Ask LH: How Can I Upgrade My Work Lunch?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m trying to save money by bringing my lunch to work, but I’m already sick of the same old sandwiches. Is there something I can do to get out of this rut and make supply my own lunch actually work for me? Thanks, Blandwich

Dear Blandwich,

Packing your own lunch is a smart move — you save money and can eat healthier food than you will if you buy lunch every workday. However, as you’ve discovered, the routine can get boring if you just make the same sandwich every day. Let’s look at some strategies to vary things up.

Rethink Your Notion Of Lunch

Homemade lunches don’t have to be the bland, practical stuff of your schooldays. They can be gourmet creations. By using the best ingredients and adding a variety of flavours and textures to your lunch, you can come up with a meal that’s more satisfying than anything you might pay money for. Think of it as a creative challenge — one you get to fully enjoy at lunchtime.

Check Your Workplace Options

Most larger workplaces have a kitchen. If you have a microwave, you can reheat leftovers from home easily, or quickly steam vegetables. Check out our 70 cent office lunch for a vegetable-heavy option you can make in advance and heat on the day. Even if all your workplace has is an urn or a kettle, you can easily make couscous or instant noodles — just add vegetables and spices for a more flavoursome and textured experience.

No kitchen or access to a microwave at work? Many foods are still delicious at room temperature or cold, such as barley and mushroom pilaf, cold soups, and that old standby, pizza.

Break Out Of The Sandwich Mould

Adding more variety to your lunches is easier if you think beyond the two-slices-of-bread-and-some-filling template. Think ethnic options (burritos and wraps you can make and freeze yourself, chicken satay, Mediterranean pita pockets); picnic-style foods (chicken drumsticks and crackers and cheese); and salad variations (such as orzo, quinoa or pasta salads).

Sandwiches are a lunch staple because they’re so convenient. You can spice up your sandwiches with a few add-ons or substitutions:

  • Consider adding pre-cooked bacon, fresh herbs, pickles, or lemony mayo.
  • Replace regular bread slices with a tortilla wrap or even just use lettuce

If you’re sticking with sandwiches, set a schedule so you’re not eating the same thing every day. Planning your meals is crucial to saving money, and it also helps avoid repetition.

Overcome Common Lunch Hurdles

Content aside, getting lunch actually produced can be a common problem. Don’t feel like you have enough time to make lunch? Plan to have leftovers and make them for your lunch. Roast a chicken for dinner and slice up some for tomorrow. You can also prepare your lunches in bulk ahead of time (with a salad in a jar that stays fresh for days).

Spending $10 a day for lunch might seem an easier solution, but over the course of a 48-week working year, that adds up to $2400. You can feed yourself better for a fraction of that, so it’s worth the effort.


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