Lunch is an important part of every workday. It’s a time we can use to step away from our desks and recharge. It helps us do our best work. But whether you’re an employee or freelancer, going out for lunch everyday can be expensive. And depending upon where you dine, it might not be the healthiest option.
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! Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president of global health and wellness at Unum says the secret to packing good lunches starts with dinner. “I always make extra for dinner so we have leftovers for lunch the next day. The night before I put leftovers in single serving containers that are microwave safe. Leftovers could also go into a wrap or pita. Grab and go for the morning. I also try to have portable fruit (banana, orange, apple) on hand.”
- 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 breakroom, 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 good 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.
- 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. Mitchell suggests protein bars and the classic PB&J. “There are a few good bars out there – I like Larabar® bars. And I always pack a small bag of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans…. whatever you like.) If you’re a sandwich person – peanut butter and jelly is still delicious. It’s a quick and can even be made the night before. Use a natural peanut butter and whole grain bread for a nutritional punch.”
- 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 but it’s usually less expensive. Use the savings to treat yourself. It can be a great way to motivate yourself to stick with it.
Packing your lunch doesn’t have to be boring. And, it’s okay to eat out, but make it a splurge instead of a regular occurrence. Also keep in mind…packing your lunch can become contagious. You and your office friends can find a place to meet/talk, etc. with everyone bringing their own lunch.