As the working year kicks back into full gear lots of people are making resolutions to bring their lunch to work more often, which isn’t always easy to stick to. I’ve been a part of the BYO work lunch brigade for a long time, so today I thought I would share my top tips for better work lunches and I’d love to hear yours too!
1. Plan Ahead
This may seem like an obvious place to start, but you really do have to plan ahead in order to have delicious food to take with you to work! If you’re constantly scrounging around the bottom of the fridge for random ingredients to throw together in a salad or sandwich then you’re going to give up on taking your lunch pretty quickly! Instead, each week take some time to work out exactly what you are going to make for your lunches and add that to your meal plan and shopping list, then you won’t have to think about it on the day, and will have all the necessary ingredients for a delicious, healthy lunch.
If you need some tips on meal planning I have a Meal Planning 101 guide in the ISPP Shop, and it’s absolutely free for people on the newsletter list!
2. Cook in Bulk or Prep Ahead
I usually cook up a big batch of something on a Sunday afternoon that I then portion out for lunches for at least 3 or 4 days, and then make sure I have dinner leftovers for the other days, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone. Another option is to do some bulk cooking of things like curries and soups and pop single servings in the freezer, that way you’ll always have a good selection of options to grab in the morning and you won’t have to eat the same thing every day.
If cooking in bulk isn’t your style then at least do some meal prep in advance to help you throw together your lunches without much effort. This might mean portioning out ingredients, pre-cutting some veggies, mixing up small servings of salad dressings or creating a ‘sandwich station’ with cheese, spreads and other ingredients that you can just grab to quickly whip up something delicious. The easier you can make it to have something ready to go the more likely you are to make better work lunches, so give yourself the boost!
3. Get Proper Containers
One of the things that seems to stop people from taking their lunch to work is the fear of their food spilling, getting crushed, going limp or any other manner of issues. The best way to counter this is by getting your hands on some proper (reusable!) containers that are fit for purpose. This might include using glass jars for salads, stainless steel tiffins to separate out your hot food, sandwich bags, small containers for keeping your salad dressing separate and the like. If you have to travel long distances to work, or don’t have access to a work fridge, then an insulated bag is probably a good idea as well to make sure your food stays deliciously fresh.
It’s also worth leaving some proper cutlery and crockery at your desk if your office doesn’t have these available for you because everything you bring in will taste that much better eaten off a proper plate with a real knife and fork. It means you’ll be able to properly mix your salads together, or just really get to enjoy that curry you’ve reheated. You’ll feel like you’re eating somewhere much nicer than the office kitchen too!
4. Focus on the Why
Most people choose to bring their lunches to work for one of two reasons – they want to save some money or they want to eat more healthy options than what is available near their work (or both!). If you feel yourself waning from wanting to take your lunch to work then remind yourself of why it is you started, and keep that front of mind.
If you’re trying to eat a little healthier then focus on how you’re feeling, what changes you might have started to notice and the goals you working towards. And, if you do find yourself falling off the bandwagon then don’t give up completely, just jump back on board and try again!
In terms of wanting to save money, the easiest way to keep yourself on track is to actually add up how much money you are saving each month, and put that money towards something tangible. You might be saving for a holiday, new shoes or putting it aside to one day buy a house, whatever the savings target is, actually track how much it is growing and that alone should help! On average, buying lunch near my work would set my back between $10-15 each time, so by not doing that I’m saving between $250-300 a month, minus what I spend on making lunches at home (which is probably around $10-15 a week) so it really does add up quickly. Plus, I don’t necessarily even enjoy those bought lunches all that much!
5. Variety is Key
Mixing up the food you take to work is key to staying on track and making better work lunches. I don’t mind eating the same thing for a few days in a row, but then I won’t eat that same meal for another month or two, whereas other people like to have different options each day, but don’t mind eating those same options week after week. Work out what suits you and your tastebuds best, then mix things up accordingly!
This also includes figuring out what kind of lunches you really look forward to – for some it might be a light, fresh salad and for others a more hearty, warming meal – and plan around that. The options for both ends of the spectrum are endless, so there’s no need to get in the rut of taking the same thing every day for months on end (unless you enjoy that!), which for most people will eventually put them off bringing their lunch for good!
6. Keep it Simple
Whilst you definitely want to aim for variety that doesn’t mean you need to make complicated, time consuming meals. Simple combinations of veggies, a protein and a grain is a great starting point and you can mix things up with all kinds of combos possible. From tofu, rice & steamed veggies to leafy greens, lentils and walnuts and pretty much everything in between! Simple food can still be both healthy and delicious, and you’re more likely to feel inspired to actually whip something up to take to work!