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Finding interesting work lunch ideas that are quick and easy to make and don’t cost a fortune can be a challenge. Niki Bezzant shares some favourite ideas, with not a sandwich in sight!

Keep a few ingredients handy so you always have something to ‘toss together’ for a healthy lunch. Here are some ingredient suggestions to get you started for a variety of mix-and-match options.

Ingredients for the desk drawer or locker

  • canned baked beans and chilli beans
  • canned chicken
  • canned salmon
  • canned tuna
  • instant couscous – plain or flavoured
  • nut mixes
  • ready-to-cook rice packets
  • ready-to-heat dhals
  • ready-to-heat soups
  • sardines
  • spices/seeds for sprinkling

Ingredients for the fridge

  • baby chillies/olives/peppers/pickles
  • bread for toasting
  • cooked leftover chicken or other meat
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • hummus
  • pesto
  • reduced-fat cheeses
  • salad veges: lettuce, mesclun, rocket, spinach, or your favourite
  • tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, celery and other veges (pre-chop if you like)
  • your favourite dressing

You don’t need a stove to make these lunchtime meals: chop everything at home and at work the next day, lunch is only a few minutes (of assembly time) away.

  1. Top up rice or corn thins with smoked salmon, some reduced-fat mayonnaise and rocket salad.
  2. A substantial salad is easy: mix cooked rice with canned salmon or sardines, chopped tomatoes, baby spinach, lemon juice, olive oil and chilli flakes for a kick.
  3. Make a classic bread salad (panzanella) with tuna. Toast bread and cut in chunks. Add tuna, salad veges, tomatoes, roasted capsicums and vinaigrette.
  4. Enjoy a substantial instant chicken soup. Prepare soup following packet/can directions then add drained, canned chicken, baby spinach and rice noodles for an easy chicken noodle soup.
  5. A couscous salad is only a boiled jug away. Prepare couscous following packet directions. Toss with a spoonful of pesto, lemon juice, sliced olives and leftover sausages cut in chunks.

Spend a few minutes after dinner turning leftovers into tomorrow’s tasty lunch.

  • Leftover stew or casserole: Make bread case pies. Push slices of bread into muffin trays, spray with oil and bake for 5 minutes. Add filling and top with a little grated cheese. Heat at work in the microwave or oven.
  • Leftover mashed potato: Use a microwave egg poacher to poach an egg. Reheat potato with a handful of spinach. Add the egg and top with bought low-fat mustard or a lemon dressing.
  • Leftover roasted veges: Make a roasted vege pasta salad. Use small pasta such as macaroni or orzo and add roasted veges, tomatoes, cubed feta, lemon zest and olive oil.
  • Leftover rice: Add an egg to bind rice and make risotto cakes. Shape into patties, push a cube of mozzarella or reduced-fat cheese into the middle, cover in breadcrumbs and bake or fry. Eat hot or cold with a salad.
  • Leftover mince or curry: Microwave a scrubbed, pierced potato for 10 minutes. Carefully split open then top with re-heated mince or curry mixture. Add reduced-fat sour cream or cheese.

It only takes a few minutes in the evening to prepare enviable lunches for the next day. Try these easy ideas.

  1. Make quick mini frittatas in muffin pans. Start with cooked potato, raw spinach and cheese. Add a mix of beaten egg and milk. Pour mixture into pan holes and top with extra cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until set and puffy. Eat hot or cold at work with a big green salad. Freeze leftovers for another day.
  2. There are many pasta salad variations – just use seasonal ingredients. Try bows or spirals with chopped capsicum, corn kernels, grated carrot, chopped tomatoes and a little chopped spicy salami. Dress with a low-fat Caesar dressing.
  3. Cook up a simple minestrone soup. Add canned beans, flavoured tomatoes and a selection of mixed veges (frozen are fine) to chicken or vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add silver beet or spinach at the end of cooking. At work heat then swirl in a spoonful of basil pesto. Enjoy with toasted bread.
  4. Make a Mexican omelette wrap. Make a thin one or two-egg omelette and allow to cool. Use as a wrap and fill with leftover chilli mince or canned chilli beans and a little cheese. Heat at work and serve with a green salad.
  5. Try some easy chicken and corn noodle cakes. Combine cooked instant noodles (without the flavouring), corn kernels, cooked chicken, spring onion and an egg to bind. Cook spoonfuls of the mixture in a hot pan to make fritters. Eat hot or cold with chilli sauce, bread and a salad.

Chicken and chickpea salad
White bean salad with sardines

First published: Sep 2010



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