Heathly Packed Lunches for Work or School

Katie asked:  I remember you mentioning a while back that you would be packing your husband’s lunch for work as he is no longer working from home. Have you found and nourishing, frugal lunchtime menus that pack well and that your husband enjoys? If so, I would love to see a post on that subject and I’m sure there are others who will as well!

Since my husband did switch to a full time job outside of the home, we have been learning to be creative in supplying him with nutritious lunches and snacks to sustain him throughout the day. I admit to being rather plain in my lunch preparations, and am so thankful for a gracious and flexible husband who willingly accepts any simple lunch I send with him. He’s just thankful to have food – so peanut butter and jelly (homemade freezer jam honey sweetened) actually suit him quite well.

Our all time standby recommendation is leftovers for the easiest lunches. I try to double most of our dinners in order to have sufficient leftovers for all of us for lunch. This way, I only have to prepare two meals a day – breakfast and dinner! In this case I store the leftovers in a glass container so Aaron can easily reheat in the microwave or toaster oven at work. Plastic containers are best to be avoided due to the risk of leaching toxins when reheating, and stainless steel container cannot be placed in the microwave or toaster oven. Casseroles, pasta dishes, and soups work best in this manner. This of course does not always work, so we have some favorite stand-by recipes.

I do prefer to serve him an array of lunches to insure proper balance of nutrition. Here are some of the meal ideas we use regularly:

Ham & Cheese – A basic sandwich of ham and cheese can be jazzed up with some delicious dijon mustard, avacados, lettuce, and pickles to make a hearty and filling sandwich. Served on sprouted or soaked whole grain bread is your best option (watch out for the HFCS and enriched flours that they are sneaking into “whole grain” bread). Chose nitrate free lunch meat from pastured beef or pork, if possible. Raw cheddar cheese is another healthy option if available. We also roast a whole chicken on a monthly basis and the leftovers make excellent base for a hearty sandwich. You can also serve these filler items in a whole wheat tortilla for a fun variety.

Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps - Assemble a basic chicken Caesar salad in a whole wheat tortilla or pita. Store dressing separately. Makes a delicious lunch!

Egg Salad Sandwich – the nutritious protein value of eggs is undeniable. Egg salad packs extremely well. Hard boiled eggs alone are easy to pack and make a yummy snack or quick lunch.

Hummus & Pita Platter – Fill a small container with hummus, feta, sliced olives and tomatoes topped on pita or flat bread for a quick and scrumptious Mediterranean lunch.

Salmon Melts - Assemble the salmon in advance and either serve cold or have them toast it at work topped with a little cheese (in a toaster oven or microwave). For best results, this is preferred served warm.

Pesto Bacon Sandwiches - 5 simple ingredients make the most delicious sandwiches rich with pesto flavoring!

3 slices bacon, chopped and chopped (less or more as desired)
1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced
dash of lemon juice
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp pesto

Spread a thin layer of pesto on each side of your bread. Sprinkle with a small amount of bacon, avocado slices, tomato slice, and a dash of lemon juice. Makes 2 sandwiches.

With all our lunches, I assemble them the night before and store in a reusable stainless steel lunchbox or glass container. Another option is the To-Go 2-Tier Lunch Box. Preparing in advance helps save time in the morning. We  haven’t had issues with sogginess. Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber sticks, and an assortment of fruit make excellent side dishes for any lunch. I often send homemade soups to work with Aaron in an insulated thermos, such as the Foogo Food Thermos. Works very well.

Our favorite snacks to pack for daddy include nourishing protein bars or trail mix (combination of raw nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips, if desired). Popcorn is another wonderful high fiber snack that can be a great filler. Coconut brownies have been a big hit to throw in for a special healthy treat and the co-workers love them too! He takes it all to work in a small insulated cooler. No need for paper bags, Ziplocs or saran wrap here!

Further Ideas:

Packing A Lunch: Healthy Food to Go by Kitchen Stewardship
School Lunches: Healthy Alternatives by Kitchen Kop
Healthy Lunch, Happy Child by Mindful Momma

Do you have any yummy healthy lunch ideas to share that pack well for work or school? Please feel free to share a link to your favorite recipe below!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

17 Responses to Heathly Packed Lunches for Work or School

  1. Mindful Momma September 15, 2010 at 7:03 am #

    Thank you so much for the pesto, bacon, avocado sandwich idea! My 10 year old does not like sandwiches in general, but loves BLTs. He also loves avocado so I think this will be a winner in the lunch box!!

  2. Emily May 30, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    If you don’t use ziplocs, saran wrap, etc., what do you wrap the homemade granola bars in or put the trail mix in?

    • Lindsay May 31, 2010 at 6:04 am #

      Small glass jars…baby food jars or pint canning jars work beautifully!

  3. Elizabeth May 29, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Pasta salad is a great one for us if I want to make something nice. I can make up a big bunch and have it last a couple of days.

    But usually I do peanut or some other nut butter and fruit preserves on (usually) sprouted bread. My oldest likes meat so I will do the ham and cheese or turkey and cheese like you described. The good lunchmeat is still expensive though, so I only put like 2 slices on it, or sometimes I do tuna. I find the sprouted bread is VERY filling. My youngest also really enjoys rice cakes with honey.

    I rarely pack a “hot lunch” unless it is soup during our few cold winter days.

  4. Becky May 29, 2010 at 5:56 am #

    I’m curious to know if Lindsay or any readers have considered trying to avoid the microwave oven?

    I really would like to never use it, but have yet to completely avoid it. I know for leftover hot meals, it’s the perfect convenient solution for people who pack a lunch. I see some people have mentioned a toaster oven, but that’s time consuming and therefore not convenient. The only conclusion I’ve come to is eating raw (the best choice for my body) or choosing to eat a cold lunch even if it’s something I’m used to eating hot. I have a friend who does this for her 3 yr old son and she acts like it’s exciting to eat something “c-c-c-cold”. He thinks it’s cool, so he agrees. So, I’m going to start that with my daughter and hopefully she will not feel the need for hot leftovers.

    • Lindsay May 30, 2010 at 5:30 am #

      I did write a post on the topic of microwaves that can be found here. We personally do not have one in our house because it just doesn’t seem natural to heat up food like that. We use toaster oven and the stove top at home for reheating our leftovers. My hubby does use the microwave at work because he doesn’t have alot of time to wait on the toaster oven, because yes, it takes longer.

  5. Heather May 29, 2010 at 5:02 am #

    Lindsay – can you share your homemade freezer jam recipe? I just made one I found on the internet that was sweetened with honey and white grape juice but I wasn’t really happy with it. So, I’m looking for a recipe that is healthy AND tastes good.


    • Lindsay May 30, 2010 at 5:34 am #

      I follow the recipe in Pamona’s Pectin for my jam. I either replace the sugar with sucanat or follow the instructions for replacing with honey. Both results were yummy! Kimi offers the recipe here. The freezer jam option is especially easy and it preserves the nutrients in the berries. My experience with jam is that you want to use all the sweetener, don’t try to skimp on it as it makes a bland jam. So in this case, use the full 1 cup honey per batch rather than cutting back to 1/3 cup. It makes a huge difference!

  6. Elizabeth Plumely May 29, 2010 at 3:06 am #

    I have a quick question…My husband works in a security setting where glass and metal are not allowed, ever. I dislike sending him his leftovers in those plastic containers, especially when he does reheat in a microwave, but haven’t had any other ideas. Could you offer some suggestions? Thanks.

    • Lindsay May 30, 2010 at 5:35 am #

      What about sending it to work with him in a plastic container and having him transfer it at work to a paper plate or ceramic plate of some sort to reheat in the microwave? It is easier to eat on a plate anyway.

  7. Amy May 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Well, I never have my act together enough in the morning to pack my husband’s lunch for him so I stock the freezer with homemade sprouted bean, rice and cheese burritos wrapped in butcher paper. I also make a huge batch of spaghetti or phad thai and put serving sized blobs on butcher paper and wrap it up for him to take. I am working on a good high protein breakfast cookie recipe but haven’t perfected it yet (my husband says they are ok if he tells himself they are scones and puts lots of butter and jam(homemade raw jam of course) on them). The best thing is that these lunches are super cheap and super healthy….which is what I strive for :) …o and yummy.

  8. Christy May 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    We have been eating homemade wraps for our road trip- I assembled them before we left, and they have been so nice to just open and eat! I made pbj’s, ham and cheese, and burritos. All are great cold, and so much better than the truck stop ‘food’…

  9. sharon May 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Here are some things that haven’t been mentioned yet, that I pack for my 8-yr old daughter and my husband:

    -Leftover homemade pizza–they eat it cold
    -Leftover hamburgers– my husband heats in toaster oven, my daughter eats cold
    -Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted whole wheat bagels w/cream cheese, raw cheese, or PB
    -Whole grain crackers and cheese
    -Homemade peanut butter crackers
    -Smoothies in a thermos– you can really pack them full of nutritious things
    -Lara Bars– frequently go on sale, and Costco sells a box of them ($.80/bar)
    -Homemade muffins chock full of nuts, whole grains, fruits (I’m going to try Heavenly Homemakers corn dog muffins recipe.
    -Cottage cheese and fruit
    -Pasta salad with cheese and meat chunks
    -Taco meat in thermos, organic tortilla chips to eat with (yep, chips as utensil is a beautiful thing in my daughter’s eyes)
    -Chips and salsa (salsa is my daughter’s veggie of choice)
    -Somersaults– they’re new, got them at Whole Foods on sale buy 1, get 1 free– yum!! Little round sunflower seed cracker/snack things. We like the salt and pepper and cocoa flavors
    -Homemade applesauce– I put it in her lunch frozen and buy lunch time it’s nice and slushy, just the way she likes it.

    I’m enjoying the ideas I’m getting from many of you!

  10. Gillian May 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    I just bought the glass snapware at Costco for about 30$. They say they aren’t oven safe. But I take it you have used them in the toaster oven no problems? I wonder if it’s just higher temps? or that it won’t tolerate extreme heat changes quickly? I was also wondering what you do about foods that splatter in the microwave? Can plastic leach if it’s on the top but not touching the food?

    • Lindsay May 30, 2010 at 5:37 am #

      I have used them frequently without any issues in my toaster oven. I do believe the temperatures are not as hot as in a regular oven, but definitely use with caution. I do know that pyrex glassware can be used in the oven, so that is a good alternative. I personally don’t have a microwave, but I would recommend covering the dish with a ceramic plate to prevent it from splattering.

  11. Rachel May 28, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    Love the lunch ideas, but what I really learned had nothing to do with the lunch menus. I use the same glass containers to pack my lunch and I never thought to use them in the toaster oven!!! This new knowledge definitely excites me to think of all the new possibilities for lunch! :) Thanks for sharing.