11 Tips to Make Over Your Sad Desk Lunch


This isn’t your first desk lunch rodeo. You know not to dress your salad in advance. You’re not going bring in fish to microwave. And you certainly aren’t going to assemble a juicy tomato sandwich at home only to find that you have sopping-wet tomato bread soup at work.

I make a lot of portable meals these days. Though I work from home, my partner does not. I’m the cook and he does the dishes, and it doesn’t take me long to turn dinner leftovers into a quick lunch for him. (I’d rather pop open a can of tuna and slice up leftover produce for an ad-hoc salad than see him spend $15 on a ho-hum lunch in New York City.) Here are a few little tricks I use to keep things interesting, but remember, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel: The midday meal can be functional so long as it’s tasty enough to feel like a real break from work.

A hodgepodge of ingredients tossed with a simple dressing on the side is fine, but I’ve recently been inspired by parents who assemble stripes or rainbows of ingredients for their children. If you keep stripes in mind, you can fill containers with rows of julienned raw kale, mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and a tidy portion of tuna dressed with olive oil, sea salt, and capers. Just remember to season everything as necessary. (Kale is the rare green that can hold up—and even improve—after time spent with olive oil and salt.) Use what you’ve got: If you have avocado or cucumber slices, fan them out in a row.

Pack a prettier container

It’s painful to think about spending Real Money on plastic or glass storage containers. I know, because we only own one plastic container at the moment; the rest have somehow vanished to new homes. But today I buckled down and bought a proper, well-designed container. It was expensive. It had “Nordic” in its name. I may well be a sucker. But it came with three compartments that clip together in one tidy little beast. It’ll make it much easier to put dressing in one cup with a lid, bread in another section, snap the whole thing together, and forget about it. And my partner will have a better looking dare I say, foxily Scandinavian—lunch.

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