Are you tired of scrambling to make lunch every day? Do you find yourself resorting to expensive or unhealthy takeout options or eating the same boring sandwich day-in and day-out? Finding spare time to plan, shop for ingredients, and prepare meals can be challenging—especially when you also have to come up with ideas on what to make! This can lead to opting for quick and convenient but less healthy options. With a little planning and some creative recipes, you can come up with some easy work lunch ideas.

Steps to prepare for the week:

1. Plan ahead: Start by creating a weekly meal plan. Sit down with your family and brainstorm lunch ideas that cater to everyone's preferences (if you’re preparing for more than just work or yourself). Decide on a few different recipes that are easy to make and can be stored well. The internet is your friend when it comes to meal prepping; there are countless websites with recipes and easy lunch ideas for work that can help you.

2. Invest in quality storage containers: Investing in a set of good-quality storage containers is essential for meal prepping. Opt for containers that are both microwave and dishwasher safe. Look for different sizes and shapes to fit all kinds of meals and snacks. The size, type and quantity will depend on the amount of storage you need per week. Read reviews online before making your selection. If shopping for kids’ containers, consider ways to make lunchtime fun with colourful or themed containers.

3. Cook in bulk: Preparing large batches of food will save you time and effort throughout the week. Consider making  soups, stews, casseroles, or roasted vegetables that can be easily reheated. these meals tend to even taste better the second or third day.  Freezing meals is also a great way to save time and minimize waste. Prepare meals like lasagnas, quiches, or burritos that can be frozen in individual portions. Simply reheat them when needed!

4. Use versatile ingredients: Mix up your meals by using flexible ingredients that can be prepared in many different ways. For instance, cook a big batch of grilled chicken breast that can be sliced for sandwiches, diced for salads, or added to wraps. Roast a tray of mixed vegetables that can be served as a side dish, tossed in pasta, or used in a grain bowl. While meal prepping involves cooking in advance, it's essential to incorporate fresh ingredients into your meals, too. Add a side of fresh salad greens, sliced fruits, or yogurt to balance the flavors and add a nutritional boost. These fresh elements will also keep meals exciting and appetizing.

5. Pre-portion your meals: Divide your prepared meals into individual portions ahead of time to ensure everyone gets the right amount. This practice also helps with portion control and avoids overeating. Place each portion in a separate container, making it convenient for both kids and adults to grab their meals on busy mornings.

6. Consider a lunch swap: Do you have a neighbour, friend or coworker who shares your weekly meal-making struggle? Consider a lunch-swap (also known as a lunch share or lunch exchange). They can be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Set your group size and schedule. It could be just one day every week, to start.  This helps prevent boredom with meals and lets you get creative. Be sure to discuss allergies and dietary restrictions beforehand. Coordinating some easy work lunches in a swap with coworkers can be a fun way to team build while you all show some individuality, too! 

7. Don’t leave out leftovers: Using leftovers can reduce food waste and be a cost-efficient way to prepare lunches for work or your family. Often leftover proteins, grains, veggies or sauces can be  turned into tomorrow’s lunches. Leftover rotisserie chicken or turkey can be made into wraps, salads, or rice bowls the next day. Pasta is an easy option, and can be combined with veggies to make a cold pasta-salad. When in doubt, get inspired; check out food bloggers or websites for creative ideas—consider following them on Instagram, TikTok or Pinterest—on how to repurpose last night’s dinner.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; set small goals that outline how many days you will meal prep for, and make weekly plans to meet those goals. Use these easy tips and ideas to turn your lunch routine into a stress-free and enjoyable experience. Plan ahead and get creative to make weekday lunch prep quick, easy and fun.