How to Pack a Not-Sad Desk Lunch

Whether we like it or not, school is back in session. This means: a) no more lazy summer lunches consisting of watermelon popsicles and lemonade, and b) hectic, hungry days away from our kitchen await us. Even if you’ve been outta school for a while, packing a lunch for work is usually always healthier than grabbing something out. It’s also the easiest way to save money and, if you put a few extra minutes into it the night before, you will find yourself looking forward to noon every single day, because, seriously, one of the most horrible things of all time is looking down at your sad desk lunch.

Here are a few inspiring ideas for great (not sad) lunches.

1. So you love Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, but they’ve become lame and/or you’ve eaten 5,000 of them in your life. Here are some PB&J Alternatives:

Peanut Butter and Jel-Brie

Recipe from: Finding Clarity

If you have access to an oven or even a microwave, this sandwich is something you need to try at least once. I know, I know. Cheese and peanut butter? It sounds weird, but it’s actually magnificent. Trust me!

Peanut Butter + Jelly + Banana + Nutella sushi

Recipe from: Hip Home Ec. 

If you’re over your loaf of bread, try out tortillas instead to create PB &J “sushi” with a twist of course. Using your fave peanut butter and jelly, a banana, and a dollop of Nutella (or Speculoos), you can create an entirely new version of your staple sandwich. Chopsticks optional.

PB & Real Fruit

Recipe from: Reel Flavor

Substituting jelly or jam with real, fresh fruit makes a HUGE difference. Both in taste and in the calories, since jelly/jam has a ton of added sugars. Also this recipe is gluten-free!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Quinoa Bars

Recipe from: Runnin Srilankan 

It may not be in sandwich form, but this bar has all the elements PLUS some. Using quinoa and hazelnut meal, you’re incorporating more complex carbs instead of the standard slice of bread, AND you’re using pumpkin pie spices to recreate that perfectly spiced fall flavor.

2. There’s nothing better than a turkey sandwich. Until it gets old. Here are some more sandwich ideas you can try instead:

Smokey Tempeh and Hummus

Recipe from: Food52

Prepare some marinated, baked tempeh the night before, and make yourself a vegetarian sandwich for a Meatless Monday!

Roast Turkey Cuban Sandwich

Recipe from: Closet Cooking

This Cuban-inspired sandwich incorporates cranberry sauce, mayo, dijon mustard, swiss cheese, smoked ham, and a pickle. So, think Thanksgiving, but with a slight salty twist.

Turkey, cheddar, and green apple sandwich

Recipe from: Martha Stewart

If you’re a fan of apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top, I think you’ll totally dig this sandwich, too. The tanginess of green apple coupled with cheese and roasted turkey will give you really fresh, awesome flavors.

Curried egg sandwich

Recipe From: Eating Bird Food

Egg salad can be pretty heavy, since it’s made with straight mayo and all. This salad uses vegan mayo, and calls for curry powder, relish, and scallions. Not your average egg salad sandwich.

3. Fan of crispy, crunchy salads? Here are a couple unexpected, to-go takes on your favorite bowl of greens:

Strawberry avocado kale salad with Poppy dressing

Recipe from: Lauren’s Latest

If you have some time the night before, we highly recommend you try this salad recipe out, especially since strawberry season is almost over.

Rosemary Chicken, Avocado, and Bacon salad

Recipe from: Sarah Titus

Packed with protein (although you can make this salad without chicken and just substitute it with chickpeas), this salad calls for watercress, avocado a-plenty, and crunchy cherry tomatoes. The recipe comes with DIY instructions on how to make your own rosemary vinaigrette, and I guarantee you will want nothing else on your salad again.

Salad in a Jar

Recipe from: The Kitchn

I think what ultimately stops me from packing a lunch to work/school, is the fact that I usually get dressing everywhere. No matter how many high-tech containers you buy, you somehow end up with oil in your bag, and that’s not cool. Which is why you should try packing your salad in a jar! All you have to do is arrange the most non-absorbent ingredients at the bottom (i.e. proteins), pour in your favorite dressing, and then layer the veggies on top. When you’re ready to eat it, all you have to do is shake. Brilliant.

4. We all need a snack to hold us over until dinner, right? Instead of packing a bag of Doritos, try these healthier, more fulfilling options:

Crunchy chickpeas

Recipe from: Hip 2 Save

Why buy packaged snacks when you can just make your own in less than hour? All you need are two cans of chickpeas, olive oil, salt, your favorite spice, and an oven.

Pumpkin granola

Recipe from: Skinny Taste

I’m kind of obsessed with Skinny Taste, because Gina Homolka’s versions of everything are always healthier, but never skimp out on flavor. This pumpkin granola will make you feel like you’re snacking on eternal autumn, and it’s amazing. Did I mention it’s super easy to make?

Homemade Fruit Snacks

Recipe from: An Organic Wife

I love fruit snacks. Like, really really love them. It’s like I’m a six-year-old. However, fruit snacks that brag about their vitamin-C content are maybe forgetting about their chemicals and artificial flavors. Make your own with just four ingredients: strawberries, lemon juice, honey, and gelatin.

5. I’m a Diet Pepsi junkie, but I’m trying to shed that habit with healthier drink choices (and also ones that don’t cost me $5 a pop). Try these out if you’re in the same boat as me:

DIY Starbucks Passion tea lemonade

Recipe from: Cincy Shopper

I don’t even want to talk about how much money I spend on Passion iced teas per month. It’s kind of depressing. But I can’t help it! They’re so refreshing and juicy and impeccably tart! Lately, I’ve tried to curb this habit by just making my own. . .and you know what? It’s way easy. This recipe calls for sugar, but I personally just add a little more lemonade.

Orange and blueberry infused water

Recipe from: The Peach Kitchen

Are you good about drinking water? I’m not. I’m terrible. I have an app that reminds me to drink water, and that’s sad. Lately, I’ve been making infused water to take with me wherever I go, because it almost tastes like juice. Except it’s not! It’s water! But better!

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