Was your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier? To rely less on takeout? To learn to make meals you actually enjoy? Were you uber-ambitious at the dawn of 2019, vowing to make and bring your own lunch to work every single day? And yet… have you already visited the sub-par sushi spot next to your office three times this week? We get it. Changing a habit is hard, especially when the alternative seems so convenient (even when it’s expensive and/or sad). Inspired by Modern Lunch, a new book from food writer Allison Day, we’ve compiled some how-to advice for keeping your packed lunch promise (without compromising on taste).
Tip 1: Don’t wait until the morning of
Nothing goes the way you want it to when you’re trying to get yourself/your kids/your dog out the door on time on a weekday morning. Don’t add to the mad dash by leaving lunch until the last minute. Day’s book is packed with recipes you can make ahead, the night before, or on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
Tip 2: Stock your pantry
Excuses are always easy to find. Don’t let a single missing ingredient be yours. Keep staples like grains, oils, and spices on hand. The extra-organized will also want to fill their freezers with big batches of their favourite scratch-made dressings or sauces to defrost as needed. Baked goods also freeze well and, in our opinion, no lunch is complete without dessert.
Tip 3: Get the right gear
A thermal water bottle, containers, reusable wrappers, and a lunch bag in colours and designs you love will motivate you to use them. Don’t shove them to the back of the cupboard. Keep them where you can see them to remind you they’re there. Mason jars are an indispensable lunch-to-go tool, too.
Tip 4: Experiment to find your favourites
You’re not going to put the effort into making something every day of the week if it doesn’t taste great. Try out a bunch of new recipes on Saturdays (Modern Lunch’s Cauliflower Fatteh with pine nuts and dates is one of our favourites) to gauge how into them you are. You have to eat on the weekend too, right?
Tip 5: Bring on the big batches
Following the official taste test, use your Sunday afternoon to make your favourite lunches in big batches to either freeze or refrigerate for the rest of the week. Lots of recipes will keep for days in your fridge, especially if you separate the various elements and mix them together the night before.
Tip 6: Look to other cultures’ cuisines for inspiration
One slow cooker batch of chili or curry will get you through the week and both dishes freeze well. Soups? Same. Modern Lunch contains an entire selection of complete lunch box ideas inspired by countries across the globe.
Tip 7: Elevate your sandwich skills
If all of the above tips fail you and you’re stuck making your lunch during the morning rush, remember that there’s nothing wrong with a sandwich — it’s all about making that sandwich less sad. How? Start with high-quality, fresh ingredients: good bread, fresh vegetables, an interesting cheese, and a really nice condiment or two. Introducing out-of-the-box ingredients like thinly sliced pears, tahini, or pickled radishes will also keep your sandwich game fresh.