Not Sad Desk Lunch

Lunches That Pack in 5 Minutes (or Less)

by • February 18, 2014 25 Comments

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As a defiant response to Sad Desk Lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. Each week, we'll be sharing our happiest desk lunches -- and we want to see yours, too.

Today: Think you don't have time to plan ahead? Here are ten lunches you can pack in less than five minutes.

Avocado Toast on Food52

This one goes out to all you busy bees who claim you don't have time to pack yourselves lunch. So you turn to delivery, or the deli across the street, or a frozen meal you'll try to revive in the office microwave, all in the name of saving time.  

But wait! There are a whole bunch of lunches that you can pack at night, or even bleary-eyed in the morning, in just five minutes or less. Which is about the amount of time you spent chatting with Lisa about TPS reports this morning, or listening to Man in the Mirror, so don't tell me you can't deal.

Here are some of our go-to packed lunches, ready in a jiffy:

1. Avocado toast. It will never get old, and we'll never stop eating it. Bring in some bread, an avocado, and your salt stash, and you're good.

2. A shaved vegetable salad -- it holds up well, even on the second day. Try sturdy vegetables like fennel, celery, and radishes, then toss them with herbs and dressing. Then add a protein, like tinned fish. Kenzi also likes this carrot salad from Orangette

Shaved Vegetable Salad on Food52

3. Almond butter upgrade: Add chopped nuts, dried fruit, chia seeds, sweetener, or spice to that little tub of almond butter you were planning on eating atop toast for lunch.

More: Extra points if you make your own nut butter.

4. Hummus, pita, and sliced vegetables. Yes, a snack can be a lunch, if you pack enough of it. Especially when your hummus is homemade. 

Hummus on Food52

5. Hard-boiled eggs -- on anything, really. (Start with toast, salad, or grains.)

More: Here's how we like to boil our eggs.

Hard Boiled Eggs on Food52

6. Cheese and fruit sandwiches. Think cheddar and chutney, manchego and fig spread, or a soft, creamy cheese and strawberry jam.

7. Taco night leftovers. Make yourself a little picnic out of tortillas, shredded vegetables, cheese, and meat. Have a fiesta in your cubicle. Tequila not recommended.

Taco Night on Food52

8. Merrill tops baked sweet potatoes with last night's leftover pasta sauce. Bake the potato while dinner is cooking, or just bake it in the microwave once you get to the office. Poke it with a fork a few times before you nuke it, lest your office experience a lunchtime explosion.

9. Pack up a hodgepodge of grains, plus beans or lentils, and sturdy vegetables (cooked or raw), next to a jar of your favorite dressing.

Red Quinoa Salad on Food52 

10. Congratulations! You've now made yourself lunch, in the same amount of time it took you to read an article about making lunch. Just make sure to pack yourself a cookie, too.

Fig and Oatmeal Cookies on Food52

Tell us: What are your favorite 5-minute lunches?

Tags: avocado toast, salad, lunch, tacos, sandwiches

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Comments (25)


about 1 month ago Zoë Lang

Fried chickpeas. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a pan at medium heat. Add one can chickpeas (after rinsing them). Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, place in container, add spice mix such as garam marsala to taste. The best. I have it at least once a week.


3 months ago Katie Fennell

Editor's note: "Nine Lunches That Pack in Nine Minutes (or Fewer)"


3 months ago Diana



3 months ago Margaret Clawson

If you put your lunch together as you are putting your leftovers away after dinner all you have to do is grab and go. In the morning.


3 months ago Gabriele Sovers

Those lunches I've made many times, so easy especially if you prepare the night before. Heathier than those store bought garbage. You never know what they put into them or how they've been prepared. And how lazy can you be?


4 months ago Karen Fishburn

left over pork tenderloin slices with rosemary crackers and sliced mozzarella cheese and sugar snap peas with jalapeno hummus


4 months ago Larkin Vonalt

Ugh. Seriously, all of this looks horrible.


4 months ago Hayden Nantz

Agreed. I'll be picking up a $7 sandwich across the street, thanks.


over 1 year ago Michelle Cerutti

Some weeks are crazy and all I can manage is to bring my groceries to work. I head to the market on Sunday or even Monday morning and grab a container of pre-washed greens, bell peppers, mushrooms, assorted olives, pickles, artichokes, etc. from the olive bar, a hunk of sparkly gouda, a cup or so of sliced almonds from the bulk bin, maybe some bean salad if anything looks decent at the deli counter, and some eggs. If I'm lucky, I'll boil five eggs on Sunday night, put them in a container, add that to the sack with all those other groceries, and take them all to work. I assemble a salad from my ingredients each day in the kitchen at work. No advance prep necessary! (This works best if you have a a cutting board and a decent knife at work.) I always keep oil, vinegar, and sea salt at the office, so dressing is easy. And if you don't have time to boil eggs, grab some smoked salmon or fancy creminelli sausage and, voila! Healthy lunch on the fly.


about 1 month ago Jared Padaleki



over 1 year ago Nancy C Sampson

A note on nuking the sweet potato at work: I recommend cutting it on halves or quarters at home before you pack it, then it won't take as long in the microwave. I usually put the potato in alone, covered with a damp paper towel to avoid it drying out, for about 3 minutes or until tender. Then top with chili or sauce and heat for another 1-2 minutes.


over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Great tip -- thanks!


over 1 year ago Ceege

I forgot to add: heat the onions in the barbecue sauce just until warmed.


over 1 year ago Ceege

For my favorite (easy) lunch, I thinly slice a sweet onion and cook it in a bit of veggie broth until soft and brownish. Drain off any remaining liquid and add a couple TBLS. of barbecue sauce. Set aside while shredding/chopping whatever veggies are in
fridge. (Carrots, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes - you get the idea - whatever you have on hand. Quickly warm a tortilla in microwave and place all veggies and the barbecued onions on top and roll up. Yummy!!!!! and don't forget to have a piece of fruit for dessert.


over 1 year ago TerryB5520

I poach some chicken and/or salmon (separately, natch)on Sunday, using some warm for Sunday lunch. Then I have the rest with greens and grains for lunch later in the week. Best lunch move I ever made was keeping good olive oil, salt, pepper, schiracha and Korean pepper flakes in the desk drawer. Love this site.


over 1 year ago Marian Bull

Smart! Sounds like you have an incredibly well-stocked office pantry. And thanks for the kind words!


over 1 year ago KirstenS

Drop a little smoked salmon on that avocado toast and add a squeeze of lemon juice and it's even better!


over 1 year ago Paula Zevin



over 1 year ago emcsull

i second ksherk, way to go !


over 1 year ago Urmi

Quesidillas from last night dinner..just add some shredded cheese and heat it over a pan ..that along with some fresh sliced avocados..yum..left I ers could be vegetarian stir fry, meat or fish..if I have sliced onions I add them to..I also do something similar and make a panini


over 1 year ago Anna Lapping

I pack heat and lunch.


over 1 year ago Diane



over 1 year ago Stitty

I like to bring really interesting salads for lunch. It takes a bit of prep on Sunday nights, though. I roast a couple of chicken breasts and cube them and put them in tupperware. I slice onions, tomatoes, whatever veggie toppings, cube some cheese, and when the morning comes around I pack the greens in one jar and the toppings in another. Takes just a minute. At lunch all I have to do is just combine everything on a plate. Today I have mixed greens with chicken, tomatoes, onions, cranberries, walnuts. Pretty tasty.


over 1 year ago Adam

Any other good Chutney for sandwitches other than the one linked to above?


over 1 year ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

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