All vegans and conscious eaters are aware that most school and workplace cafeterias and catered luncheons don’t provide many nutritious, filling meal options. Unless you go to a university that specifically caters to vegans and vegetarians, chances are you’re familiar with the iceberg salad bar and the odd uninspired stir-fry. Why spend your money on meals that will leave you unsatisfied, hungry, and sluggish? Luckily, there’s an overlooked option that can be effortless, healthful, delicious, and almost free: packed lunches! Whether you have a half hour or 3 minutes to spend, iceberg and fries will be a thing of the past. Many of these options are dorm room friendly as well.
Less than 5 minutes:
Even if you’re simultaneously brushing your teeth and tossing back shots of espresso while running out the door in the morning, these simple lunches will fit in your routine.
-Pack leftovers! While cooking dinner, pack a lunch-sized portion of your meal in a reusable container, then grab and go in the morning. Freeze some lunches for easy access during really busy weeks. Another option is packing leftovers from a restaurant. When you’re out for dinner, set aside part of your meal (or order extra food) to bring to work or school the next day.
-If there are no leftovers to be had, bring some trail mix, fruit, and protein or granola bars to snack on throughout the day. Maybe not the most inspired lunch, but it will keep you full and energized.
Maybe your pantry is bare, or you had spaghetti last night and sticky leftover noodles aren’t your jam. If you find a few extra minutes in the morning, these lunches will come together fairly quickly.
-Make a sandwich. Whip out the classic PB&J! Vary the type of nut butter, jam, and bread you use so it doesn’t get boring. If you have a few extra minutes, pile some veggie lunchmeat, lettuce, vegetables, hummus, and condiments on bread for a heartier sandwich. Add some fruit and snacks to complete the meal.
-Pack a giant helping of hummus, along with veggies, pita, and crackers for dipping. Most of the time will be spent chopping veggies, so chop more than you need for the next day.
So you didn’t need to hit the snooze button this morning, or found some extra time in the evening to make lunch for the next day. Look at you!
-Make some quinoa or couscous for the week. While your grains are cooking, steam or sauté a few different vegetables. Throw in some tofu cubes, seitan, or tofu if you have it. Pack into individual servings and forget about making lunch all week. Bring a different side each day to mix it up.
-Make taco salad! In separate containers, pack some refried beans, veggie crumbles, lettuce, tomato, veggies, jalapeños, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole. Assemble on a plate at lunch, then eat with tortilla chips.
-If you’re a kid at heart, making lunch for a kid, or have extra time to spend creating your lunch, read packed lunch food blogs. You’ll find ideas for cute lunches, such as making sushi into panda faces or arranging the colors of your plate into a rainbow.
Keep making different lunches and see what works best for you. Whether your lunch is going straight to the fridge at work, in a tin lunchbox, a bento box, a soft pack lunch box with an ice pack, or the bottom of your tote bag, there are so many options for vegan packed lunches that will save you time, money, and from the dreaded cafeteria lunch.