6 Make-Ahead Staples for Quick Weekday Lunches

August 26, 2014

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: Prep some basics on Sunday to make packing lunch a breeze for the whole week.

Freekeh Salad on Food52

Shop the Story

Though we enjoy throwing food together on the fly, sad desk lunches often result when not enough time has been put towards planning our midday meal. Let’s face it: Early mornings are not an inspiring time to plan your lunch.

But making a different dish for each day of the week can be cumbersome. Instead, make your work week easier and your lunches vastly better by taking an hour or so over the weekend to think ahead. Pull together some lunch staples, and you can mix and match ingredients all week.

Here are our favorite ways to get ahead on your weekdays before the week even starts:

  • Start with starches. Make some basic brown rice on Sunday afternoon -- it will serve as a canvas for your lunches all week. Or you can go for some more dressed-up options, like cauliflower couscous, freekeh with fennel and mint, or orzo salad. These dishes keep well in the fridge and can be thrown into a salad, added to leftovers, or just eaten by themselves.

Roast Chicken on Food52

More: Save those chicken bones, and make them into stock.

Whole Wheat Bread on Food52

Vegan Pesto on Food52

  • Now for the fun part: toppings. There are tons of make-ahead spreads to add to sandwiches, salads, or pasta -- like pesto, aioli, muhammara, and hummus (bonus: a lot of these can double as dips for office snacking). After you have the basics down, try some wilder options, like mint-pistachio pesto, beet hummus, and pimentón aioli. If you're a fan of good old PB&Js, try mixing things up by making your own nut butter.

Sesame Tahini on Food52

Lunch Dessert on Food52

What do you make ahead of time to prepare for weekday lunches? Tell us in the comments!

Order Now

The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.

Order Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tracy
  • Tanya
  • Paula
  • Miles Linklater
    Miles Linklater
  • rachiti
I put chocolate chips in 95% of the things I make and am a strong proponent for lunch dessert.


Tracy April 20, 2015
I grill veggies on Sunday and use them through the week in salads, in eggs and as a yummy side with balsamic vinaigrette!
Tanya April 20, 2015
I don't eat meat on Mondays, so more quick hearty meatless recipes would be nice too, but I love the other ideas you have suggested.
Paula April 20, 2015
I always cook on Sundays for the week. I make a big batch of quinoa, corn, black beans and red onion with a dijon raspberry vinegrette dressing. You can add anything to this to change it up. My grandkids love this. I fill mason jars and keep it the fridge.
Miles L. April 20, 2015
I love FOOD52, but would love it even more if it took the opportunity to post some 'meatless' dishes for Mondays as more and more of us chefs are trying to find great recipes for Meatless Mondays.
rachiti September 1, 2014
Leftovers are the perfect lunch for my husband and I. We almost always make enough for 4 servings when we cook at night. Sadly my small fridge does not have enough space for fresh ingredients AND a week's worth of lunches. These recipes are very inspiring - especially the ones that could serve as a side or mix-in for whatever we make during the week as a main course.
Allyn August 26, 2014
One of our favorite lunches involves making a batch of quinoa, a batch of hummus, and roasting a lot of vegetables. A combo of those ingredients, some lightly dressed arugula, and some spicy olives and tomatoes makes the BEST lunch. My mouth is watering just thinking about it (