As a person who avoids unnecessary expense, you probably already take food with you to work. Take-outs add to your expenditure and your waistline, so you keep them to a minimum. But although we all know how to pack our lunches, many of us struggle to muster the time and energy, while others stick to tried and true economic meals that get monotonous after a while.
The truth is, it’s so much cheaper making your own lunches that you can probably afford to splash out a little on luxury fillings for sandwiches, Paninis, and wraps from time to time. So don’t be surprised when you see some nice ‘spoils’ in our list.
We hope that our tips for healthy, economical lunches will give you a little-added inspiration that will either get you started or help you to vary your healthy lunches, keeping them interesting without too much effort.
In this guide...
Sandwich, Panini and Wrap Ideas
The problem with making sandwiches the night or morning before you eat them for lunch is that they often get soggy from moist ingredients like tomato. Make your sandwiches in advance, but keep the tomato in a separate compartment of your lunch box, adding it just before you eat.
Alternatively, bring all your ingredients along and spend a few minutes of your lunch break putting them together.
Try these great sandwich combos and fillings:
- Tuna and egg salad
- Bacon, lettuce, and tomato plus avocado
- Salami and cream cheese
- Turkey and camembert/brie with cranberry sauce
- Pesto and turkey
- Grilled vegetables with pesto
- Tuna, celery, cucumber, and creamy avocado
- Salmon with cream cheese and spring onion
- Roast beef mustard and gruyere with caramelized onion
- Grilled eggplant and mozzarella
- Sausage and feta
- Chicken with sautéed veg
To keep sandwiches as healthy as possible, choose whole grain bread. If you’re hoping to lose weight, don’t eat sandwiches every day. Try eating more lean meats and veg that will fill you and will not add any calories.
Thinking of Lunch at Dinner
Preparing lunch the night before means you’re less rushed, so while you’re cooking dinner, start preparing ingredients that won’t be part of supper leftovers for the following day’s lunch. A roast or steamed veg salad is delicious at lunchtime, so cook a little extra of everything and add a new twist to your lunch veg with a home-made dressing such as olive oil, apple cider vinegar and herbs.
Use leftovers as lunch meats as often as possible, since they’re much cheaper than processed meats as a rule. You can make a tasty brown rice or pasta salad with leftover supper veg, adding tomato, onion, and cucumber plus a dressing.
Leftover soups and stews make great winter fillers if you can access a microwave oven. Freeze leftovers in small containers, so you don’t have to eat the same food as you had for supper on the very next day at lunch.
If you’re not into processed foods like tinned produce, cooking up butter beans, chickpeas, and green beans can make your lunch meals easier for a few days. Use leftover shell pasta to make a three-bean pasta salad or try your hand at making your own hummus. Cut up some raw veg such as carrots, cucumber, celery sticks and strips of green pepper to eat with a hummus dip.
Wraps are easy to prepare the night before, and you can also prepare your sandwich ingredients. If you have a panini toaster at work, make your fillings now.
Quite often, it’s the sauces that transform ordinary ingredients into something special. Make your own tzatziki, try your hand at home-made chutney, or whip up an Italian vinaigrette dressing. Olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and herbs are your basic must-haves. If you’re fond of mayonnaise, try making your own. It’s much nicer and much healthier than anything you can get at the shops.
What Should Be in Your Lunch Box?
Apart from your main meal (or the ingredients to make it), there should be at least one fruit (three is better), and a healthy snack – such as dried fruits, nuts or raw veggie sticks.
Just as it helps to plan suppers ahead, you should think of lunches when doing your shopping, this way you will be able to vary what to pack from day to day.
The main lunch should include a protein source, either meat or a vegetarian alternative such as tofu or black beans, and a light serving of carbohydrates with salads and veggies as fillers.
Getting By at the Office
Many employers provide a kitchen with basic equipment that staff can use to fix or warm up a quick lunch. Most will at least provide a kettle and a fridge, and won’t mind if staff club together to get a few extras like a microwave and a Panini Toaster. Always be courteous, leaving the kitchen as you found it, and maybe even a little better!
Don’t overlook the option of starting up a group of co-workers who buy ingredients in bulk to get lower prices. You could end up saving on food in general and not just lunch foods. Some people also make a little money on the side by taking orders for their gourmet meals or crafty homemade snacks from colleagues, so it’s worth honing your work-lunch cuisine skills.
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