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Get prepared for healthy, budget friendly working lunches

Do you run out to Pret/Sainsburys Local/M&S to grab a sandwich when you’re at work? Until recently that’s exactly what I did, but if you’re trying to eat clean or counting calories then leaving yourself at the mercy of cafes and supermarkets for lunch is temptation you can do without. As someone who never used to both checking calories on the food I bought, I was surprised to find that the sandwiches I was buying from Sainsbury’s averaged around 450 calories.

What’s more, if you’re also trying to keep control of your spending because you’ve got a new mortgage to pay on a part-time salary (a la moi) buying your lunch every day is a recipe for financial disaster.

Taking a home made lunch into work is the (oh so sensible) answer to both your health, and financial, prayers. Even taking advantage of Sainsbury’s £3 meal deal, that’s £9 a week and £432 a year, extra I was spending on food. That amount goes a long way to covering the cost of the week of glamping in Cornwall in August that I’m about to book for Miss Poppet and I.

So how to achieve this without finding yourself rushing around like crazy person on a work morning, chopping salad, while your simultaneously dry your hair and wrestle your child into his or her clothing? Preparation is the answer my friend.

Tweet: “Having all your lunches for the week ready in advance is the secret to making it happen and keeping it happening” via @luluandpoppet

This was a light bulb moment for me. I’ve tried to take lunches in to work with me in the past but with mixed results in terms of quality, and never any consistency. What I’ve learned is that getting organised and having all your lunches for the week ready in advance is the secret to making it happen, and keeping it happening.

So here’s what I do. I only work three days a week so on Mondays when I do my weekly shop I make sure I get in what I need to make my lunches too, then I cook, chop and throw into three tupperware containers whatever it is I’m having for the week.  All the prep is done in one swoop, and all three lunches are in the fridge ready to be chucked in my bag in the morning. No fuss, no bother.

Prepared lunches
This week’s lunches ready to go

Once up a time I would never ever have been the person to bring a home prepared lunch into work with me. Just dragging my hung over head into work, grabbing a coffee and an almond croissant on the way was all I was capable of. I looked at people with their healthy home prepared salad and thought, ‘I don’t know how she does it – that’s way too much effort.’ Now she is me.

To be honest now I’m eating clean as much as possible, lunches are far simpler to prepare than what I might have eaten before. Salad didn’t cut it for me then. But salads keep in the fridge a lot better when prepared in advance than say a sandwich.

When I was being super strict with the clean eating diet I cooked all my own proteins for these lunches – dry frying chunks of chicken in whatever herbs and spices I had handy – but now my favourite time saver is to use cooked salmon e.g. The Saucy Fish Co sweet chilli salmon, or a packet of cooked chicken. I add this to quinoa or bulgar wheat that I bulk cook on a Monday, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, torn spinach leaves, chopped cucumber, seasoning and throw in a piece of lemon to squeeze over it.

Line up of lunches
Line up of lunches – chicken dry fried with coriander and spices, with red and white quinoa, bococcini, spinach and cherry tomatoes

There’s something really satisfying about not giving the Sainsburys Local next to my office stupid amounts of my cash very week, and I get a kick out it when colleagues glance at my lunch and say ‘ooh that looks tasty’.

Do you take your lunch with you to work or is Pret where it’s at for you? Share your tips for quick and easy to prepare health work day lunches in the comments below.

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