September – Back to School! Easy Tips for Packing a Better Lunch

A bowl of vegetable salad surrounded by cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots

September – Back to School! Easy Tips for Packing a Better Lunch

Quick Summary

  • Planning your lunch makes it easier to align your food choices with your health goals and is less expensive than ordering take out.

The end of summer is nearing, and you know what that means – school is almost back in session! Whether you’ll be back on campus, working remotely, or something in between, a good lunch packing strategy can help streamline your week and give you one less thing to worry about.

Planning your lunch makes it easier to align your food choices with your health goals and is less expensive than ordering take out. Another plus of packing your lunch is that you won’t waste any of your break time trying to decide on what to eat and where to get it from.

Set Yourself Up for Success

You wouldn’t show up to work without the items you need to have a successful day, right? Apply the same reasoning to your lunch packing strategy. To pack successful lunches, you need to set yourself up for success.

  • Set aside food storage containers you already have or buy new ones specifically to use for your lunches. This way you’ll always have containers available when you need to use them.
  • Think about your needs and preferences when selecting food storage containers.
    • Use plastic containers instead of glass containers if you are concerned about your bag being too heavy as you trek across campus. The link provides just one example.
    • Try out bento style boxes for your lunches. They keep your food items separate but are compact and all in one.

Make a Plan that Works for You

Whether you’re packing your lunch to go onto campus or planning lunches to enjoy at home during the work week, make a plan that works for you to cut out the guess work when the lunch hour rolls around. Consider these following things when planning out your lunches for the week.

  • Decide if you’re going to plan the same thing for lunch all week or if you would prefer to have something different each day.
  • Think about how many lunches you need to plan for the week. Do you have any meetings or events that would make it unnecessary to pack your own lunch?
  • Feeling uninspired by your typical go-to lunches? Or perhaps you don’t have any go-to lunches? Browse the internet for recipes that sound good and doable to you.

Set Aside Time on Sunday

Make a grocery list based off your meal plan, get your necessary ingredients, and get to work. Whether you’re preparing bulk batches of your favorite staple foods or following specific recipes, you’ll be saving time once the lunch hour rolls around during your busy work week. Consider the following when meal prepping:

  • Meal components that oxidize quickly (think avocados or sliced apples) should be prepared and added the morning of, or if you’re working from home, right before you enjoy your meal.
  • Keep in mind when prepping components in advance that some items hold up for longer than others. Precut carrots will stay fresh for longer than, let’s say, sliced tomatoes.
  • When preparing bulk batches of ingredients to reimagine into different lunches for the week, think about the components that make up a well-rounded meal.
    • A good rule of thumb is to have a grain, a vegetable, a protein, and a fat. This could look like baked chicken breast with roasted broccoli on a bed of brown rice drizzled with a tahini dressing.
  • Not all salads are equal. Consider a sturdier green to use as your base, such as kale instead of spinach. Not adding a dressing to your salad until you’re about to consume it can increase the longevity of your meal prepped salad.

Repurpose Your Leftovers

Who doesn’t love the convenience of leftovers?

  • Plan to make additional servings of your dinner to have as intentional leftovers for lunch the next day. While you’re cleaning up after preparing your dinner, go ahead and put the leftovers directly into your designated lunch food containers.
  • Leftovers from one meal can be reimagined and repurposed into another meal. For example, leftover baked chicken breast from the night before can easily be cubed and tossed on top of a salad for lunch the next day.

More Tips and Tricks

  • Keep your favorite seasonings and condiments on hand. Switching up your seasonings, sauces, and flavorings is a great way to make the same meal components feel different from day to day or week to week.
  • This may seem obvious, but pack delicious lunches that you want to eat. Yes, keep your health goals in mind but this goes back to setting yourself up for success. If you pack healthy lunches but you don’t enjoy what you’re packing – chances are you’re going to skip it all together and end up ordering something that will actually satisfy your cravings!

Seasonal Foods and Recipes

The change in seasons means new fruits and vegetables are in season!  Eating seasonally is a great way to support your local farmers, try out new foods, and, of course, to eat produce when it’s at its best.

Sweet Potato and Apple Bake 

Enjoy the taste of fall by trying this Sweet Potato and Apple Bake. This works as a great side dish to your main course.

Lentil and Pecan Filled Acorn Squash with Sage Fried Brown Butter

… need I say more? Nothing says fall like squash and sage!

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Lasagna

Try out this fun fall twist on a comfort classic dish.

Pumpkin Shrimp Curry

We know the fall is all about pumpkin spice, but why not switch things up and try out this savory Pumpkin Shrimp Curry?

Ultimate Fall Salad

Add this fall salad to your meal rotation this season. Who says a salad has to have lettuce?

Apple, Sausage, and Smoked Cheddar Breakfast Casserole

Maybe this casserole can help encourage to get you out of bed on these chilly fall mornings.


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