Look up ‘work lunch ideas’ on Google and you’ll find page after page of delicious looking lunches that anyone would be happy to tuck into on their lunch break.
The problem is they’re often time-consuming, expensive and call for ingredients you don’t usually buy and leave wasting in the fridge. We don’t all have time to be Heston, Gordon or Jamie, especially first thing in the morning.
That is why we’ve put together a list of 6 real work lunch ideas (not one-off recipes). These ideas are all versatile options that anyone can use to make quick, easy and flexible meals that are also delicious and nutritious.
The Flexible Lunch Bowl
By far one of the easiest and most versatile lunch options because it can made with almost anything.
You just need four basic components:
- The base – the main component of the dish, usually some type of green leaves or grains (roast potato also works)
- The protein – which makes sure your lunch bowl is more than just a snack (egg, canned tuna, leftover meat or lentils)
- The trimmings – all the extra flavour and variety that makes it a different meal every time (anything you have kicking around your fridge: feta, herbs, raw veggies, nuts and seeds)
- The dressing – more on that below.
The flexible lunch bowl fits the bill for our real work lunch ideas because you can use what you already have on hand, ensuring no waste. Lunch bowls are also delicious cold which makes them hassle-free and can be changed every day so we’ll never get sick of the same thing.
Some easy recipes to start with:
The All-Purpose Avocado
The humble avocado is the grab-and-go ingredient that is the ultimate starter for a range of real work lunch ideas. Throw an avocado in your lunch bag in the morning and most of the hard work is done.
It only takes a couple more ingredients to make a filling and delicious meal at work. You can mash it onto dry biscuits, cut into cubes to have with steamed rice and a bit of soy sauce, or simply halve and enjoy with a lemon vinaigrette.
For those of us that need a bit more, you can make the all-purpose avocado go even further putting together simple salads, sandwiches and wraps.
For the true blue avo’ lovers, an avocado almost makes a meal by itself. Tuck into it with a spoon and follow up with a couple of boiled eggs, cut veggies and a handful of nuts.
Get busy with avocados:
The Reliable Boiled Egg
A boiled egg, is cheap, easy to make and delivers a punch of protein. This means it can be a strong base for many real work lunch ideas.
Like the ‘all-purpose avocado’, the boiled egg requires very few extra ingredients to make an easy lunch. You can use it to enhance a sad looking salad, fill out a thin sandwich or tie together a mismatch of leftovers into one very delicious meal.
Pro tip: If you like your boiled eggs by themselves, try rolling them in dukkah or smearing with your favourite condiments.
More ideas for your reliable boiled egg lunch
The Killer Salad Dressing
This one is not a real work lunch Idea in itself, but it opens the door to so many great ones that it’s worth including on our list.
Learning how to make a killer salad dressing is a simple way to add flavour to your lunch.
And it isn’t as hard as you might think. Don’t bother memorising specific dressing recipes, just learn the basic components of a dressing and experiment.
Ingredients will fall into four basic categories:
- The oil – helps the dressing cling to the ingredients of the salad. Any oil can be used.
- The acid – gives dressings their sharp distinctive taste. Usually a vinegar or citrus juice.
- The binders – elements that help the oils combine with the acid. Commonly mustards, mayonnaise and honey.
- Flavorings – non essential elements that can give your dressing a kick. Often things like: salt and pepper, garlic, onion, spices and herbs
Then all you have to do is mix until blended and you have a cheap and delicious flavour booster. Even a simple 3 ingredient salad tastes amazing with a killer salad dressing.
It is a skill that can extend past just salads. Adding a dressing is something you can do to your sandwiches, lunch bowls, roast potatoes and more.
Start simple: try one part lemon juice and three parts olive oil with a little salt and pepper to taste and experiment from there.
The Enhanced Work Sandwich
How good are sandwiches? Put something between two slices of bread and magic happens.
Unfortunately ‘work sandwiches’ aren’t always as exciting. A lot can go wrong with a sandwich, especially when it has to sit in a lunch bag for half a day, so most people play it safe with their fillings.
These tips for the enhanced work sandwich mean you can stop making compromises and start making better sandwiches:
- Start with good bread – a good foundation is essential. This will hold up better over the course of the day and and tastes delicious so you need less trimmings to satisfy your tastebuds.
- Sogginess – If you have wet ingredients in your sandwich, you need a barrier to stop your bread turning into a soggy mess. Delicious solutions include fats (like mayonnaise or butter) or solid ingredient barriers (like a lettuce leaf or a hard cheese)..
- Layer wisely – The closer to the bottom of a sandwich an ingredient is, the more directly it will hit your tastebuds. Put condiments below proteins and other dominate elements so you don’t have to chew to work the flavour through.
- Invest in sauces – speaking of condiments, they are the sort of thing that can make or break a sandwich. However, they also often have high sugar or acidic levels which can break down and ruin other ingredients. If possible stock up on a good range of favourites at work and put them on the sandwich right before you eat.
- Treat your ingredients with respect – don’t just stack it all in. Salt and pepper your tomatoes, fold your deli meat and dress any salad elements. This kind of care makes a massive difference.
- Avoid the fridge – depending on your fillings, this might make you nervous about the sandwich going bad, but putting a sandwich in the fridge is terrible for bread. Even when well wrapped it dries the bread and changes the structure of the starch to make it harder.
Check out this great article for great tips on how to wrap your sandwiches to make them easier to eat in any working environment.
The Versatile Soba Noodle
Soba is a versatile Japanese noodle that can be used for just about anything including noodle salads, noodle soups and dipping in condiments. You can find it in the international aisle at all major supermarkets.
One of the best things about the soba, is that it’s delicious cold. Eating cold lunches makes them hassle-free and you don’t have to worry about how good it will taste when reheated.
On top of that, like the flexible lunch bowl, you can put whatever you want with your versatile soba noodle to create a delicious and fresh real work lunch every time you make it.
To really simplify things, make up a batch of soba at the start of the week, and use any leftover proteins, unused raw veggies, and other bits and pieces on hand to whip up a brand new dish.
Some easy recipes to start you off:
- Cold Soba with traditional dipping sauce
- Chilled Soba Noodles with Lemon-Ginger Dressing
- Soba Noodle & Raw Veggie Salad
The Reinvented Leftovers
Taking leftovers to work is a fine way to get through the working week. However, tastebud fatigue is a real issue! Re-inventing our leftovers into new meals keeps things interesting.
- Leftover roast vegetables? Add eggs and cheese and you’ve got an easy frittata
- Leftover steak? Slice it up thin and with some bread and mayo you’ve got a delicious steak sandwich
- Bits and pieces here and there? Rice, egg and a bit of soy sauce can turn anything into fried rice.
Be creative. Approaching leftovers in this way, will not only add more variety, it will also make our food go further and our meals more workplace friendly.
Have you got any great tips that help you plan hassle-free lunches for the working week on a budget? Let us know in the comment section below.
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