Get to (or stay at) a healthy weight. Enjoy variety. Save money. Control what goes into your body. Feel more organized.
These are just a few of the many tasty benefits wrapped up in the resolution to pack more delicious lunches to take to work.
Truth is, I've known all the terrific reasons to pack lunch for quite some time, but I've never quite been able to put the plan in action. Day after day, I end up ordering takeout from the same three or four places near work.
But this year, I believe I've discovered the lunchbox grail: that essential key to making good lunches happen. It's planning ahead.
That's not quantum mechanics, I realize, but I'm pretty sure this one simple flaw is why I've largely failed at lunch packing for years. Boffo brown-baggging just doesn't happen in that pre-coffee morning zombie mode.
So watch out... This, dear friends, is the year I'm going to start packing.
I've broken the process down into five easy steps to make it achievable for me, and maybe for you, too.
Step One is identification of tasty, packable lunchtime candidates.
The successful lunch-maker needs a small arsenal of go-to lunch recipes with a few variations to keep it interesting. Here's a few of my favorite options for ease, flavor and portability:
Real Simple also has a list of four takes on the Tuna Sandwich and Martha Stewart features a handful of fast, healthy soups.
Step Two is gathering up the equipment.
I've had too many lunch plans quashed by a lack of appropriate containers.
While it's not necessary to have a designer lunchbox, I think you'll be more proud of your efforts (and make your coworkers more jealous) if your pack is cool.
You'll also broaden your lunchtime options if you keep a couple of cold packs and an insulated thermos on hand.
I've got some ideas in my gear shop if you need inspiration.
Step Three is gathering up the ingredients.
Keep lunch in mind while doing the weekly shopping. Whether that's extra celery for celery sticks, enough beans to double the soup recipe, a few necessary condiments or a pack of string cheese for snacking, lunch isn't going to happen if you don't plan the details.
Step Four is putting it into the schedule.
Packing lunch needs to be a priority. Wash salad greens and cut carrot and celery sticks on Sunday. Make a bean dip or a simple soup while you're waiting for dinner to cook. Pack up the containers the night before so everything's ready to go in the morning.
Step Five is not leaving lunch on the counter (or in the fridge) when walking out the door to go to work.
Kind of self-explanatory, but it's happened to me more often than I'd like to remember.
There's 1001 ways to make a sandwich, so don't burn out on the same 'ol thing every day. Switch from sliced bread to a roll, baguette or a wrap, add a savory spread, a different pickle or a new kind of cheese to make the difference between something you look forward to eating and something that sits sadly at the bottom of the sack.
Plan for leftovers. Cooking up a bigger batch of something on the weekend (soups, stews, roasts, curries, casseroles) is a classic way to make both lunches and dinners happen.
Think about what travels well. Roasted vegetable, pasta, meat/fish and bean salads make particularly good choices for lunch packing... Since they're already dressed, there's less risk of spilling vinaigrette on your pants (or across the inside of your bag).
So that's the jist of it: Plot, Equip, Gather, Schedule and Follow Through. Five steps to better brown bagging.
Look for more resolutions in the days to come...
To our health!