Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas?

 |  Work

I may be in a position soon whereby I’ll need to start preparing my lunch for work in advance, instead of nipping home and doing my lunch during my break. So, I need some lunch ideas. Ham/cheese sandwiches and cold tuna pasta salad is going to get pretty boring soon.

Obvious requirements: must be suitable for preparation in advance (be it the night or morning before); must be OK sat in the fridge for 4-5 hours before lunch time; must be cheap; must be tasty. I eat all sorts of food so chances are you won’t suggest anything I don’t like.

Spill those recipes..

Update: for much lunch ideas see the what’s for lunch Wednesdays series

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

74 comments so far

  1. Anne said:

    Pizza? Leftovers? My bro spends $5/week on groceries for all his lunches for work. He’ll get on-sale things like hot pockets, or he’ll have us girls make some stuff like “normal” food and he’ll reheat it at lunchtime.

  2. Jordan said:

    Do you have access to a microwave at work? If so I would just consider making regular “entrees” and making enough extra that it can be your lunch. Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas, Spaghetti, etc etc. When i worked at Best Buy I would pack a bunch of cut cut veggies (mushrooms, celery, carrots and broccoli) with some ranch to dip in. Of course I’d pack enough that it would suffice my appetite too :P

  3. Stephanie said:

    caprese salad: mozzerella cubes, halved grape/cherry tomatoes, olive oil, a dash of garlic, fresh basil, and salt to taste. Really good… if you like that sort of thing. caprese pasta: all that stuff up there, but add cubed herbed chicken and bowtie pasta. mmm. better warmed up, but still good cold. Traditional sandwiches stuffed into pita bread makes things a little different, too. Umm… I’m in class and I’m about to leave, so I hope that helps!

  4. Bobbi-lee said:

    I (and everyone I work with) always takes a container of assorted vegies/salad, cheese and bits and pieces to be left in the fridge for a few days. Then everyone just has some bread or roll with it and make it up as they go. There’s also a sandwhich press, toaster and microwave to cook stuff so dinner leftovers is usually everyones choice. Are you getting a new job? Do you know if the place would have a microwave or anything like that?

  5. Jem said:

    Are you getting a new job? Nooo! Not at all, still love my job. Problem is, if we move house as planned it will be further away meaning I won’t have time in my 30 minute break to go home, prepare lunch and come back again. Ideally I need a range of things I can make up at home before work and bring with me. However, I get very bored of foods so easily, so I am just scouting for ideas :)

  6. Amelie said:

    Can’t help you – I’m still trying to come up with stuff myself. So far I’ve contented myself with tins of soup and/or a sandwich or two. Starting to get fairly boring though…

  7. Lil said:

    Ooh, Rhys just reminded me of my ultimate student lunch – microwavable noodles with spicy BBQ sauce! Another fancy of mine is Pom Bears and Philadelphia. You didn’t specify healthy, right?

  8. Nellie said:

    Jordan’s idea of vegetables and dip is something I’d definitely second. I’m not sure how big your appetite is, but I suggest muesli bars. Yoghurt covered ones are a bit more filling than the plain ones… and there’s always the chocolate ones. *grins* I never had this problem when I was working because I worked at a supermarket and all I had to do was walk down to the bakery and get a pre-made sandwich or a croissant and a tin of tuna.

  9. Emsz said:

    Potato Salad: Boiled potatoes, boiled eggs, onion (raw), mayonnaise, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. For lunch I’d suggested three medium to big sized potatoes, cut in slices. three spoons of mayonnaise and together the vinegar and oil must be about three spoons as well, mix the vinegar, oil, mayonaise, and a bit of mustard if you like together, and season with salt and pepper. Throw in the cut onion, the cut eggs (1 or 2) and the cut potatoes, mix and eat :) Is very suitable for keeping in the fridge :D

  10. Carly said:

    Soft white bread, philidelphia and wotsits…. YUM! Can you heat stuff up at your work? Soup is always a good ‘un. What about those party nibbles from icelands, little pizzas, tiny sausage rolls, valovants etc… they’re like 5 party sized packs for £5, and you could have like one or two of each, and a salad with it… yum yum … Or cold pasta and mushrooms, sweetcorn and cherry toms! I’m hungry now!

  11. banshee said:

    I tend to make extra dinner the night before and put some in a container to take to work. Pasta, Chicken, Salad, whatever. If you’ve made something like meatloaf or shephards pie for dinner, invest in a pie/sausage roll machine and turn them into tasty treats for your work lunch! Sometimes, however, you feel like something light and healthy. Those are the perfect times to chop up some celery, carrots and cherry tomatos – put a little container of Tzatziki on the side and presto – instand stomach-rumble stopper! .. and now I feel like I’m writing an article in a womens magazine..

  12. Aaron said:

    If you have access to a microwave (which you probably do) I recommend making big pots of soup. They’ll last for days in the fridge. French onion soup is especially easy to make and it’s really delicious. As many others have suggested, left over dinner is great, like pasta, chicken etc.

  13. Grant said:

    Ok…. Pasta? Soup? Red-Bull? Big EAT – bread – turkey ham – bread – cheese – bread Hob Nobs -cookies or any other biscuit… Order a take out…

  14. Jordan said:

    Oh, I also just remembered this one too. My old co-worker used to bring thick slices of cheese, mini square cut slices of bread, and a little tupperware container of chili. He’d then just reheat the chili and would make little sandwiches with them to eat.

  15. Shannon said:

    Fried rice. It’s better right after cooked, but microwaved is still pretty good. Fry eggs, (it can still be a bit uncooked, but solid) set aside. Toss in day-old rice, fry it around. Toss in eggs. Fry it around. Add salt, soy sauce, et cetera. Add whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. Use a wok. Very Chinese, but it’s really easy, fast, and has a bit of variety depending on what I have in the fridge. Fruit salad is good, too.

  16. Aisling said:

    Pizza, Aisling?! I was hoping for something a bit more healthy than pizza :P *cries* I didn’t even respond to this post yet! That was ANNE. Um. Well, the only time I really took lunch was when I was travelling, and due to budget, it was mainly sandwiches. The secret to make it less boring, is mixing up the actual bread part. Use wraps, use pita, use bagels. I also really love pita and Tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic dip). And bean salad. You just cook up a bunch of different beans and lentils and such, maybe add a bit of rice. I always enjoyed adding cajun spice. And you can eat it cold, or hot. Salads are a never ending option: whip up a quick Caesar, a nice Greek, garden, fruit? My friend Paige has a recipe for a mean chicken salad wrap (http://chef-girl.net/?p=71) among other things! And of course, whole wheat pasta with any low sodium sauce, is really easy to do!

  17. Vasili said:

    Eat little things throughout the day, like nuts, mixes and other little healthy things. It will make you less hungry, when lunch time comes. Oh, and drink liquids! When you are thirsty, you’re hungry.

  18. B said:

    recipesorangette.blogspot.com sandwichproject.co.uk/browse/index.php tastespotting.com Plenty of recipes to choose from. ;)

  19. Paddy said:

    You could always be one of those immaculate women wearing red who loses her mind at 2pm and solves all her problems with a nice warm mug of instant soup who then starts glowing and men start throwing themselves at her? You know, like the women on TV…

  20. Renee said:

    Rainbow rotini with some kind of vinaigrette, feta cheese, and whatever else you want to put in (olives, tomatoes, etc.) is really good hot or cold. Yogurt is also a pretty good snack (especially if granola is added) with a variety of flavors. Make homemade smoothies if you have a blender. Experiment with different combinations of ingredients so they don’t get boring.

  21. Angie said:

    Salads are always good. Keep the dressing in a small container and add it when you’re ready to eat it. If you have a microwave at work, you could always take leftovers.

  22. Hayley said:

    Pasta salads are a safe bet…I don’t actually put much ‘salad’ in mine though. Likewise for rice salads. Mostly, they feature mayonnaise (you need something of that variety to stop it going clumpy) and stuff like sweetcorn, cooked meat (chicken, ham, chopped sausages and/or bacon) and any leftovers in the fridge. You can make some nice variations using couscous or different kinds of pasta (thai noodles, egg pasta, tomato pasta etc.) You could grill some strips of chicken and have them with salad, maybe take a lemon wedge wrapped in cling film to squeeze over it – healthier than dressing. Sushi’s awesome if you can be arsed to make it and it’ll keep fine in the fridge for about 24 hours. If you make the pizza yourself, it’s not unhealthy. Dough basically consists of flour, egg and milk or water. Use tinned tomatoes and put them through a blender with some other fresh veggies/fruits like carrots. Either have low fat cheese or skip the cheese. Stick some cooked meat on top. Sandwiches tend to go soggy in the fridge, best way to avoid that is to take the bread and the filling in separate containers then make your sandwich up when you’re ready to eat it. Same goes for tortilla wraps as a nice alternative to bread, also pitta bread, oatcakes (gorgeous rolled up with ham and cheese inside, the put in a microwave for a minute). A sort of sandwich – get a cottage loaf, cut the top off and take the middle out, fill it with layers of yummy stuff (I did grilled red peppers, wilted spinach leaves, bacon bits, rocket, watercress, courgette, aubergine, olives and feta cheese). Spanish tortilla or other omelette type things keep very well in the fridge and are nice cold. Anthony Worrall Thompson’s book, Real Family Food, has an Oriental Pasta Salad using egg noodles and the sort of stuff that comes in those stir-fry packs. There’s also ‘Fruity Lunch Bars’ which are homemade cereal bars (rolled oats, honey, seeds and as much fruit as you can eat). As you can probably tell, I could write a book on this. Drop me an e-mail if you want any specific recipes!

  23. Katy said:

    I’m totally going to “stalk” this post because I need some suggestions as well!! I’m gaining so much weight eating food from the cafeteria at work.

  24. Annie said:

    Pasta or pasta bake. Maybe you could try cous cous with some vegetable bunged in with it. A fruit mix, Tuna and Bell Pepper Pocket, Potato Spinach Frittata, ham (or chicken/salad sandwich, pita bread with your choice of ingredients or wraps. I’m out of ideas now.

  25. Cine said:

    Hey, Jem, don’t know if you’re aware of this, but your comments look kind of wonky in IE7. Just noticed, since there’s no Firefox on my work computer. As for recipes, I can’t really help, because I always go to the Deli across the street and make my own salad there during lunch. Sorry!

  26. Rich said:

    Sushi! Ok so it won’t exactly be Yo! Sushi quality, but it’s extremely easy (and fun) to make at home, and you can cut it up and pack it for lunch dead easily. It doesn’t have to be fish either, most veg will do. Failing that wraps are a great alternative to bread – the exact same things you’d normally put in a sarnie can taste totally different in a tortilla wrap. Mmmm.

  27. ian said:

    What I’m currrently lunching for work are wraps. Spinach or tomato tortilla, turkey breast, alternate between pastrami, roast beef, ham, chicken, or tuna, swiss cheese, your choice of veggies (onion and tomato for me, i hate lettuce) and a dressing (usually honey mustard for me). If you want to add a few more calories you could put some of those little tiny potato sticks that us Americans sprinkle on hot dogs. Yummyness to the max.

  28. Melissa said:

    You like cute stuff right, Jem?! :D I’m trying to do a Japanese twist on my work lunches, lately. I’m sure you’ve seen stuff about bento lunches and boxes on the web. The great thing about food preparation with this method is that not only is the majority of it healthy, if you get into the “looks” aspect of it you can make some really cool meals! My fave site for this is: http://cookingcute.com, if you haven’t seen it already. Although she hasn’t updated it in a few months, it is still full of recipes, advice and ideas on making and packing bento lunches. Don’t forget to check out the gallery page for some awesome photos of her lunches! Generally, I have a base of either rice or noodles, some sort of protein, and lots of vegetables and fruit. The more colorful the food, the better. Not only do the hues look beautiful in pictures, but the colorful vegetables and fruits are often the healthiest. I actually just got a big box full of bento accessories (and two boxes!) that I ordered from Japan yesterday! I’ve yet to post pictures of all the goodies but I will soon on my blog and probably going to start a new thread about it on the Q*bee. :D Oh and last thing…the good thing about bento is that you don’t have to stick with just Japanese food. It’s all about portions and making it look extra appetizing, so you literally have unlimited choices in cooking. :)

  29. Kim said:

    Pasta salads, sandwiches (with a unique un-boring filling), jacket potato (with cheese please), if you have access to a microwave: ready meals, anything else you can shove in a microwave. pot noodles, panini, wrap of some kind (chicken for me)… This entry made me hungry ¬_¬

  30. Yara said:

    How about some different simple dishes from all over the world! One day, try some japenese noodles, the next day some spanish food, then meditarean food :)?

  31. Hev said:

    Umm…sandwiches, salads with different meats on it, entrees from the night before, rice with veggies & different meats (my favorite), pita bread stuffed with lettuce/meat/cheese/dressing/veggies. Hmmm…pizza is actually pretty healthy if you get supreme. It has most of the food groups on it. No, you don’t want to eat it all the time, but it is fairly healthy. Better then a cheeseburger. Tuna salad, potato salad, egg salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, or other salad with wheat bread or wheat crackers. I’ll think of some more and email you if I can think of more.

  32. Katherine said:

    Hmm… if there’s a microwave there, can’t you just buy like a cup-a-soup or something? Well if they’ve got them over there in th UK of course. That’s what I bring to school sometimes for lunch if I can’t be bothered to make something (meaning chop up celery and grab the bubbaganoush (sounds like that, dunno how it’s spelled) and put it in a container :P

  33. Melissa said:

    Over the past week at work I’ve had the following for lunch. They’re cheap (because I’m skint) and vary in healthiness, but all tasty and quick. – Heinz soup – Microwavable rice with some salad – Bagels and tinned salmon with cucumber slices – Cheese toastie with tomato, made in the microwave. I try very hard to have something different every other day because I get bored of food so easily, but it is hard when all I have to work with is a microwave and a temperamental kettle in work.

  34. Ann said:

    Do you have a breadmaker? If you do, you could always experiment with weird and wonderful types of bread – one of my favourites is bananaloaf. No filling required (I think you can buy it in shops but it doesn’t taste as good by any means). You can also get ciabatta, olive rolls or paninnis if you’re into that kind of food. Other than that sometimes I have cold pizza or quiche, (check that you can eat it cold first!) which is fine for me. Just take the quiche out the freezer in the morning and it will be defrosted and fresh by lunchtime. Have fun!

  35. Dave said:

    – Any kind of pasta dish is always good. – Potato bakes last a few days in the fridge and are uber tasty. – Fruit salads are good to have. – A couple of passionfruit cut in half and eaten with a teaspoon is a great snack. – Cheese (double/triple brie) and crackers. – You could rustle up some scrambled egg in the microwave – only takes a few mins. Just add some cream to keep it from going too dry. I can’t have veg salads for lunch – I need something a bit more filling! (i.e fat bastard). Sandwiches always seem to go soggy in the fridge..

  36. Hillarie said:

    1. Does your workplace also have a freezer and microwave? 2. Does the UK get shipments of Hot Pockets? For me, it’s hard to get sick of Hot Pockets, because they come in sooo many different types. They have breakfast, subs, calzones, and more.

  37. Brigitte said:

    My mom just suggested this to me last night: rice mixed with a can of tuna, some veggies (canned onion medley, I forget the other vegs), and canned artichoke hearts. She can’t stop talking about how good it is – it’s worth a shot, right? ;3

  38. Vief said:

    How about yofu? I love yofu, and everytime I bring it with me, I won’t be scared there’ll be something left over [you can get it in these big packages of 500 grams and sometimes that’s a lot] because everybody loves it and wants at least a spoonful! :)

  39. Dore said:

    My co workers and I like to have a potluck lunch once a week (Fridays usually) and everyone brings something different, lots of stuff that can sit in slow cookers in the lunch room. This way we get something hot and different just to keep things interesting. As well it gives us all some new ideas on what we can make for suppers as well as lunches. Hope this helps.

  40. Tom Burton said:

    If you dont have access to a micro at your place of employment – i hav just discovered that you can cook a jacket potato at home in a morning and then put it inside a food flask and it’ll still be hot at lunch time 6 hrs later :-)

  41. el said:

    try bread sald sound horrible but is supprisingly nice, add tomotoes, garlic, olives, and little squres of bread then a dassing of olive oil to sit in a tub over night the bread soaks everthing up and tastes really good =] x

  42. Jacq Jacq said:

    1.”Roast” a sweet potato or ordinary spud, some tuna and cheese or beans etc.
    2.Scramble some eggs in the micro, add some spinach.
    3.Steam a piece of salmon the night before and eat with spinach or salad
    4.Tuna pasta salad
    5. Pitta pockets with falafel and hummous

  43. Jennifer said:

    A couple of days a week I take left over dinner from the night before. I also have a staff of ready made pasta sauces in the cupboard for when there is nothing to take because that only takes 10 mins to make in the morning or the night before. I also like to bring cheese and tomatoe sandwiches to toast and some times put a bit of bacon in there to make it a bit more interesting. I sometimes make a pot of soup (or a casserole) on the weekend and store it in portion sizes in the freezer to bring to work in the followng weeks then I get a fresh bread roll at lunch time to dip in. I also bring a tub of yoghurt and a piece of fruit for breakfast each morning.

  44. uptowngirl said:

    im so stuck 4 what 2 have its the sam thing every week i live with my nanna so she dosnt buy much.
    normally we have a keb on tuesday but i love the laid back healthy things like fruit salad and pasta salad sanwiches with salad on well like wraps.
    have u ever tried boursin if so have it on crackers.mmmmmmmmmm.
    if u have never tried it its in the cheese isle in asda.:)

  45. Roz said:

    Mix some cooked salmon with some brown rice and some cooked peas and sweetcorn. It can all be cooked the night before, mixed up and left in the fridge. I like fairly plain food but if you’re not as dull as me I’m sure it’d suit some kind of sauce in there too.

  46. rosie said:

    when i need to have something quick to eat, i get a tin if red salmon and mix with mayo and cheese, then make a sarnie with it and put it in the fridge. the salmon will keep for 2 days easily. i also like ceese and crackers, yummy! try port salut on crackers…… mmmmm!

  47. rosie said:

    a tin of red salmon! thats what i meant! boy, im not good at spelling am i? also, i love just tucking into a bowl of bran flakes. in fact, any cereal will do! take some chopped fruit and a few mini selection packs of ceareal (dorset ceareals are nice) and prepare them at work. super healthy and a nutricious source of energy! i refuse to correct any spelling mistakes i make in this!

  48. Hungry Jenny said:


    I used to take a ham sandwich into work every day until I went on a meat ban for a month and suddenly had to find more interesting alternatives for my lunch – cheese sandwiches aren’t particularly appealing to me! So I looked online for ideas and started making various salads – couscous based, bulgar wheat based, pasta based etc – then just throwing in different combinations of veg and pulses.

    Since coming off my meat ban, I haven’t taken a sandwich into work since ;-) I tend to make an extra portion of my dinner to take into work the next day which works pretty well. There are some lunch ideas for work on my site if you fancy checking it out.


    Hungry Jenny x