These 10 tricks make brown-bagging your lunch more exciting
Going out for lunch is so over. These days, packing a lunch from home is the best way to get the most nutritious bang for your buck.
Try the handy tips below, and you'll see a world of difference in your brown-bagged meals. Say goodbye to soggy sandwiches and sad salads, and say hello to fresh meals brought from home every day of the week.
1. Make your own cup-o-noodles
Image: Serious Eats
Don't rely on overly processed, sodium-heavy, prepackaged cup-o-noodles from the vending machine. You can make your own, much tastier instant noodle soup with just a little prep. You'll have a delicious, just-add-hot-water lunch at your fingertips all week long.
2. Use natural barriers to end soggy sandwiches
If you're a sandwich junkie but tired of soggy bread, you're in luck — there are a few different ways to make sure you wind up with the perfect lunch. You can lay a slice of cheese or meat on top of each slice of bread and spread condiments on those instead of the bread, minimizing the amount of liquid that will be absorbed. You can also try blotting your wet ingredients, like tomatoes, pickles and lettuce, with paper towel before assembling. Last but not least, for extreme sogginess prevention, you can just put your sandwich innards in a plastic bag separate from your bread and assemble your sandwich at work.
3. Jar it up
Mason jars are the perfect solution to your lunchtime woes. You can bring everything from salad to yogurt to dessert to work in a jar, without having to worry about leaks. The key to the perfect Mason jar salad? Add dressing on the bottom along with firm ingredients like broccoli, bell peppers and cucumber. Put the most delicate ingredients, like lettuce, at the top. When you're ready to eat, shake the jar for the perfectly dressed salad.
4. Go bento
A bento box is a great way to include a lot of variety in your lunches, which is perfect if you find yourself getting bored by the second half of your salad. You can include small portions from every food group and even a little dessert.
5. Get frozen
There are a lot of foods you can freeze ahead of time and bring to the office. By the time lunch rolls around, you'll have a perfectly thawed meal ready to go. Some things you can freeze include sandwiches, soup, burritos, pasta dishes and more.
6. Go with the flow
Image: Food 52
Instead of trying to avoid a soggy sandwich, why not let it do its thing? In the case of the traditional French pan bagnat, letting the juices seep into the bread is what makes it special, so you won't have to worry about keeping the ingredients separate.
7. Shoot for the stars
Image: Serious Eats
Ever heard of a shooter's sandwich? Imagine turning beef Wellington into a sort of panino, and you'll get the idea. The shooter's-style sandwich can be made well in advance, relying on the same principle as the pan bagnat, and you don't have to stick to the traditional beef Wellington-inspired ingredients.
8. Liquify your assets
Image: The Kitchn
The Kitchn uses this handy method for bringing smoothies to work. Blend the night before, then pour your smoothie into ice cube trays, and freeze them. The next morning you can dole out how ever much you think you'll need into a travel mug, water bottle or thermos. When it's time for lunch, you'll have a perfectly thawed, frosty smoothie. This is also a great way to deal with leftover soup — just portion the cubes into a microwavable travel mug in the morning so you can easily reheat at lunchtime.
9. Keep your cool
Image: My Kitchen Escapades
If you're trying to bring a cold lunch but usually wind up with a warm salad, this trick is for you. Freeze your lunchtime beverage, whether it be a water bottle or a juice box, and include that in your lunch bag, where it will act as an ice pack. Another solution? Freeze a wet sponge in a zip-top bag, and use it the same way.
10. Stick it to tradition
Sandwiches not your thing? No prob! Forgo the bread in favor of a low-carb meal on a stick. Try mini mozzarella balls with cherry tomatoes, olives and basil; cubes of ham, salami and cheese; or a variety of fruits for fruit-salad-on-a-stick. The possibilities are almost endless.