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27 Clever Tips For Anyone Who Packs Their Own Lunch

Great advice from people who are organized enough to do it every day.

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We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their best tips, tricks, and recipes for packing lunch. Here are our favorites:

1. If you don't have refrigerator access, pasta salad is a great option.

inasouthernkitchen.com

I work in the great outdoors, so whatever I pack for lunch must not need to be heated or refrigerated. To avoid PB&J every day, I sometimes make a big batch of "power pasta salad" on Sunday night. Two cups dry spinach pasta, cooked, with a few tablespoons of pesto and diced mozzarella or feta, with whatever veggies or olives I have on hand. It keeps all week for both my lunches and my husband's. —Camille Stephens, Facebook

Recipe: Lemon-Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

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2. Make your own freezer pita pockets or burritos.

overtheappletree.blogspot.com

I like to make a big batch of homemade pita pockets with tuna (or literally anything you want) and put them in the freezer... Then I just take them out of the freezer the night before and they’re perfect the day after. —angeleee

Recipe: Frozen Chicken and Rice Burritos

3. Find a lunch blogger whose daily life situation is similar to yours and use their photos and recipes as inspiration.

100daysofrealfood.com

I love the blog 100 Days of Real Food. It is a mom who posts recipes and her daughters' lunches. Her girls are in elementary and middle school, but I use them as a guide to pack my own lunches! —Beth Hobbs, Facebook

4. Pack lunches that are similar to what you'd get from a fast-casual restaurant, so that you're really not tempted.

buzzfeed.com

Because of my busy schedule, I usually cook a week's worth of lunch. It saves time and money, and it's much healthier preparing your own food than settling for fast food. —bethiedelr

5. Organize a "lunch swap" with your co-workers so that you can make a big batch of one thing and end up eating lots of different lunches!

fitfoodiefinds.com, picky-palate.com

I, like many, make batch meals for the week. Often, I have co-workers who also do this, so after day three of the meal prep, it's great to swap with them so you both get something new. —Porcelain Dalya, Facebook

Recipes (from left): Meal Prep Carnitas Burrito Bowls, Grilled Chicken and Veggie Bowls

6. Rotisserie chicken + salad = fresh, healthy lunch without any actual cooking.

thinkstockphotos.com

On Sundays, I prepare a very large, crunchy salad (I like to use romaine, English cucumbers, grape tomatoes and corn) and divide it into five Tupperware containers. On top, I put slices of a grocery-store rotisserie chicken for protein. During the week, I grab a salad for the day and mix it at work with dressing to keep it from going soggy. The salad and chicken stay fresh all week! It's healthy, clean food that costs less than $4 a serving. —Alice Von Kirschwasser, Facebook

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7. If you're making salads in bulk, pick veggies that won't wilt. Broccoli slaw is a great option.

tastesoflizzyt.com

I use shredded broccoli for my salad. I add shredded chicken and other fresh veggies, then dress it. Still super crunchy when I grab it at lunch. —d4b7d1a273

Recipe: Paleo Broccoli Slaw

8. Kale is also sturdy enough to hold up after sitting in dressing all morning.

I like using hearty greens like kale and packing my salads the night before; the dressing helps break down the kale. My fave is kale, strawberries, shredded Parmesan, and rotisserie chicken. —hilariexcore

10. Keep salads fresh by dressing them ~strategically~ in the morning.

eatwithinyourmeans.com

I mix cucumber, tomatoes and corn together and put that at the bottom of the container with dressing. Then I put the lettuce on top and don't mix it with the other veggies until I'm at work. That works really well for me. —Alice Von Kirschwasser, Facebook

Psssttt... This works even better if you pack the salad in a mason jar.

11. Or, just pack your dressing (and condiments) separately.

I put dressing in a Ziploc and cut the corner to squeeze out at lunch. That way, your salad doesn’t get droopy. Same goes for sandwiches — don’t put on the mayo until lunch to avoid soggy bread. —kailav2

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12. Portion different food groups — veggies, meats, cheeses, etc. — in different containers, then mix and match when you pack lunch every morning.

buzzfeed.com

Bentology lunch boxes have these types of containers. I bought the lunch box with the standard modules (two squares, two rectangles, two with lids and two open) and then bought several extra modules with lids. On Sunday night, I fill up the rectangles with fruit and veggies and the squares with cottage cheese, hummus, egg salad, chicken salad, etc. Morning of, I grab two rectangles and a square, then fill up the last square with chips or crackers. —amyg4947497eb

13. Get. A. Slow. Cooker.

buzzfeed.com

This is actually the third of these I’ve owned. It works great when I have a short lunch break and don't have time to heat anything up. It's currently holding red beans and rice. This one is around $20. Get it and let it change your life. —joannag4ce8aad75

EDITOR'S NOTE: BuzzFeed Food editors love this one, which at $50 is a little pricier — but it's programmable AND has a temperature probe, which means you really can just set it and forget it.

14. Get a lunch box that makes packing AND eating easier and more fun.

amazon.com

I got EasyLunchboxes bento boxes in January and love them. It's a lot easier to eat meals at my desk when it looks visually appealing! Plus, it's turned into a fun challenge each Sunday when I gather my choices of proteins, veggies, fruits, and grains and try to figure out the best way to make everything fit within the three separate compartments. —Marissa Lavery, Facebook.

15. When you pack your lunch at night, leave your keys on top of it in the fridge so that it's impossible to forget.

I tend to make an awesome lunch and then promptly forget it in the fridge. I've gotten into the habit of leaving my keys in the fridge on top of my lunch so I don't forget it in the morning. —Dayna Tumbach, Facebook

16. When in doubt, grilled chicken goes with literally everything.

marthastewart.com

Grilled. Chicken. On. Everything. I make 3 pounds on Sunday and chop it up. Great for salads, wraps, or mixing with a grain. —Brit Doty, Facebook

Here's a simple marinated grilled chicken breast that'll taste great on salads or in a sandwich.

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17. Use aluminum foil to cook three different kinds of chicken breast on the same pan.

fitmencook.com

This is seriously genius if you're low on oven space and don't want to eat the same plain chicken breast for five days in a row. Learn more at Fit Men Cook.

19. When you're packing away your dinner leftovers, portion off some for tomorrow's lunch right away.

When I put away our leftovers from dinner, I fill a container for my lunch the next day. Then I usually have a fruit, vegetable, and some yogurt. It works for me because we’re not wasting food. —kammiea

20. Make something flavorful and a little fancy, so that lunch is a thing to look forward to.

buzzfeed.com

Middle Eastern-inspired chicken and chickpea stew with lots of za’atar, spicy saag with paneer, brown rice. And a clean-the-fridge-'cause-we-didn't-go-shopping salad. —ssujatha

21. Pack fresh fruit and vegetables with whatever leftovers you have, and it'll feel like you're eating a whole new meal.

buzzfeed.com

I’m in high school and I pack my lunch every day. I think it’s super easy if you just use a combination of leftovers, vegetables that you can prep at the beginning of the week, and some fruit — works every time. :) —abigailrutledge

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22. Pack a bean-and-avocado-filled burrito bowl for a satisfying, meatless lunch.

buzzfeed.com

This vegan burrito Bcwl is what I often take to university for lunch. It’s so easy, can be made in bulk, and will last a couple of days. Under the mountain of greens, I make cilantro-lime jasmine rice, top it with sautéed peppers/onions/garlic/beans with cumin and red pepper flakes, a homemade pico de gallo, lots of romaine lettuce, homemade guacamole, and lots of green onions to top it all off. It’s vegan and incredibly healthy and delicious! —ayatn

23. Rice and ground meat with veggies is filling, cheap, and easy to make in bulk.

buzzfeed.com

I used to pack my own lunch back when I was in college overseas. And I gotta have some rice for lunch so here’s my go-to lunch menu: rice and soboro. I like to make soboro because it freezes well! —debyy

24. Buy a pretty plate or two to leave at the office, so that lunch is an enjoyable ritual as opposed to a thing you scarf down at your computer.

etsy.com

Eat on a real plate! Leave one real dish at work and eat your lunch on it every day, wash, and repeat. It will force you to appreciate the presentation. You’ll eat more slowly, which helps to prevent overeating and promotes healthy digestion. —cheyenner44ab9c727

25. Cook a big batch of soup, then portion it into mason jars.

themorningfresh.com

Mason jars are your friends. Most soup recipes can be divided into four or five generous servings, so you can cook a whole week's worth of lunch, store it in mason jars, and heat it up for lunch. —k44793e71a

Recipe: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

26. And, for days when you really don't have time: Buying ready-packed lunch in bulk is cheaper than shelling out $10 for a mediocre salad.

27. Or, marry THIS GUY(!!!).

Warner Bros. / Via giphy.com

I pack my wife’s lunch every day. She usually works 12- to 14-hour days, so I pack her breakfast too. It helps that she is okay with eating the same thing each morning. On the weekends, I hard-boil eggs and cook a pound of bacon on a rack in the oven.

I think it really helps to pack it the night before. I usually pack it right before bed. I peel the egg before I pack it, so all she has to do is bite into it and doesn’t have to worry about disposing of the shell (she works in lawn care and has a truck for an office).

I make sure to put her sandwiches in an actual plastic container, not just a baggie, so they don't get squished.

Freezing a bottle of water is her classic trick for keeping it all cold and her hydrated.

Also, I keep a flour-sack type towel in the bottom of her cooler to soak up the condensation from her frozen bottle of water. Otherwise it can get gross in there. I replace the towel each week. —k42f52814a

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Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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