Looking for solutions to the lunch dilemma? Whether it’s help with making a plan, putting it into action, or ideas that you need, you will find it here.
With more of us working from home these days, more of us are also eating lunch at home.
What is about lunch that is so difficult? Why do we have such a hard time coming up with lunch ideas?
While I don’t claim to know the answer, I have some thoughts.
- For one, while dinner might be planned and shopped for in advance, we often forget to plan lunch.
- Two, while we expect to spend at least 20 minutes preparing dinner if not longer, lunch we want to be instant.
- And three, while we may be happy eating the same breakfast day after day, with lunch we want to mix it up!
So basically, we need more planning, time, and variety put into lunch! This means we may need to treat our midday meal a little more like dinner, on at least a few days of the week. Before you think, “but I don’t have time” or “I don’t want to plan another meal, dinner is hard enough” let’s see how we can make it easier.
When it comes to solutions to the lunch dilemma, it’s all about minimal planning for maximum results.
Make a List
When I don’t know what to make I start by making a list. Spend 15 minutes–not hours–researching or brainstorming lunch ideas and then write your list. My go-to sources of ideas and inspiration for lunches include my favorite bloggers, magazines, the menus from my go-to lunch spots, and my family (who usually say “I don’t know!” but, hey, at least I tried!).
Here is a template you can use to make a list of 10 lunch ideas. Instead of coming up with more ideas, consider coming up with a “fresh” list monthly. I suggest combining a few family favorites with new ideas.
Ready to make your list now? Here is some inspiration:
- Chickpea Salad Sandwich
- Roasted Beet, Avocado, and Tomato Wrap
- Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich
- Grilled Cheese (jazz up with sliced apples or tomatoes)
- Open-faced Tuna or Salmon Melts
- Open-faced Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toast (pictured at top of this post)
- Egg Pesto Sandwich (simply make eggs your favorite way and add pesto)
- Simple Lentil Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Bean and Barley Veggie Chili
- Slow Cooker Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Chili
- Celery Root and Parsnip Soup
- Tomato Soup (pair with grilled cheese for maximum comfort)
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet Quinoa Salad
- Lentil and Roasted Veggie Salad in a Jar
- Vegan Power Bowl
- Turmeric Roasted Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
- Chipotle Inspired Tex Mex Salad
- Salmon Salad Nicoise (more planning needed, but so good)
- Farro Salad 3 Ways (recipe coming soon)
One more tip, aim to make half your plate veggies and fruit–this will not only up the nutrition but also liven up any old meal!
Use your list to plan. Planning just a little bit is essential. After all, you want to have ingredients on hand to make your lunches. While some people enjoy having a specific plan for every day of the week, others like to keep it flexible. There is no right or wrong–do whatever works for you.
If you are a minimalist planner like myself you could try choosing 3 lunches from your list to make during the week. You could even start with planning just 1-2 lunches and buying/making enough to keep those on repeat. On the other days, simple ideas could be leftovers from dinners, or a go-to staple, for us that is grilled cheese + carrot sticks + sliced apples.
Once you have decided to make a lunch it’s time to prep it. If you are headed off to work or don’t have time to prep lunch right before lunch, make it ahead of time. It could be the night before, the morning of, or even two days before. Soups can be made several days in advance, portioned into small containers, and enjoyed during the week.
If you are working from home, you could prep just part of the recipe after breakfast and let it cook while you work. For example, I often cook up some quinoa or farro to use for a lunch salad or grain bowl. If I’m extra ambitious I may also roast some veggies–but usually for lunch, the veggies are leftovers or served up raw.
If you are heading outside the home to work or on another adventure, make your lunch ahead of time and store it in a portable, reusable container. When it’s time to eat you will be ready! One of my favorite ways to transport grain bowls, leftovers, and salads is in Mason or large jam jar containers.
The Finishing Touches
I hope this guide has provided you with some solutions to the lunch dilemma. For a truly satisfying lunch, I also recommend finishing it off with a couple of squares of dark chocolate. Savor and enjoy, perhaps with a cup of coffee, and then get outdoors for a neighborhood walk to get the blood flowing, improve digestion, and gear back up for more work (or play).
Happy lunching! And don’t forget your afternoon fika/snack boost!