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Calling all brown baggers

I have just started a full-time job after many years of working at home. I've invested in a nice insulated lunch bag that comes with microwaveable containers and even an ice pack. Work provides a fridge & a microwave. So let's hear it, fellow foodies...what are your favorite DIY workplace lunch creations?

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    1. Most often I do leftovers Feels substantial without shelling out money. Being a teacher eating out at lunch is impossible. Be aware that heavy aroma foods can alienate you at the office: fish, Indian, garlic etc.

      I love tortillas spread with cream cheese and Dijon with genoa salami slices and shredded cheddar cheese.

      13 Replies
      1. re: melpy

        Sounds good...the cream cheese & mustard sound like an interesting combination.
        Today I had some homemade butternut squash soup and a merguez lamb sausage from Whole Foods that I rolled up in a lavosh.

        1. re: medrite

          You sure you don't want to help us with our lunchboxes instead? That sounds good. My boyfriend gets leftovers more often then not. But on occasion that I make a meal that he doesn't care for leftover I love to make him a mufaletta sandwich. They are perfect being made ahead and taste good cold or room temp.that and some potato salad and you're aces.

        2. re: melpy

          Yes that`s so true. If you cook fish or even open a can of tuna at my work you will hear about it.
          Someone actually tried to cook chestnuts in the microwave at work imagine how that turned out!

          1. re: Ruthie789

            Whoa! Probably woke a lot of people up!

            1. re: Ruthie789

              My one corporate gig was working with a bunch of computer geeks, so sardine-onion sandwiches were a standard part of the try-to-gross-you-out exercises. However, there was one very strictly enforced microwave rule that nobody, even the Director, got to break: NO POPCORN!

              1. re: Will Owen

                I have never understood the "no popcorn" rule (though I strictly abide by it). Does it smell too fun for work?

                1. re: ideabaker

                  Maybe the burnt smell is too awful or everyone is afraid of popcorn lung?

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    Having suffered through one too many days of burnt microwave popcorn smell, I am totally on board with that rule. That smell lingers like nothing else in this world.

                    1. re: DrMag

                      OK, gotcha... so if someone makes popcorn but doesn't burn it, is that smell ok? (Just wondering as I've always been amazed at the number of people who are offended by the smell of popcorn... is it only burnt popcorn smell that offends, or ANY popcorn smell?)

                      1. re: ideabaker

                        The smell doesn't so much offend me (although to me it's a very 'chemical' smell compared to popping just kernels), as it is very pervasive and lingering. If someone makes microwave popcorn where I work, you can smell it in the entire office (full floor) and it stays around for a long time.

                        1. re: Sooeygun

                          Surprisingly the brown bag and kernel method as opposed to commercial flavored popcorn yields a very similar smell. Can't figure out how but it is definitely chemically IMO.

                    2. re: ideabaker

                      "smell too fun" I love it!!! Cracked me up :D

                      1. re: alliegator

                        Popcorn is both unmistakable and VERY pervasive, and as unbelievable as it may be some people don't like it. Mrs. O absolutely loathes it; she has no idea why, but it's only within the last ten years or so she's been able to tolerate being anywhere near someone eating it in a theatre.

                        The rule in our office was in fact because a package of it caught fire in the microwave, and the stench drove everyone out of a room big enough to hold balloon ascensions in (slight exaggeration). Big sign posted the next day, no more after that.

              2. I'm with Main Line Tracey! Cooking for one is tough. If I can pare a recipe down to 3, maybe 4 servings MAX... it's dinner, lunch and maybe 1-2 servings to freeze for later.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kseiverd

                  I've been doing that too, I just thought it would be interesting to see what other folks were doing & get some new ideas. Trying to think outside the (lunch) box here.

                2. I'm the product of a generation that actually carried lunch in a brown bag. It usually consisted of something between two slices of bread, wrapped in waxed paper, some variety of fruit and perhaps a cookie alongside a thermos of something to drink. Today I pack a lunch in a bag similar to the one you describe, but it's still often limited to a menu similar to the one previously described. I do like to make different types of soup (it can be made in very small amounts if necessary) to enjoy with some sliced cheese on wheat crackers or perhaps a container of cooked rice that can be reheated and drizzled with a good quality soy sauce along with a serving of snow peas prepared with a bit of ginger and maybe a piece of smoked salmon.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: todao

                    Yum...I just finished lunch but now I'm hungry all over again!

                  2. My wife usually stuffs leftovers + rice (or some other sort of starch) into boxes for my son and me.

                    My son likes it when I go crazy and whip up scotch eggs or some spam musubi and onigiri w/fruit for our lunch boxes.

                    1. Leftovers here too. When I think of the $ I've saved over the last twenty years...but where is that money now?..:-)

                      1. Another leftover lunch person. I will often bring whatever we had for dinner for the next day's lunch. Sometimes we also make large batches of soup and I will bring soup with garnishes ( like black bean with salsa, guacamole....either homemade, and put in tiny containers, or I just recently bought wholly guacamole in single serving sized pouches, shredded mexican cheese and sour cream, a few tortilla chips, chopped scallions or cilantro if I have them) I also bought the Weight Watcher's salad container, which is great! Has an ice ring you can freeze, and it fits right into the container, as well as a little portion controlled dressing container. So lots of times I will take salads, with some sort of protein as a topping ( like diced chicken or whatever we had for dinner) That and fruit or yogurt is my lunch. I also often bring my breakfast to work....steel cut oats with fruit, or sometimes an omelet, made with eggbeaters, cheese and salsa.

                        1. I sometimes like to make a week or two of lunches all at once for my husband and I and throw them in the freezer. I've done PBJs and rice/bean/cheese tacos this way. All I have to do in the a.m. is throw it in my lunchbox with some fruit, yogurt, or a granola bar. I'd also be curious for new ideas.

                          1. Nothing creative for me - leftovers or sandwiches and fresh fruit or veg.
                            Leftovers range from steak and potatoes to all sorts of cuisines and an occassional soup or ramen in a cup.

                            Also, I don't use the refrigerator at work. The fridge is used by too many people which means the fridge is crammed and dirty, so it's a good thing you have an ice pack.

                            1. The bento box concept could be useful here. Some leftovers, some freezer resources attractively arranged... It seems as if it would take a bit of effort to get underway, though.


                              1. I do eat leftovers, but try to recreate them a little. I always grill extra chicken breasts. I usually have cooked quinoa or wheat berries in the fridge. I will make a nice grain, chicken chunk, and veggie salad. Sometimes will add a lettuce or green, but mostly just other veggies (what ever is left over) ie: roasted/grilled asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped arugula, little chunks of parm and a lemon vinaigrette. What ever sounds like a good mix to you.
                                Another of my favs is to "stuff" sweet potatoes or eggplant in much of the same manner. A little protein, veggies and a dab of yogurt or tomato sauce and a few shreds of mozz.
                                I hope this gives you some ideas! Another helpful hint...I always prepare my lunch the night before.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: pagesinthesun

                                  These are some great ideas, thanks for the advice!

                                  1. re: pagesinthesun

                                    Your leftover-spiked salad sounds so good! Salads are my favorite thing to pack for brown bag days as well, always with the dressing in one of those mini glass ketchup bottles on the side.

                                    1. re: pagesinthesun

                                      I do those grain salads, too. Grains like quinoa or bulgur wheat are fast and easy to make, they taste yummy, they are filling without leaving you feeling leaden at your desk, and they can be mixed with whatever veggies, meats, spices or dressings you feel inspired to use (or simply whatever you have on hand). Plus, I find I'm happy to eat grain salads cold, allowing me more time to get out of the office to clear my head, rather than fussing over the office microwave.

                                    2. When I make baked potatoes, I make some extra ones. I let them completely cool down and refrigerate overnight. I bring them to work and heat up in the microwave with some low fat cottage cheese and sometimes some steamed broccoli. They do not stay crispy on the outside, but they still taste good.

                                      I also sometimes bring veggie burgers. I take one out of the freezer in the morning, and then bring a whole wheat roll and some lettuce and/or tomato separately. I heat the veggie burger by itself, then make the sandwich.

                                      1. I make big pots of a grain or two at the beginning of the week and then mix in leftover meat and or veggies. I also keep a jar of a high quality nut butter at work and bring celery, apples or jicama to spread it on. Also freeze extra portions of soups or stews to eat them a few weeks later so they don't seem like leftovers.

                                        1. More importantly, don't forget to keep snacks at your desk: raisins, almonds, rice cakes and peanut butter are a favorite of mine. I used to get drowsy on my commute home. It was only years later I realized I had low blood sugar. If only I had known to eat a little somethin' somethin' a few hours before leaving work!

                                          1. When I was on a diet, I learned to love a big salad, mostly lettuce with a simple vinegarette dressing, a roast chicken drumstick on the side. If you put the dressing in first, then onions, chopped broccoli with lettuce on top. The lettuce stays crisp (I use romaine).
                                            Mid morning snack was and still is an apple and piece of stick cheese. I also had a late afternoon snack but no longer bother. I found a low carb lunch helped me stay energetic in the afternoon whereas I used to get very sleepy after sandwiches and cookies.

                                            I also take leftovers. If we have leftover cold vegetables, I will use theme to make a salad. Love beets, onions with a simple V dressing. Green beans are great with a tomato-y French dressing. Have intentions this fall to learn to love kale salads. Recent kale and cooked beets was very good.
                                            I rarely take bread. Sometimes I might wrap a cheese stick with a piece of ham instead of bring a sandwich to go with a veggie salad.
                                            Love couscous dishes of all kinds and temperatures.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: dfrostnh

                                              I bring entree salads to work all the time. I put the dressing in a separate small container from the greens, or if I want to include sliced apples or pears in the salad, I put the fruit in a container separate from the greens and put the dressing in with the fruit. The salad may include leftover cooked vegetables from dinner -- beans, asparagus, broccoli -- and whatever other leftovers I have on hand -- perhaps some shredded chicken or steak, tuna or chicken salad. Especially in the summer when we grill a lot, I deliberately grill extra boneless chicken breasts for leftovers (husband takes chicken sandwiches for lunch). I also keep dried cranberries and slivered almonds on hand for my lunch salads. I also buy grape tomatoes and "baby" carrots because I find that the more "grab and go" ingredients that I have, the more likely I am to make salad for work. For the same reason I typically buy spring greens in a plastic tub for my lunch salads rather than full heads of greens. What I've found is my home-made salads and dressing taste way better than any of the carry out salads near my office, cost way less, and help me use up leftovers that otherwise would probably get pitched.

                                            2. I like to make a big frittata at the beginning of the week with whatever fridge odds-and-ends need to be used up already. Slice it into wedges, pack the wedges in containers, and voila!

                                              I also like to cook up a plain-ish pot of legumes+veggies, then season it differently for each day, e.g. one day gets mustard, wine vinegar, and thyme; the next day gets Moroccan seasonings (cumin, cinnamon, coriander, a bit of hot pepper); then it gets soy sauce and rice vinegar.

                                              1. You guys are giving me some terrific ideas -- the one about grain salads in particular I love. I bought a container of quinoa salad, sort of like a quinoa tabouli, in Costco of all places, and it made about 3 or 4 good lunches in different permutations as a side or main salad. But I'm going to follow some of the suggestions here and cook my own in advance. We've got some creative people on this thread!

                                                1. On days that I can't come home for lunch I bring a sandwich and a small (the little mini bags like you would get for kids lunches) bag of chips. I want to get away from the people I work with, if only for one sweet hour. Cooking in the office break room is not my idea of fun.

                                                  I will use a quote from Hunter S. Thompson to describe my feelings about people that microwave popcorn at work. "These swine should be fucked, broken, and driven across the land.”

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                      You and Gonzo would hate my office...they actually keep big containers of the stuff on hand for people to pop during their breaks. Trying to anesthetize the proletariats maybe?....

                                                    2. I agree with freezing leftovers for a week or so rather than taking them the following to day to make them seem less like leftovers.

                                                      I like big salad boxes - I have a lunch container with several compartments so I try to have 25% protein 25% starch and 50% vegetables and vary it as much as I like!

                                                      I have started keeping some packages of dried fruit in my car so I can eat a little something on my commute which has eliminated the 'snack as you're making dinner' phase for me.

                                                      1. Simple and easy for me. I hate cleaning dishes at work or taking dirty storage containers back home to wash. I usually have some kind of sandwich with either deli meat, tuna salad, or a classic PB&J. I'll eat that whenever I get hungry and then save my side item for a early-mid afternoon snack. That's usually an apple or banana with the occasional bag of carrots tossed into the mix.

                                                        Big meals at lunch suck because that food sits in your belly all day if you're a chain-to-the-desk office worker.

                                                        1. Buy a good quart size stainless steel wide mouth thermos to bring left over stews and soups for lunch. If you preheat the thermos you will not have to reheat it. Its a must if you work outdoors.

                                                          1. i always cook a bunch of food on sunday to pack up for my fiance and i to take to work. some meals i do:

                                                            -roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots
                                                            -meatballs (and bring bread to make a sandwich)

                                                            i also will make salads and top it with some of the roasted chicken, and bring a pita pocket to go with it.

                                                            1. I also bring leftovers. today it's white bean turkey chili, a little rice and a side of steamed veggies. Once in a great while, when there aren't any leftovers, I bring a prepackaged frozen lunch of some sort. I've sort of given up on sandwiches, they just aren't filling enough for me.

                                                              no matter what entree I bring, I always have a protein-type snack for mid morning, a couple bits of chocolate, a piece of fruit for mid afternoon and a granola bar for the train ride home.