Make Ahead Lunches, More Ideas Needed

Author: Miranda Eason

As per my recent post on saving money, or at least spending less money at Pret/Eat/Pod/Itsu I’ve been making a conscious effort to take lunch into the office.

And so, for the past two Sundays I’ve been in the kitchen knocking up the delicious dhal with crispy sweet potato from A Modern Way to Eat the first book by Anna Jones (I double the amount of spinach, don’t always add the coriander and have never bothered to make the coconut chutney).

Aside from the addition of the extra spinach and sometimes leaving out the coriander I make the recipe as per the book. It’s super-easy to cook, mostly chopping and a bit of stirring. Once the dhal is in the pan and the sweet potato is in the oven you pretty much leave it alone to do its thing for 25 minutes. After dishing up lunch or dinner, I divide whatever’s left over into portions and pop in the fridge or freezer ready to take to the office. It’s easy to carry between home and work, heats up well in the microwave and is tasty and filling but doesn’t leave me feeling like I need a lie down afterwards.

So what’s the problem? Well I can’t just keep cooking the same thing every week. I mean I could, but it’s going to get boring quite soon. Obviously some research was needed ahead of next weekend.

Looking at some of my favourite websites and blogs I kept seeing yummy looking One Pot Pasta dishes pop up. The recipes sound easy, they’re heavy on the veg and (the clue is in the name) cook in one pot so less mess to clear up afterwards (just making a simple sandwich can result in chaos in my kitchen, a tidy cook I am not). I like the look of this Farmer’s Market One-Pot Pasta dish (pictured above) that I spotted on the Free People blog last week and which was created by Beth of Tasty Yummies blog. Over on The Pool they shared a recipe for Kale, Tomato And Lemon Magic One Pot Pasta from Anna Jones’ latest book A Modern Way to Cook. So between the two recipes that’s Sunday’s cook off and next week’s lunches sorted. But what next?

I’m hoping you can help. What are your favourite cook ahead recipes with a hearty, autumnal vibe that won’t have me scouring East London for hard-to-find-ingredients, are easy to carry to work (so not soup), heat up well in the microwave, will keep me full until dinner and don’t necessitate me being tied to the stove all day Sunday? Do share in the comments section below!

Born in Yorkshire. Lives in East London. California girl at heart.
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43 thoughts on “Make Ahead Lunches, More Ideas Needed

  1. Lately… My go-to lunch has been Any-Kind-Of-Roast-Veggie-Hash plus if you’re wanting a bit of meat in there, I chopped up some sausage or chorizo.

    Basically, add butter, salt & pepper to an oven dish, pick any roasting veggies (and meat) of your choice (today I had cauliflower, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, purple carrot, mushroom & chorizo) chop to roughly the same size each, then toss them in the dish. Heat at 180 for 20 mins, wack the oven up to full for another 5 mins (so the cauliflower etc. gets almost-burnt-caramalized. YUM) and I either serve with an egg on top or if I’m on the go, some hot sauce. Tasty, nutritious, flexible and filling.

  2. I like a simple couscous salad for lunch, plain couscous plus chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, loads of parsley, cucumber and cherry tomatoes, finished with lemon or lime juice. Really filling and full of flavour. Baked potatoes can also be done in the oven ahead of time and then heated up.

    1. Sounds yummy Kathryn, I would maybe add some feta cheese too! I’ve never really considered bringing in a jacket potato but it’s a very good shout.

  3. These look delicious! Perfect for lunches and tea in a rush. I need to get better at taking lunch in to work, I’ve been trying to make leftovers some days or baking up a couple of potatoes to take in but not remembering to do this often enough!

    1. I find doing a cook off on the Sunday is the only way to ensure I take lunch to work Fran. I get busy in the week and often having something very snacky or eat out on a weekday evening, so don’t make anything to have leftovers from!

      1. I was really good and knocked up a batch of the tomato kale and lemon pasta last night – really delicious with some crumbled feta! Thanks for getting me organised!

  4. Ooh good post that pasta looks delicious. I am also trying to be good with the packed lunches at the mo and am currently pre making jar salads, really tasty.

    A recipe I love is chorizo and sweet potato stew. I use 1 – 2 rings of chorizo, a chopped onion, tin of chick peas, tinned tomatoes, paprika and pealed and chopped sweet potatoes (keep these quite chunky) I sometimes I add chicken. I throw all this in the slow cooker and leave on low all day. It’s a delicious meal to come home to and tastes just as good the next day. X

    1. Sounds delish Louise and reminds me of a sausage stew I’ve made from an old Jamie book, must dig out the recipe! x

  5. I really want to try these one pot pasta ideas too – I reckon timing must need to be quite precise?! I make a rice dish that I read in the Guardian about 10 years ago and still make regularly – it’s a prawn, lemon and cashew rice (I don’t bother with the brazils and just add more cashews, as I don’t generally want to buy two types of nuts!): it’s a really lovely dish and is also one pot. It works with tinned or fresh tomatoes and does warm up well. I tend to have it with a blob of crème fraiche too as if you’re too heavy handed with the chilli flakes it can be on the hot side! I’ve never frozen it but it’s quite easy to scale the recipe up or down and is happy for a few days in the fridge. I also like to make soup pots without the liquid – a sachet of miso and some soy in the bottom, then some cooked noodles, cold chicken/prawns/whatever, herbs, veg (like mangetouts or something that will cook through in hot water), spring onions, and a boiled egg. At work you just remove the egg, add boiling water and stir, then cut the egg and put back on top. x

    1. Yes, I reckon timings would need to be precise Katie and getting the amount of water right would probably take a bit of trial and error, depending on the type of pasta you use. Prawn, lemon and cashew rice sounds yum. Soup pots without liquid genius idea, so no risk of leakage during transit! x

  6. I am 3 days into Joe Wick’s 90 SSS plan, which has changed my thoughts on food and lunches! On Monday and Tuesday, I took a chicken salad with orange and red pepper, which was delicious and so filling and today I have an omelette with some kale which I will warm up in the microwave at work. The key to anything is preparation I find – I made my omelette last night while our dinner (turkey burgers with sweet potatoes) was in the oven. That pasta does look amazing! x

    1. Hi Marianne, I finished the 90 SSS plan at the end of June and it completely changed my thoughts too.

      Totally agree – preparation is the key!


    2. Taking an omelette to work is another thing I’ve never considered but a very good shout Marianne. Breakfast for lunch yay! Also eggs good for staying full through a post-work exercise class. x

  7. Salads are my go-to for work lunches at the moment. I try to cook up some extra carbs on a sunday while I’m already cooking and then chuck them in with a salad later on in the evening when I go to prep my lunch. Some roasted sweet potato cubes or just some wholeweat pasta or giant cous cous are easy to do while the hob is on for lunch and are all nice and filling with salad. I pop in half a bag of green leaves, tomatoes (on a special treat day I might get those posh multi coloured yellow and orange ones) cucumber, beetroot and either goats cheese or mozarella and sometimes a few spoons of a tin of lentils. I get all of that ready the night before and dress with a bit of olive oil and apple cidar vinegar and then in the morning just toast a handful of nuts and seeds and chuck them on too.
    I have a ridiculous collection of snack pots though and they don’t fit in my bag. I think I need help on that. Its not cool having a nice smart work satchel – a lovely Cambridge Satchel in charcoal grey which fits in my laptop and diaries and notebooks perfectly… and then a big tesco bag for life full of tupperwear. It must be the equivelant of wearing a nice suit with crocs. Can you do a work-bag edit soon please RMS… for really really hungry people who need really big snack bags. I never need to snack at home but my desk just makes me hungry. I dont understand it.
    The one pot pasta looks yummy and glad you mentioned a Modern Way To Cook. It’s been in my amazon basket since I judged the book by its lovely cover and I’ve been wondering if its good.

    1. Haha! I’m a crazy bag lady and would love a post on big bags too. I usually have laptop, notebooks etc, breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks (I work long days) and my gym kit too. I probably need to get in the habit of emptying my multiple bags on a regular basis as I know I carry round lots of stuff I don’t need, but that would be a whole different post on organisation!

      1. I’m pretty good at not carrying around stuff I don’t need Anna, but I seem to need a lot of stuff, I don’t know how women who carry round a bag that’s no bigger than a small clutch do it!

    2. I don’t generally find salads filling enough at lunch Amanda, especially if I’ve done a yoga class on the way to work but roasted sweet potatoes, pasta or giant couscous would make all the difference. Haha, today I’m carrying a largish leather bag filled with all the usual stuff, purse, keys, Oyster card, phone, headphones, book, make-up, tupperware containing lunch (yes, dhal with sweet potatoes) and snacks, a gym bag containing all my kit for an after-work exercise class, plus a big bottle of water and a large Boots bag containing the spoils of a pre-work Boots shop, plus a bunch of magazines. I need a bag post as much if not more than you! Really like all Anna Jones recipes I’ve tried so far.

  8. I make a huge batch of quinoa with a little stock or add some apple cider vinegar. Swirl in a spoon of tahini, then stick a pile of veggies (squash, peppers, onions whatever you fancy) in to roast and they will keep for a week. Mix all together and sprinkle over some pumpkin seeds, you can add a pile of rocket or avo for variation, or even a dollop of hummus. This is from the Deliciously Ella book but is sooo easy.

  9. My soup maker will be working overtime this winter. I love a chunky chicken broth and it is dead easy. I just cook a chicken breast or two, depending on how much I am making, and saunte whatever veg I fancy (usually leek, carrot and sweetcorn) and stick it in the soup maker with some chicken and veg stock with a pinch of dry herbs. In ease of planning ahead and to make easy to transport you can freeze it and leave it out to defrost at work.

    1. Ooh, yes, of course, carrying soup in frozen is a great way to avoid possible leakage during transit Claire, you are a genius!

    1. Mmm, your Spanish chicken recipe sounds so good Caroline! Can you believe I’ve never actually roasted a chicken…

  10. I’m nearing the end of maternity leave (sob!) so haven’t had to think about this for a while, but one of my favourite work lunches is freezer burritos. Just fill a tortilla with whatever you prefer – I like chicken, sweet potato and black bean – top with hot sauce/salsa/cheese, wrap with cling film and freeze. Let it defrost in your lunch bag throughout the morning and when you’re ready to eat it just put it in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

    When I go back I’m also planning to try this, probably with cucumber added:

  11. Yesterday I made dinner from my veggie patch (cue smug faced Lolly here) so totally living off the land! Freshly cut salad leaves (from the patch) mixed with cous cous and griddled courgettes (also home grown) topped off with herbs (picked from the garden) and halloumi. I sent the boy off to work with it for lunch today too. Yum!

    1. That sounds so good Lolly! Don’t have a veggie patch, but totally trying the combination of leaves, cous cows, courgettes, herbs and halloumi!

    1. I’ve never even heard of red kuri squash before Kat, that’s my something new for today! Just googled, sounds like it would be great in a risotto!

  12. I have a freezer drawer full of lunch bowl components so I can pick and mix. Brown basmati rice, cooked puy lentils and quinoa wrapped in portions, roasted veg (squash, leeks, courgettes, cauli, broccoli,sweet pots etc) open frozen then bagged up individually, frozen peas, corn and soya beans, poached salmon, king prawns, smoked mackerel and roast chicken. I mix and match whatever I fancy, add fresh leaves, nuts or seeds and mix different flavourful dressings. Endless variety from one big batch of cooking or shopping!

    1. I’m in awe of your organisational skill Rachel, but actually with a free Sunday this sounds really doable, thank you so much for sharing – inspired!

  13. Have you ever checked out Sami Bloom? I follow her on Instagram and recently made her lentil bolognese which was amazing and really filling without feeling bloated. Like you I commute on the tubes and I used to love making a batch of soup on a Sunday and carrying it to work but then add a bottle of homemade juice, a bottle of water and then the brolly and usual commuter paraphernalia I was giving myself back ache! So sometimes I just do rye bread and avocado with chilli and lime and pick it up from sainsburys next to my work!!! Xxx

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