I’m a huge fan of bringing a zero waste lunch to work. Not only is it great for the environment, but having zero waste lunches at work can save big bucks if it helps you avoid popping out to the store every day.
Sure, it’s not the most fun to meal plan or prep the night before, but it’s not so hard once you get into the habit. Plus, if I – someone who awkwardly bikes to work before it’s even light outside – can schlep a zero waste lunch to work every day, then you can too. All you need is a bit of inspiration.
What I bring
If you want, you can check out the full zero waste essentials kit I posted earlier. But to recap:
- Fridgeoverre glass container* – we have two (one circular and one square) which we picked up from TJ Maxx a while ago. They’re the perfect portion size for a main meal for me, but aren’t super large if you’d like to pack in sides as well.
- Ello Water Bottle* – this is a massive 22 oz bottle that doesn’t leak at all! (Even if you leave it upside down in your backpack right next to your laptop…) I love this thing and rebought it when my first one shattered.
- Fork – don’t go out and buy a fancy set. You have forks at home already. Solved!
- Cloth napkin – Mine is so pretty I try to be as neat as possible. It usually works.
A couple of quick tips:
- Pack for what your situation is, not for Instagram. Don’t make your lunches beautiful, make them functional! That old salsa jar you took the label off of and rinsed out? Just as good as the impeccable stainless steel container. Use what you have and what makes them most sense for what you’re packing.
- Rinse everything out at work. Seriously. There’s nothing fun about a container popping open in your backpack and having it smell like garlic for the rest of eternity.
- Resist the urge to overpack. I tend to make larger lunches knowing full well I don’t really eat during the day. (My jobs often involve literal running.) If I pack too much, food ends up coming home with me and – since I bike – it becomes a burden twice. Alternatively, if you have space in your workplace to store extra non-perishable snacks, that might be a good idea.
Zero waste lunch recipes
I pack all of these items in one of my glass containers or a Mason jar, with the exception of my sandwich. That goes in a wax wrap, tied up by my napkin. Remember – you definitely don’t need to go out and purchase extra items for zero waste lunches at work!
Here are some of my favorite recipes for zero waste lunches at work:
Salads: I’m not a huge fan of lettuce-heavy salads since they tend to get wilty and depressing. Think cowboy caviar, burrito bowls, this sprouted spring salad, or this amazing grilled corn zucchini salad.
Pasta-based dishes: easy to make in large quantities, pastas are always a good choice! When it’s hot, I like to go for a cold pasta salad. Otherwise, stovetop mac n cheese, this great pad thai, or one-pot spinach and ricotta pasta are great, relatively easy staples.
Curries: Aside from being delicious and endlessly customizable, curries are also easy to make in batches to portion out for the whole week. Some of my personal favorites include: Thai green curry, chickpea and cauliflower, and palak (spinach) tofu. And if you get really lucky and locate some paneer (or feel motivated to make it), make my all-time favorite curry: Paneer Masala!
Sandwiches: I tend to throw together whatever’s in the fridge (or, more often, just make a PB&J), but if you’re feeling a bit fancier, here are a few perfectly portable sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, chutney sandwiches, or a falafel with tahini wrap.
Hors d’oeuvre spread: I don’t make this often because I have yet to score one of those nifty stainless steel containers with dividers, but a never-fail lunch of grain + cheese + fruit + protein is always a big win. (I’m a fan of making it feel fancier by giving it a theme. For example, French: sliced baguette + brie + apples + walnuts.)
Dish: what’s your go-to recipe when packing a lunch for work? Bonus points if you link to a recipe!