How to Eat Lunch Without Really Trying

One of the most common questions I’m asked (culinary-speaking) is how to shake the weekday food rut. A lot of what I hear is that worker bees are sick and tired of their Monday-Friday routine. Everyone knows bringing your lunch to work (aka brown bagging), is a fantastic way to save a few bucks. PBJ is surely less expensive than a Hale & Hearty soup-and-salad combo, but let’s be honest, it can get awfully boring!

Back in college, I used to hit up my favorite local market, Adams Fairacre Farms, for Hudson Valley-fresh produce. I would roast enough eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms – you name it – to last me the week. Come lunchtime, I’d use my stash of veggies for salads, panini, wraps and pasta dishes, throwing in a little chicken or some chickpeas for good measure. No ramen for me!

While my college days are long behind me, I still turn to this “cook once, eat twice” method, especially during busy weeks. Pick a few veggies, a protein or two and a couple ‘extras’ and you’ve got lunch. Here’s my go-to list:

Veggies

  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Onion
  • Fennel
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Asparagus

How to: Brush veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until fork tender or roast in a 400 degree oven until tender (about 30 minutes).

Protein

Save time by prepping protein beforehand. Drain and rinse beans, slice tofu, grill and slice meats.

  • Low-sodium canned beans
  • Tofu/tempeh/seitan
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean steak
  • Shrimp
  • Veggie burgers

Extras

Keep a steady stash of these on hand and you’ve got a meal in minutes.

  • Cheese – Parmesan, feta, blue, goat
  • Whole wheat wraps/tortillas
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Salad greens
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Quinoa, couscous, barley, wheat berries, bulgur, brown rice
Now for the fun part! Muster up your inner chef and get creative. The combinations are endless and uniquely your own. A few of my favorites…
  • Bell Pepper + Onion + Zucchini + Cherry Tomatoes + Salad Greens + Feta + Balsamic Vinaigrette = Mediterranean Cobb Salad
  • Zucchini + Mushrooms + Tomatoes + Whole Wheat Tortilla + Veggie Burger = Garden Wrap
  • Asparagus + Fennel + Chickpeas + Couscous = Springtime Salad
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