We all remember the excitement of opening a brown bag lunch as a kid, complete with a half pint of cafeteria milk and an embarrassing note from our parents. What if we could experience that kind of excitement again, but replace the squished PB&J with a balanced grain bowl and whole milk with a homemade green juice?
Sure, we love the convenience of our favorite $12 salad spot near the office or picking up a quick sandwich (and chips and a drink) on the go, but nothing can beat a homemade lunch. Meal prep for work may seem like just another task to add to an already-overflowing to-do list, but hear us out: adult lunch boxes are the way of the future. Not only is packing your lunch tastier, it’s also more sustainable (no wasteful paper napkins and plastic containers when you bring your own stainless steel bento box) and much easier on your wallet. Read on for our top tips on meal prep for work and our favorite adult lunch box ideas.
Lunch doesn’t have to be boring. If the idea of an adult lunch box prompts visions of a granola bar and apple day after day, we’re ready to dispel that myth. Believe it or not, almost any recipe can be turned into a packed lunch. Korean barbecue bowl? Check! Veggie-friendly cauliflower tacos? A fun and tasty salad? Why not! Leftovers are your best friend when it comes to meal prep for work.
Plan ahead. When it comes to meal prep for work, a little time devoted to planning can save you hours of time and stress later in the week. We like to set aside a few hours on Sunday to plan our meals for the week, grocery shop and prep all our ingredients. Pre-chopping vegetables, boiling eggs, grilling meats and portioning out leftovers can be a total lifesaver when hump day rolls around.
Keep it simple. Use pre-prepped ingredients to build different combinations that keep it interesting without having to think too hard. Try combining a grain like rice or quinoa, a protein like tofu or grilled chicken and a vegetable like baby spinach or roasted beets for a colorful and filling bowl. All of these ingredients can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for the whole week, saving you tons of time in the morning. And you’ll never have to ask yourself “what should I have for lunch?” again!
Some My Food and Family recipes that lend themselves well to a pre-prepped packed lunch are our Crunchy Poppyseed Chicken Salad, our Grilled Steak & Vegetable Salad and our Chicken Bow-Tie Pasta Salad.
Let someone else do the heavy lifting. Sure, doing all the prep work ourselves is a romantic idea, but let’s be real: we work hard, we play hard and sometimes we’re just too tired to chop our own vegetables. Save time by buying prep-prepped ingredients from the grocery store like riced cauliflower, baby carrots, pre-washed salad greens and pre-chopped broccoli.
Another time saving hack is buying a rotisserie chicken, which you can portion out or shred and use for the entire week. Chicken is the star of the show in easy-to-prep recipes like our Chicken Burrito Bowls, so having prepared chicken on hand is a great shortcut.
Embrace snacking. When we’re having a particularly crazy week and don’t have time to prep as many ingredients as usual, we love turning a bunch of snacks into a meal, inspired by the Scandinavian concept of the Smörgåsbord. Try a hummus-centric snack box with your favorite flavor of hummus, crunchy vegetables for dipping like carrots, celery or bell peppers and multigrain crackers or pita bread. For something more breakfast-y, pack granola, Greek yogurt, a handful of fresh berries and a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter.
Get a cool lunchbox. Maybe it’s the Marie Kondo effect, but we’re ten times more excited to pack our lunches when we have an organized lunch container to pack it in. There’s something so satisfying about every meal component having a designated place. Try Jeopace bento boxes for lightweight lunch containers with multiple compartments, leak-proof TAVA dip containers for dressings or Pyrex glass storage containers for portions large and small. Pack it all up in a cute, reusable lunch bag.