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5 tips for quicker lunch packing

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A few people recently have asked me how I go about packing healthy lunches for work everyday. There is a reason processed, chemical-laden foods are called “convenience foods,” because, well…they’re convenient! But I promise you don’t have to sacrifice time to eat healthfully. With these tips, you can create lunches that are flavorful and healthful in about the same amount of time it takes to pack up a Lean Cuisine or make a trip to the drive-thru.

1. Make your own convenience foods.

My number one trick to eating healthfully on a time crunch is to prepare ahead. Do you have a free hour or two on the weekend? If so, chop some veggies, make a batch of soup and portion it out or whip up a couple dozen burritos. It may seem like a lot of work now, but if you do the work on a day when you aren’t so swamped, you will be thanking yourself on a day when you are drowning in to-dos.

2. Skip the standards.

When you think of lunch foods, what comes to mind? Probably a lot of you thought of sandwiches and salads. Both of which can be definitely made healthfully, but are some of the most time-consuming foods to make. Think about how many different ingredients you have to pull out, chop and prepare to create a salad or sandwich. Save those for days when you have a bit more time.

3. Embrace leftovers.

I get it. Some people hate leftovers. If you are one of them, then you are going to have to accept the fact that it’ll take you a bit longer to fill up your lunch box. Leftover lovers, make sure to really use the leftover food you’ve slaved over to your advantage. Most recipes serve 4-6 people. If there are only two of you, make a full batch and then divvy the dish out on two plates for dinner and into two containers for the next day’s lunch. Not only do you automatically have a main dish for lunch, but it also keeps portion control in check. No going back for seconds when seconds are tomorrow’s lunch!

4. Organize the fridge.

How much time do you waste just searching the fridge for that container of yogurt you know is in there somewhere? Save time by getting organized! Buy foods specifically for lunches and stick them in their own totes or containers on the fridge shelf. If you are feeling particularly organized, do what we do and organize by food group. Have a container for dairy (put in single serving organic yogurts and organic string cheese), a container for veggies (single serving baggies of baby carrots, cherry tomatoes or celery sticks), and a fruit container (grapes, berries, bananas). When it is lunch-making time, simple grab one item from each container and toss in it your lunch bag. Combine those with a main dish (leftovers from the night before) that has whole grains and you have a rockin’ healthy lunch in under two minutes.

And when all else fails..

5. Buy natural and organic convenience foods.

Okay, so sometimes you just get caught up in life and need to buy convenience foods in order to eat. It happens to me, too. But when do you, please, please make sure you are paying the extra dollars to get all natural, organic convenience foods. If you are going to eat processed food, the least you can do is make sure you aren’t eating poisonous food (which is what most non-organic processed foods are). The cost can be astronomical for organic versions of soup, frozen burritos and pizzas, but hopefully you aren’t buying them enough for it to be a big problem.

What are your tips for packing lunches in a rush?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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19 Responses
  1. I love how you started numbering the tips and then forgot about 3, 4 & 5. πŸ™‚ I agree wholeheartedly with all of these! I never put anything in the crisper in my fridge. If I did, I would forget about it! I’m alllll about the leftovers for lunch. So easy and convenient!

    1. Clean eater here – but would love to see a post on the dangers covenience foods…I know they’re chemical-laden, sodium-filled fake foods, but would love to know more as you have a very strong opinion on them!

  2. Athena

    I pack my breakfast, snacks, and lunch at night so that I’m not rushed in the morning. I also love using dinner’s leftovers for lunch. It keeps me from having to figure out what I’m having for lunch.Thanks for the tips!

  3. melissa

    I love your website! πŸ™‚ Just stumbled upon it, literally.

    Anyway, this summer I got into the habit of packing my own lunch because I switched jobs and actually had TIME to eat lunch!! And sit down!! Very magical for me, so I went all out.

    For leftovers, I pack myself (& sometimes the boyfriend) servings before we eat dinner, so it’s not an afterthought. Also, soups!!! I am the soup and stew queen. Last year, I spent two weeks making 16 different soups/stews and tossed them in the freezer. I was able to have lunch and share with co-workers. Sometimes I’d split portions in half, add rice or sauteed greens and have it two days in a row.

    I also roast a bunch of different vegetables one night a week and mix them with different things (rice, potatoes). I just try to not go to sleep until lunch is packed, including my huge water thermos, iced coffee ready in my steel thermos and dishes are done. Makes waking up much more convenient! πŸ™‚

  4. Great tips! I’m hoping to take advantage of my unemployment to stock the freezer with some goodies, some of which could be used for future lunches. We’re big fans of wraps (tortilla+turkey or chicken lunchmeat+deli cheese+flavored hummus+loads of veggies), but even those get old after awhile.

      1. We do! My Mom gifted us with a chest freezer when we bought this house and I love it. I’m too inclined to put store-bought convenience foods into it instead of making big batches of homemade food and freezing those.

  5. My biggest tip? Use your husband to your advantage!

    I’m terrible at getting ready in the mornings (hello little miss drag my feet and move as slowly as possible…) so my husband started packing my “main course” (sandwich, leftovers, whatever) for me as he packs his own. It saves me a few minutes & all I have to get ready is breakfast & snacks. You’d think by now that I’d have started preparing the next day’s meals the night before, but I just haven’t been good at making that habit stick…

  6. I fully embrace the leftovers for lunch philosophy. It’s when in don’t have leftovers to bring that I run into trouble. I really love the idea of make ahead convenience foods. I’m going to have to give that burrito recipe a try; they look delish!

  7. The idea of hating leftovers is so completely foreign to me! The majority of my lunches are leftovers because they’re easy and always different. My parents got us in to leftovers as kids so that definitely helped.

  8. I combined #2 & #3. Salads don’t have to be chopped tomato, onion, and cucs – they can be anything delicious. Yesterday I topped some field greens with leftover quinoa, asparagus, and grilled tofu. I threw in some slice banana peppers for some extra tang and it was one of the best salads I’ve had in a long time. I also enjoy tossing leftover roasted veggies in salads such as sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and eggplant!

  9. Thanks for this post Cassie. I am going to be making your burrito recipe this weekend for some convenience lunches this week. I will also be trying to do the night before packing as I too am a slow to rise person.

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Hello. I’m Cassie, and I’m excited you are here!

I'm a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. Come along as I explore good food, holistic wellness, natural homekeeping, gardening, and all the other things that bring me joy!

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