Starting in elementary school I got the choice to spend my lunch money to buy lunch at school or to save my pennies and pack my own lunch instead. I chose packed lunch, made with a lot of parental assistance. By high school I had full creative control.
Bag after bag after bag of Cheez-its accompanied by clementines – not as a snack, as the whole meal. There was also the spree of tomato-and-pickle-with-mayo sandwiches, my sad attempt at a vegetarian sandwich. It was ugly. And repetitive. It’s gotten a lot better since then.
I still pack a lunch most days for work mostly because it’s more interesting than the same old salad or sandwich at work (and also because it’s cheaper). There are no more Cheez-its, no more tomato and pickle sandwiches; in fact you’ll rarely see a sandwich in my lunch. I save that for weekends when I can have toasted bread and melted cheese. These days my lunches fall generally into two categories: salads and what I like to call “bits and bites.”
The real key though, is attactive packaging.
The lunches I pack are essentially leftovers and a bunch of leftover meals slopped in a dish does not necessarily sound appealing. I started learning how to pack a better lunch by checking out this website (that sadly hasn’t been updated in a few years) and scaling things up for adults. It’s a good example of how lunch can look appealing without much extra effort. Packing things tightly means some bouncing during your morning commute won’t render your carefully arranged lunch a sloppy mess. Protein fillers that are quick to put together or can be kept frozen (like tuna cakes and meatballs) or easy-to-eat vegetables (frozen peas and cherry tomatoes) are a great staple to have around when you need to fill up the corners of a lunch container. And if your lunch looks a little plain adding a fun sauce (like this one, or this one, or this one) goes a long to making it a lot more fun. For more recipes and ideas, check out the links below. Happy lunching!
– This LA Times article is always my go-to place for new lunch ideas and flavor combinations
-Cheri at Kitchen Simplicity has a whole series of packed lunch ideas
-Nom Nom Paleo’s Michelle recently did a second week of lunch ideas, adding to the ones she came up with last year.
– Amanda Hesser at Food52 does a weekly column of her children’s lunches. I’d take any of them in my lunch box.