Try these creative, make-ahead recipes for healthful midday meals.
Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

Taking your lunch to work saves you money, and when you start with fresh ingredients, you’ll enjoy a more healthful meal as well. With just a little organization and a few supplies― such as an insulated bag and serving-sized containers―your lunch box options will be invitingly inspired. Try these four tips to ensure brown bagging success every time.

1. Make dishes ahead when possible. Barley and Beef Soup, like many soups and stews, improves with time; make it the night before. Lemony Hummus, too, will grow better as its ingredients marry.

2. Keep it separate. To prevent soggy sandwiches, pack separate zip-top bags of tomato slices, lettuce, and bread, then assemble the sandwiches just before serving. Similarly, don’t dress leafy salads until you are ready to eat. Salt will draw moisture out of watery ingredients, so add items such as tomatoes and cucumbers to a grain salad at the last minute for the best results. However, some sandwiches, like Tuna Pan Bagnat, are meant to absorb some liquid from the filling, so can be assembled ahead of time.

3. Put leftovers to good use. Consider applying extras from dinner to the next day’s lunch. Slice leftover chicken or beef and serve it on top of pasta or salad greens, mix it into a grain salad (such as Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper), or make it into a sandwich. Chop extra grilled vegetables and add them to soups, salads, or sandwiches.

4. Stay safe. Keep cold food cold (below 40°) and hot food hot (above 140°) as it travels. Use insulated lunch bags, coolers, thermoses, ice bags, and frozen gel packs to help with temperature control. If reheating items in a microwave, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends they reach 165° and are served steaming hot.