Lunch is usually left out of the meal planning conversation, though it can be the toughest meal to plan for. You need time to prep (not easy on hectic mornings or busy nights); you need something that travels well, and you need a satisfying alternative to take out or the cafeteria. Assistant Editor Rebecca Longshore shares her tips for prepping and packing satisfying lunches for the week ahead.

What’s the best way to plan and prep lunches for the week?RL: Turn your kitchen counter into an assembly line on Sunday, and pack multiple lunches at once. A repetitive lunch doesn’t bother me at all—I actually love eating the same things for lunch every day.

What are your favorite lunches to make ahead?RL: I’ve tried different combos of warm meals, but I just don’t love reheated meals from the microwave. I really prefer packing a salad. My favorite veggie-packed salad is loaded with red peppers, cucumbers, olives, carrots, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and a mixture of greens. I switch out my proteins between hard cooked eggs, organic turkey, a handful of nuts, or 2 tablespoons of hummus. I also love trying out different quinoa salad combinations. Adding protein really helps me stay satisfied.

Quinoa-Arugula Layered SaladHow long does it take you to prep lunches for the week?RL: I spend about 2 hours every weekend planning, shopping, and prepping to get ready for the week. When I don’t, I tend to have a harder time eating wholesome meals and spend more money. If you’re on a budget, planning and prepping ahead really helps save money. It also helps with efficiency. I am an on-the-go person and should probably slow down more, but having my meals all ready to go really helps me during busy mornings.

Any tips on keeping packed items in the best condition until lunchtime?RL: Layer salads in your container from hearty items to more delicate ones—beans and cucumbers on the bottom, greens on top. Choose cherry tomatoes over sliced Roma tomatoes so they don’t get soggy. Store avocado slices separately so they don’t break down too much in the salad, and store nuts and seeds in a separate zip-top bag so they stay crunchy. If you pack hard cooked eggs, keep the shell on and peel when it’s time to eat.

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