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Inventive lunches you can prep once for and eat throughout the week

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I loathe flabby deli-meat sandwiches and am starting to tire of my usual salad lunch (though I make my salad with a hundred different ingredients :)
I want to pack my lunch, though.

Last week, I had a bag of corn tortillas and decided to try bringing tacos to work. I grilled a load of cod (marinated), cut it into chunks. Shredded a head of cabbage. Diced onions. Made white sauce. Bought a tub of fresh salsa. Everyday, I packed 2 tortillas and some of each ingredient. I microwaved my tortillas and fish and assembled my tacos at my desk (yes, the fish was a bit...aromatic). Those were some satisfying lunches! Of course, I had other things, like rice & beans, fruit, etc.

I'm looking for some other good ideas along those line. Or even more taco/quesadilla ideas if you have any. Preferably (but not necessarily) low-fat.

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  1. Pasta salads were a fav of mine when I was a working girl. I also loved veggie wraps. I would slice all the veggies and keep them in containers, then toss them together that morning in a baggie, add a spinach or tomato wrap and a little cup of dressing. I would assemble at lunchtime to avoid the soggy wrap phenom. Sometimes I would grill up a batch of seasoned chicken to use too. You can be have infinite varieties....my favs were red pepper, cukes, avocado, and shredded romaine with some grilled chicken and a little raspberry walnut vinaigrette (Paul Newmans) It works in pitas too.

    I liked hummus, cukes, tomato slices and shredded carrot in pitas too. Hummus works too with a variety of raw veggies as well, it's cheap to make and way better than store bought.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cooknKate

      I really like pasta salads too, in fact, that's what I had most of last week. I made a Curried Chicken Pasta Salad... I can post the recipe this evening, if you're interested.

      Also, I watched Sara Moulton a while back and she did a show on not-your-usual lunches, and she had some really interesting ideas. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_... I thought the "stir-fried" veggies were particularly interesting.

    2. I really like panzanella. You can keep all of the components separate and mix them up the day of. Tasty!

      1. I really like mixing some vegetables, pasta, and beans.

        One I like is is a mix of a little bit of oil, garlic, some lemon juice, spinach, feta, salt, pepper, white beans and pasta.

        Another good one is cherry tomatoes, white beans, pasta, basil, oil and balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper.

        These are my two favs, but there are plenty of different combos -- they are fast to make, filling, and long lasting (meaning i'm not hungry one hour later) They also carry well.

        1. To add to the other suggestions, try grain salads. I've made lots of these this summer - bulgur and couscous are really easy to make. I've made them with Mediterranean flavors (lemon, mint, feta, olives) or spicy seasonings (curry, chili) and added fish or chicken or other fresh or cooked vegetables. It will keep for a few days in the fridge, is low-fat and healthy.

          1. You could also try experimenting with cold soba noodle salads. Start with a basic recipe and dressing (perhaps just some soy sauce, rice vinegar, crushed garlic and ginger, sesame oil) and dress it up however you please. Some ideas: grilled shrimp, poached chicken, loads of veggies - baby corn, bok choy, mushrooms, scallions, broccolli, etc., grilled flank steak, tofu, etc. The sky's the limit. Also nice this time of year since the salad is cold.

            1. If you have a microwave, then one fairly easy thing you can do is a simple pasta dish like this one Giada makes.


              Just saute the garlic and tomatoes, add the cooked pasta and put in a microwaveable container. Bring the basil and fresh mozzarella in another container. Microwave the pasta and then add the cheese and basil and enjoy.

              1. dumplings.

                before you leave home in the morning, throw some rayu and shoyu on them.

                at lunchtime add a bit of water and pop them in the microwave.

                it's what i've been doing this last week or so, and my coworkers are jealous!

                1 Reply
                1. re: SizzlingJoe

                  This is a truly great idea. Thanks.

                2. Hello,

                  Soup and stews in any shape or form are great for lunches!

                  I love making soup and we have soup night every monday night. This usualy affords us lunches for at least two days. We have chilled soups and hot soups. Veggie chillies and yummy beef or chicken stews.

                  I love Deborah Madison's books for soup ideas and just recently got her 'Vegetable Soups'.


                  1. I really enjoy a homemade spinach salad. I prepare the ingredients & the dresssing & keep them separate. That way you can put it together each day quickly & it's still fresh. Also, you can make salmon, chicken, or whatever else to top it with & vary the taste.

                    another fun thing is your own pizza (if you have a toaster oven available- not sure it will taste right microwaved)
                    you can bring either a premade crust, pita bread, bagel, etc... a bit of sauce, cheese, & veggie/meat variety.

                    1. I like to buy a bunch of great ingredients that I can mix 'n match together. For example - tomatoes, bocconcini, fresh herbs, mixed greens and a can of tuna. One day, you can make a tomato bocconcini salad. The next day, you can toss any leftovers with some pasta or roll it up in a wrap or pita. Another day you can put it on top of mixed greens and maybe add some tuna or make a tuna melt. You could easily mix it up with extra veg, grilled chicken breasts, other cheeses, etc. Make a simple salad dressing at the beginning of the week - olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, s&p and keep it in the fridge.

                      1. This kind of falls in this category, but one Sunday per month, I do a "cook-fest". I make four different meals (4 servings each) then freeze them individually. It gives me a month worth of lunches. I usually do a chicken and rice, a stew perhaps, red beans and rice... you get the idea.

                        BTW - Don't your co-workers frown on you microwaving fish at the office? It usually leaves an awful smell in the lunch room and the microwave. We have kind of an unwritten "rule" at all the places I've worked that people don't bring in seafood that needs to be heated in the microwave. Not condeming, just curious.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: cbauer

                          wow--sounds like an unfriendly office. so some people are offended by seafood smell; surely someone else doesn't like the scent of garlicky meatballs, or another is vegan and doesn't want to smell your reheated pork sausage biscuit or leftover meaty BBQ. where does it all end?

                          our only rule is if you microwave something delicious-smelling, you have to be prepared to dole out tastes of it to anyone who asks.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                            No, not unfriendly at all. I basically have a rule, that if it might smell up the place and some might not like it, I don't bring it. I learned that lesson once when I brought in homemade lasagna with all fresh cheeses. I brought in an extra container some fresh grated to put on top. Well, apparently the smell of melted parm and romano didn't smell nearly as good at the office than it does at home. Got alot of unfriendly looks and the smell lasted all day. LOL

                          2. re: cbauer

                            I & my co-workers would have to agree on the overpowering, fishy stench. Garlic scents are welcome.

                          3. Since its the summer and i love the BBQ, i would BBQ veggies, mix it with couscous and vinegrette, then get a sausage, or piece of fish, whatever you want, and plop it on top. Heat it up in the microwave, and deeeelish.

                            1. i like to grill up a bunch of veggies (zuc, yellow squash, eggplant, red onion, portabello mushroom) and use it in different things during the week

                              absolute favorite****veggie sandwiches (mix up feta cheese with basil and lemon juice for a spread) and a few dashes of balsamic on top, possibly some lettuce too
                              pasta salad with the veggies
                              veggie couscous
                              Veggie salad - chopped veggies and lettuce with balsamic dressing
                              veggie wrap
                              veggie omelet - make omelet in am with veggies and some cheese and reheat at lunch

                              1. A few weeks ago I got into my own homemade fresh spring rolls.
                                With the disks of rice paper wrapper handy (which only need to soak in warm water for 2 min.), I had the sauce read-made waiting in the fridge (thai soy/lime/fish sauce concoction) and to that i added whatever veggis (cilantro and red pepper were some of the usual suspects) and sometimes the extra vermicelli noodles, but then I could highlight it with fish or egg or big ol' porterbello or anyother kind of fish.
                                It's fun and easy to assemble and experiment with every night.
                                I could post a more exact recipe, but I loosely followed some recipes from Asford and Drugid's Sweet, Sour, Salty, Spicy.