The average Aussie spends over $1500 a year on buying lunches at work – those $10 Thai lunches and gourmet sandwiches have definitely stacked up! There’s no denying that bringing your own lunch saves you money but it is also more nutritious. Homemade food is lower in energy, saturated fat and added sugars.
I know it can be hard to think ahead and when you’re tired after a long day at work, it can be easier to just commit to heading to the food court the next day for lunch. BUT I have a healthy quick and easy work lunch for each day of the week that will take you less than 10 minutes to prepare each. That $1500 is going to be your next getaway instead of takeaway lunches.
Before we get started, just like anything the key to success is preparation. Buy the ingredients you need at the beginning of the week (or whenever you shop) and make your lunch the night before! Invest in some good tupperware that has compartments for hot vs. cold items and dressings/sauces. Trust me, nothing will send you running to cafe faster than soggy lettuce that has been soaking in vinegar – EUGH!
DECONSTRUCTED RICE PAPER BOWL
You’re probably thinking, “Whoah there girl – you said quick & easy!” This sounds like a solid half hour kitchen saga. Well, you’re wrong.
Here’s how you do it – boil up some vermicelli rice noodles (takes a few minutes if you use water from a kettle, go brush your teeth whilst this is happening), chop up whatever veg you got – lettuce, purple cabbage, capsicums, cucumber, avo, carrot, shallots, chilli, snowpeas – get colourful! Don’t forget the mint! Pop your drained rice noddles into a box, top with your choice of tuna, chicken (leftover or grab some BBQ chicken from the supermarket) or tofu. In a separate container, mix up some sweet chili sauce, a dash of fish sauce and some fresh garlic or ginger. Listen, if we’re being real – just use some sweet chilli sauce and water it down so it’s easier to spread out. But if you’ve got some time on your Sunday night – go for it!
Voila, say goodbye to your boring old cafe sandwich with THIS in your lunchbox!
If you’re a fan of Taco Tuesday, you’re gonna love this one. This one needs some foresight so when you got 20 mins spare – whip up a batch of my Vego Taco Mix, and freeze in advance. This will give you 3-4 lunches worth, so really it’s worth the trouble. You’ll spend longer waiting in a queue to order and pick up your food.
Then simply defrost overnight in the fridge, throw a microwave cup of brown rice and *insert fancy grain of your choice here* (quinoa, red rice.. you get the picture). In a separate compartment, top with some grated cheese, chopped Mexican veg of your choice and boom, that work kitchen is going to be smelling like a Mexican Fiesta in no-time!
SALMON GRAVLAX BLINI – LUNCH-IFIED
Alright it’s hump day, let’s make this easy. I’m taking the salmon gravlax blini appetiser and making it your lunch.
Here’s how. Get yourself some store-bought smoked salmon, cream cheese and some wholegrain lunch slices (crackers). Pop on some red onion and those omega-3s never looked so good. Or you can do the same thing on toast, it’ll get you those satiating wholegrains that will carry you throughout the afternoon.
Now, I promised no salads but chop up a few veg here to balance out the meal – try cucumber, carrot or celery with a low-fat yoghurt-based dip or guac or hummus).
TUNA RICE VEG
I’ll admit this one is a little lacklustre, but it will get you through the week when you’ve lost all will to prepare food (we’ve all been there). 90 gram tin of tuna in extra virgin olive oil (get a flavoured one, if you like), microwave rice cup and either microwave veg pouch or chopped fresh veg. Top this with some soy sauce, sriracha or sweet chilli sauce or you can add some feta, olive oil and vinegar for a Mediterranean spin.
It’s a balanced meal that you can microwave and assemble at work – win! Save this one for your most tiring weeknight.
Check out this recipe from Healthy Food Guide Australia for some inspiration.
It’s Friday, before you hit up the takeaway full of glee that you packed 4 days of lunches, I’ve got homemade pizza for you! You’ll need a sandwich press for this one. Get yourself a wholegrain Lebanese bread or mountain bread or wrap, in one of those salad containers bring along some olive oil and with crushed garlic and herbs – I like oregano. Then just pack all your favourite veg into a box and a handful of grated cheese, some lean ham or leftover chicken and just line the sandwich press with foil and let it hover above the cheese to melt and heat up the base.
You could also try a pesto base! Get creative and don’t be shy about those vegetables, it seems like a lot of work but slicing up veggies takes less than 5 minutes to do.
BONUS: VEGETARIAN OPTIONS
Heat up a few store-bought frozen falafels in the microwave, pop them in a wholegrain wrap with hummus and veg of your choice and you have a Middle Eastern feast. Alternatively, heat up some microwave rice and toss through a few veg and a yoghurt dressing to up the flavour.
This is another slight time investment (10 mins prep and 25-30 mins baking time), however it freezes well and for quite a while so you got lunches up your sleeve for whenever you need them. Grate up some zucchini, a couple of carrots, add some cheddar cheese, eggs and wholemeal flour and olive oil. Season with pepper, spring onions and thyme or whatever other aromats you have around. Serve with a few extra veggies to get those 5 a day.
You don’t have to make these things on these days. If you buy your lunch out every day, just start with making your lunch 1 or 2 times a week before going all out. You’re more likely to stick to the change. There’s nothing wrong with salad or a sandwich or leftovers for lunch, in fact these are my go-to’s! But I know a lot of people don’t like eating leftovers, and are bored of sandwiches and salads – so I thought I’d provide some inspiration to pep up your work lunchbox.
Give these a go and let me know by tagging me on Instagram @the_dietologist