Oops—you did it again. You worked through lunchtime, then scarfed down a hot dog on the street corner outside your office. Now you’re queasy, greasy, and vowing to bring a healthy lunch tomorrow. But where to start? Do you cook ahead or meal prep in the morning? Do you dare bring beans, mayo, or meats? From bento boxes to mason jars, how do you even get lunch from home to work?
Have no fear, boss babe.
We’ve put together a guide for feasting that’s feasible and office-friendly. We’ll provide you with the best ideas to pack lunch for work, plus a few words on why a tasty, hand-packed lunch is so essential to your workflow that it might as well be considered one of the most important work accessories.
So, read on if you’re ready to ditch the office vending machine and parking lot food trucks for something both healthier and homemade.
Why Pack Lunch?
Before getting into how, let’s talk a little about why. Packing lunches at home takes planning, organization, time, and creativity. Is it truly worthwhile?
From nutritional, financial, and environmental perspectives, packing your lunch and bringing it from home to work is far superior to skipping or purchasing lunch every day.
- Home cooking can be healthier – We admit it—eating out can be delicious. But takeout lunches don’t always check all the boxes when it comes to nutrition. Studies have shown that people who consistently eat home cooked meals eat healthier and consume fewer calories.1 So, while we certainly aren’t hating on a good restaurant meal, bringing your lunch to work daily might save a few of those extra calories for special occasions…like dinner.
- It can help boost your energy - It can be tempting to just skip your lunch break when the day gets hectic, but this only sets you up for a rush-hour slump. Eating every four to five hours helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level, letting you work at peak productivity through the afternoon.2
- It’s more cost effective – It’s more economical to eat home cooking, but do you know how much more? According to one study, the average cost of a home-cooked meal is $4.31 while the same meal prepared at a restaurant costs you a whopping $20.37.3 Multiply that by five work days, and you’re spending around $80 more each week. That’s about $3,840 each year. Think of how many more cute pant suits you could buy with that money instead.
- It’s kinder to the planet – The problem with habitually eating out isn’t just with your wallet or your waistline. While many cafes, food trucks, and delivery services are making strides to reduce their carbon footprint and overall environmental impact, pollution from sourcing, food waste, and single-use plastics in the restaurant industry continues to be problematic.4 Even reducing your fast food habit a little could have a dramatic ripple effect on the health of the planet.
Convinced yet? Good. Now, let’s get packing.
How to Pack Lunch for Work
Once you’ve committed to packing lunch for work, it’s simple, right? Wrap a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a sheet of cling wrap and go. Well, sure. That’s great—if you’re in elementary school.
Come on—you’re a boss lady now, and your work lunch should reflect that.
You’ve got choices to make, and we don’t mean between tuna or chicken. Whether you pack a hot lunch, cold lunch, or something to reheat, you’ll need to have suitable containers, a quality work lunch carry-all, and a plan for keeping everything safe while transitioning from home to the office.
Use the Right Lunch Container
Some days are soup days, others are salad days—and some are seared scallops with saffron risotto days. We don’t judge. Whether you’re eating a go-to favorite or something a bit more gourmet, using the right type of lunch container is the difference between delicious and disastrous.
How to Keep Things Hot
There are two routes you can take if you want to pack a hot lunch:
- Carry your heated meal to work in an insulated container.
- Pack cold food into a container that can be heated in the work microwave.
Depending on which one you choose, here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Insulated containers – If you prefer to avoid the communal cooking equipment at your office, it behooves you to invest in a set of top-quality insulated containers. Sometimes they can be a bit pricey, but many are made from food-safe, vacuum-wall steel and can keep your food hot for up to 10 hours. For office meals that feel like they’re fresh out of the oven, we think it’s a solid investment.
- Microwaveable containers – On the other hand, if you have access to a lunchroom at work where you can comfortably reheat your food, packing lunch in a container that can go directly into the microwave is your best bet. Look for microwave-safe glass or ceramic containers that have tightly fitting lids, preferably with a rubber or silicone ring to stop leaks.
How to Keep Things Cold
Packing a cold lunch for work can be a simple or complex deal, depending on your preference. Maybe you want a simple sandwich and chips one day and a veggie salad the next. As with a hot lunch, having the right containers can make a big difference when it comes to office meals.
Here are some tips to make packing a cold lunch a cinch:
- Buy a wide variety of good-quality reusable containers such as:
- Lidded glass, plastic, ceramic, or steel
- Bento boxes
- Mason jars with tight-fitting rings and tops
- Reusable silicone bags
- Eco-friendly disposables
- Buy more than one ice pack to carry alongside your food to keep it cool
- Purchase work-specific utensils
- Always pack napkins and hygiene tools like wipes or sanitizer
Upgrade Your Lunch box
Remember your old metal lunch box from elementary school—a bright, colorful affirmation of your allegiance to Strawberry Shortcake or Thomas the Train? You can still go that route, but maybe you’re ready for something a little more grown-up—or not. That’s cool, too.
No matter your style, once you’ve put together a selection of lunchtime containers, you’ll need something to carry them in. While the really old-school approach of brown-bagging your lunch is economical, easy, and eco-safe, purchasing an insulated cooler, lunch box, or large work tote that you can wipe out or wash in case of spills will make your life easier—and way more stylish.
When looking at the myriad lunch tote options, consider:
- How much space do you need?
- Do you want extra pockets or a simple, streamlined look?
- Do you like the look of a tote, box, or sack?
- Will you want to machine or hand wash your bag?
- Is a strap helpful?
- Do you want zippers, magnets, or velcro closure?
Get in the Habit
Planning to pack a lunch for work is fantastic, but only if you actually follow through. Getting into the habit of packing a lunch takes a little effort and time. Some tricks that might help get you there are:
- Packing the night before so you can just grab and go in the morning
- Incorporating your dinner leftovers
- Rewarding your efforts with a homemade, hand packed treat
- Seeking inspiration for new lunch ideas that way you have something extra special to look forward to halfway through the day
Some Lunchtime Inspo
So, what does a boss lady actually eat for lunch? Beyond leftover chili or bologna sandwiches, here’s a selection of our favorite power meals if you’re feeling uninspired.Mason Jar Salads
The it-girl of work lunches for quite a while now, mason jar salads are easy, healthy, and to die for. Plus, the beauty of layering your ingredients is that they stay fresh all day. In fact, you can make a week’s worth of mason jar salads on the weekend and just pop one into your lunch bag each workday morning.
Two tricks to mason jar salad success are:
- Use a wide-mouth mason jar.
- Keep your dressing, toppings, and croutons in separate containers, and only add them at lunchtime.
You may find that certain ingredients hold up better in mason jar combos than others. A few we love are:
- Leafy greens
- Cherry tomatoes
- Spring onions or chives
- Roasted vegetables and potatoes
- Quinoa or farro
- Lentils and legume
- Chicken cubes or shreds
- Chunked cheeses (the firmer, the better)
A few ingredients that can sometimes underperform in mason jar salads are:
- Shredded cheese
- Dried fruit
Carbs and lunch—talk about a match made in heaven. Getting a boost from a bowl of pasta at lunchtime can give you the energy you need to get through your day. Unfortunately, noodles aren’t at their best when kept hot for hours in an insulated container.
So, what to do? Cold noodles! Nah, we’re not talking about eating your spaghetti and meatballs cold. Instead, try one of these refreshing takes on noodles:
- Sesame noodles with chicken, cucumbers, and peanut sauce
- Penne with eggs and peas
- Rice noodles with grilled shrimp and lemongrass
- Pesto pasta with broccoli and kale
- Spring vegetable bowties
- Miso noodles with peppers
The BÉIS Lunch Bag for the Ultimate Boss Lady
It makes no difference if you work in a shop, an office, or a warehouse—learning to make time for a healthy, home cooked lunch is a top lady boss skill. At BÉIS, we want to make this as easy as possible for you so you can focus on your work—not on your growling tummy.
The Lunch Bag is a quintessential carry-all whether you like a hot lunch, cold lunch, or a mix of both. To complete your list of work bag essentials, throw this lunch bag in your tote. It features an insulated lining, adjustable strap, slip pocket, magnetic closure, and sturdy, waxed cotton canvas. In chic black, this lunch tote will boost your boss lady vibe, whether it’s carrying your PB&J or your chicken cordon bleu.
- “Study Suggests Home Cooking Is a Main Ingredient in Healthier Diet.” Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins University, https://clf.jhsph.edu/about-us/news/news-2014/study-suggests-home-cooking-main-ingredient-healthier-diet
- “The Best Times to Eat.” Northwestern Medicine, https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/nutrition/best-times-to-eat
- Priceonomics. “Here's How Much Money You Save by Cooking at Home.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Dec. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/?sh=60ea722535e5
- “All the Ways Restaurants Ruin the Environment.” VICE, https://www.vice.com/en/article/8xyvpb/all-the-ways-restaurants-ruin-the-environment