- Have a couple of non-refrigerator lunch options. When you’re not in the office, finding refrigerators and microwaves can be a challenge. Identify a couple of non-fridge options, such as protein bars and nuts. And, if you’re a sandwich person, the classic PB&J is still delicious. It’s quick and can even be made the night before. Use a natural peanut butter and whole grain bread for a nutritional punch. Here’s a recipe for an almond butter and fresh blueberry sandwich.
- Incorporate activity. Recharging at lunch doesn’t have to be all about the food. Bring your favorite book, take a short walk, or participate in a photo-a-day challenge. Another option is to devote 10 minutes to practicing mindfulness.
- Reward yourself. Preparing your own lunch is not only better for you, it’s usually less expensive. Use the savings to treat yourself. It can be a great way to motivate yourself to stick with it.
It’s okay to eat out, but make it a splurge instead of a regular occurrence. And packing your lunch doesn’t have to be boring. It can even become contagious. You and your office friends can find a place to meet and talk with everyone bringing their own lunch.