Maybe it’s the delicious aromas wafting from the pizza joint or burrito bar next door that are just too tempting, or maybe you’re embarrassed for your cubemates to see your quilted Vera Bradley lunch bag. The fact of the matter is, many of us hesitate to prep and pack at home. News flash, guys and girls: sad, soggy sandwiches are not the only option for your office brown bag lunch!
**Five Great Brown Bag Ideas**
1. Clean-out-the-fridge salad. In addition to the healthy points you can give yourself for bringing a salad for lunch, there’s no better way to use up that abandoned half a pepper sitting in your crisper. Throw in some beans and sliced Monterey jack and you’ve got a Mexican flair. Leftover cucumber and feta? It’s a Mediterranean-type day. Or chop up any and all the veggies you can find and call it the American melting pot. No judgment here.
2. Get creative with the office kitchen. Got a toaster oven? You’re halfway to gourmet. Flour tortillas can become quesadillas or mini pizzas after just a few minutes of convection heat. Bring your add-ins (cheese, chopped veggies, and olives, or sauce and cheese) in a separate container, then assemble and cook up on site. There’s just something about a hot lunch that takes brown bagging to the next level!
3. Take out, part two. Have you ever ordered dinner from your favorite Thai place, only to open the bag and find that your chicken curry and rice weighs nearly as much as your housecat? Rather than ditching the sizeable portion you can’t finish, repurpose your dinner leftovers as a fantastic next-day lunch. If you (like me) tend to eat all the “good stuff” out of the noodles the first time around, chop up some fresh veggies and throw them in to balance it out.
4. Make appetizers a meal. If your favorite part of any event is the small bites beforehand, this option’s for you. Bring an assortment of cheese cubes, cut fruit, and a handful of crackers or toasty bread, then chow down on some quality canapés. Chopped carrots and peppers dipped in hummus can be an equally filling lunch. Or layer some sliced meat on a wrap with your favorite spread and cut into small slices for a pinwheel-style lunch.
5. Sandwiches, made super. Nobody’s knocking the sandwich here—there’s a reason it’s the quintessential lunch food. But chances are, you’re not going to be that excited about ham and preprocessed cheese on white bread. Jazz up the traditional with some stellar ingredients! Make yourself a caprese sandwich with fresh mozzarella and thick hearty tomatoes, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with flaky salt. Have Thanksgiving anytime by sandwiching turkey breast with cranberry chutney. Go veggie by topping a grilled or roasted eggplant sandwich with hummus and greens.
Tara Powers prides herself on finding as many ways as possible to avoid purchasing lunch in Midtown Manhattan. When she’s not hogging her office toaster oven, you can find her experimenting with new recipes at her blog, Chip Chip Hooray.