Not Sad Desk Lunch

5 Tips for Turning Dinner into Lunch

August 18, 2015

As a defiant response to sad desk lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty.

Today: Go ahead an hit the snooze button—here's how to make and pack lunch the night before.

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Making lunch in the morning always sounds doable—until it's the morning. Somewhere between making sure the cat is fed, making sure you're fed, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and sending one last email, you find yourself rushing out the door hoping that there will at least be a slice of birthday cake in the staff kitchen. 

Instead of telling yourself every morning that this will be the day you pack yourself a proper lunch, accept your fate as a non-morning-lunch packer and spend those extra ten minutes doing something else. We're not suggesting that you skip lunch—we're big lunch eaters—we're just suggesting that you make lunch while you're making dinner. Here's how:

1. Double your dinner side.

Choose a hearty side for dinner that keeps well (we're talking Peter Miller's Lentils Folded into Yogurt, Spinach, and Basil or Freekah Salad with Fennel and Mint), then make twice as many servings as you normally would. As you clean up dinner, divide the leftover side into single-serving containers and put some lettuce on top. At lunchtime, turn the concoction upside-down into a bowl for a hearty, effortless salad at work.

2. Make a main dish for dinner that tastes even better the next day.

Roast chicken and fresh pasta never taste quite the same reheated the next day, but there are several dishes that do. Make quiche, stew, curry, or ratatouille for dinner and pack an extra serving for lunch—leftovers never tasted so good.


3. Transform your dinner into a sandwich.

You don't need to buy cold cuts everytime you want to make a sandwich—just use your main course. Make sure to make a little bit extra of your main protein, then put it between two pieces of bread while you're cleaning up. Making spaghetti? Save the meatballs for a sub. Fried chicken? Slather some bread with mayonnaise and stick it in. Steak? Pair it with chimichurri, mayonnaise, and Texas toast. Tofu? Layer it into a bánh mì-inspired sandwich.


4. Save the finishing touches for your dinner plate.

Rather than dress your entire salad at once, serve it onto individual plates before finishing it, then save the rest for lunch and pack the dressing on the side—this will keep the lettuce from getting soggy. The same goes for other additions like cheese on pasta, peanut sauce on your spring rolls, and ice cream on pie (okay, that one goes without saying, and yes, pie counts as lunch—sometimes).


5. Turn your leftovers into lunchtime bestovers.

Just because your roasted vegetables will never taste quite the same as they did when they first came out the oven doesn't mean they can't get a second wind. Take five minutes while you clean up dinner to help your leftovers put their best food forward: Cube your roasted or boiled potatoes and and mix them with a little bit of curry and some mayonnaise for potato salad; fry your leftover cous cous or polenta into crispy patties; or shred your roast chicken and put it into a tortilla with some shredded cheese for a quesadilla to reheat at work. 

Just think of all the things you could do in the morning with 10 extra minutes:

  • Walk the dog around the block another time.
  • Swat flies away from your kombucha SCOBY.
  • Get to know your snooze button.
  • Learn the first few chords to Stairway to Heaven on the guitar.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea and silently ponder that mornings aren't all bad.

Photo of quiche by Sarah Stone; photo of spring rolls by Betty Liu; all others by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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