Back to School

8 Ideas for Back-to-School (or -Work) Lunches

September 16, 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: As the fall gets busier, don't let your lunches fall by the wayside -- we've got you covered.

Weekday Warrior

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Ah, summertime -- everything was a little slower and quieter. Which meant that you had way more time (and tons of beautiful, fresh produce) to make your lunch. But now, as things get chillier, everything starts to move more quickly.

In all the hustle and bustle, don’t let your lunch-making fall by the wayside. Lunch provides an important break in the middle of the school or work day, as well as the energy to keep you going through the afternoon. Even at your busiest, you don't want to miss out on either of those things. (Because then you might get hangry.) To help, we’ve pulled together some of the best advice and inspiration for keeping your school or work lunches in tip-top shape, without sacrificing much time at all. Planning ahead is key -- do so, and you'll have wonderful lunches throughout the fall.

1. First, read up on make-ahead staples, and make a batch or two on Sunday afternoon.

6 Make-Ahead Lunch Staples


2. Keep these 5-minute lunches in your back pocket for the busiest of mornings.

Avocado Toast


3. Put your thermos to good use with these packable soup ideas.

Soups That Pack Well


4. Grab an extra tub of yogurt and use it as a base for your lunch -- with lots of savory add-ins.

Yogurt for Lunch


5. Avoid wilty and soggy salads by packing yours in a jar.

How to Pack a Jar Salad


6. Memorize these sandwich strategies; treat yourself to a handy sandwich wrap while you're at it.

Sandwich Strategies


7. Stock up on tinned fish and use them in a sea of ways



8. Always, always, always remember dessert.

Dessert ideas for lunch

What lunches are you packing this fall? Tell us all about them in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • David Cannon
    David Cannon
  • Joyce Hackwell
    Joyce Hackwell
  • Lisa pollan
    Lisa pollan
  • savorthis
I put chocolate chips in 95% of the things I make and am a strong proponent for lunch dessert.


David C. September 21, 2014
Tinned sardines at the office? There would be riots over the smell.
Joyce H. September 17, 2014
I also get Hot Pockets, Frozen Burritos, White Castles Hamburgers, Stoffers Side Dishes
Lisa P. September 17, 2014
My go-tos are also meals I can prep ahead. I love to eat salads for lunch, but I've found the jar technique doesn't allow me to pack in quite as many greens as I woud like (I like to eat BIG salads for lunch so I get full!). To pack salads ahead of time, I have a strategy. I pack a big container of greens (arugula or kale are my favorites because they have a lot of flavor on their own and they hold up well) in a tupperware that's big enough to add all the other good salad stuff. On Monday, I bring enough salad toppings (cashews, chopped dates, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, avocado) to last the week. Then at lunch time, I just have to assemble! I also have given up on bringing salad dressing to work (it always spills) and keep olive oil at my desk and bring a lemon to squeeze over my salad.

I talk about my other favorite brown bag lunch ideas and my salad packing strategy here:
savorthis September 16, 2014
For once I have been good at the Sunday prep and it makes all the difference! Last week I had a pile of cooked wheat berries, some pickled onions and dates, washed greens, toasted nuts and some cheese/meats/tofu in the fridge. I made a variety of grainy salads, a surprisingly satisfying meal of tofu, carrots and cucumber wrapped in blanched kale, and some plain old sandwiches with little effort. It does not hurt that our garden is still going strong and I have just a few feet to go for fresh produce. I imagine this will soon change into Sunday slow cooker meals and trays of baked casseroles.