According to the U.S. Department of Labor stats, the average American household spends about $300 a month dining out–that’s over $3,000 every year! When you’re at work or school, going out to lunch seems much easier, but you can save valuable time and money by bringing food from home. Check out our lunch packing tips and learn how to pack lunches, practice healthy eating, and do smart spending today.
10 Lunch Packing Tips for Work or School
Lunch packing isn’t rocket science; however, you can maximize your meals with a few changes. Packing a lunch purposefully means taking things like nutrition, portioning, and prep into account. Use these ten lunch-packing tips to take your mid-day feast to the next level:
First stop: fridge and freezer.
Before you head to the store and rack up a grocery bill, audit what you have at home and see if it can be transformed into your next lunch. Take leftovers to heat up as-is or spruce up pantry staples with add-ons from your fridge or freezer.
Wondering what to make with your leftovers? Check out these quick uses for leftover ingredients.
To avoid a hectic morning hustle to just put lunch together, have a plan and act on it ahead of time. Add some of your favorite recipes to your weekend grocery list, aiming to have three to five dedicated to lunches. When you get home from shopping, wash and prep your ingredients and store produce properly to keep it fresh. When you meal prep on the weekend, your work week isn’t as stressful.
Buy storage supplies.
You can’t pack lunch without containers! Purchase reusable containers that are sized to the portions you usually eat. A thermos is also a nice addition to keep drinks and soups at the right temperature.
Embrace the assembly line.
Lunch-packing isn’t a task you need to tackle alone. Ask for help from your partner or kids. Have one person cover beverages, another person pack sides, you handle the main course, and so on. Before you know it, you’ll have a week’s worth of food ready to go.
Make your meals ahead of time.
Save time in the morning by putting your lunches together the night before. Leave the meal in a place you’ll see so you don’t miss it in the AM. This prep makes your mornings a little easier—just grab and go.
Try new things.
Eating the same thing day in and day out can dull the motivation to pack a lunch. However, packing lunch from home is an opportunity to test new recipes. If something catches your eye on social media or you get a suggestion from a friend, don’t be afraid to throw it into your rotation for a week or two; it might just become a new staple.
Need some recipe inspo? Check out our top slow cooker recipes.
Stock up on grab-and-go snacks.
Your lunch packing ideas don’t have to be limited to a main dish and side. Think outside the lunch box and try an all-snack lunch. That’s right, you can mix and match your favorite healthy snacks for a lunch that keeps you satisfied and energized all afternoon. Our tried-and-true snack options include:
- Chips or crackers
Keep things cold.
Your workplace, school, or your child’s school might not have the tools you need to keep meals cool. To counter this, freeze items like fruit, dairy products, and sandwiches. They’ll thaw out throughout the day and be ready to be enjoyed by lunchtime.
Don’t skimp on the condiments.
A packed lunch doesn’t have to be plain and boring. Dress up your meals with condiments, just like you would at a restaurant or at home. Keep pre-packaged sauces and condiments from restaurants handy or portion your own into containers. You can even leave non-perishable condiments like hot sauce and spices in your desk drawers or consider adding communal condiments to the office fridge.
Remember… it’s OK to take a break!
It’s great to make lunch packing part of your routine, but you don’t have to completely stop eating out. A lunch outing with coworkers or a trek to try a new spot could be the reset you need to renew your lunch-making motivation.
What to Pack in a Lunch for Work
There are ample options for a packed lunch to take to work. Consider packing the following items for your next afternoon fare:
- Grilled chicken
- Egg salad
- Black or brown beans
- Tuna salad
- Pasta salad
- Brown rice
- Tortilla wraps
- Noodle bowl
- Cucumber and avocado sandwich
- Celery and hummus
- Kale chips
- Bell peppers
What to Pack in a Lunch for School
Send your kids back to school with a delicious packed lunch from home. Consider combining the following during your next prep session:
- Mini meatballs
- Chicken soup
- Shrimp fried rice
- Mac & cheese
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Burrito bowl (brown rice)
- Baby carrots
- Stir fry
- Snap peas
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Trail mix
- Meat stick
- Sunflower seeds
Make Packing a Lunch Easy!
Once you know what to pack in a lunch for work or school, it’s time to make sure ingredients are fresh and correctly stored. Produce is likely a big part of your lunch packing ideas, so check out our article “The Best Ways to Store Your Favorite Fruits and Veggies.” In it, you’ll find tips on how to keep products fresh for lunch packing and other meal