This is a collection of my favourite Meal Prep Ideas for Office Lunches which you can make in advance and then easily microwave for a hearty winter appropriate lunch. No more expensive and sad Pret sandwiches or soups required!
I worked in offices for 12 years. And I was constantly coming up with new ideas for more exciting lunches. I liked to have something warm, especially in the winter (I think its a northern thing) and so I utilised the microwave almost everyday.
How to Store and Reheat Hot Lunches
Before we crack on looking at my favourite recipes, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about some of my favourite ways of carrying, storing and reheating my office lunches.
The solution is actually quite simple. Plastic tupperware with clip-lock lids were my best friend. They have a great seal which makes any risk of spillage in transport pretty minimal and they are the best thing to use in the microwave.
Other materials like glass and ceramic absorb the microwave heat instead of your food absorbing it. This makes for skin burningly hot dishes and food which takes a long time to cook. Not ideal when you’re using an office kitchen. Metal and melamine (plastic picnicware) should not be used in the microwave at all.
Plastic does not melt in the microwave. So you can simply reheat your lunch in the dish that you brought it in. 90% of the time I would also eat out of the same container then just throw the lid back on and take the dish home to wash.
I would specifically recommend investing in a couple of plastic containers with little push vents in the lid. This stops the risk of any accidental explosions in the microwave.
Ok so apparently I own a lot of Sistema microwave containers! (I have zero connection with the brand by the way). I do actually own another set of 4 small square containers with vented lids but I’ve had them for so many years I can’t remember where I bought them and I can’t find anything similar to show you!
The flat plates play double duty. Not only are they great for storing, reheating and eating leftovers, but they come with a steamer insert which I use all the time. Its how I cook my butternut squash quickly for my Chorizo & Butternut Risotto and the greens for my Korean Pork with Greens and Rice dish.
How to Have a Hot Lunch with No Microwave
I do appreciate that not every office provides microwave and fridge facilities to their employees. Personally I think it should be a requirement of all workplaces but alas I have no legislative power! But don’t fear. You can still eat a warm lunch, you just need to do a little extra work in the morning and invest in some heat retaining containers.
Essentially you can still use any of the recipes here but you will need to reheat the lunch before you leave for work. You will then need to pop the food in some sort of heat retaining/insulated container.
You could go belt and braces and also use an insulated lunch bag for double assurance of hot food. I would say that I haven’t used the above products personally but they’re the ones that I’d try if I was going to.
The other option is to “just add water”. Homemade noodle pots are by far the most exciting thing to do here. The options are pretty endless once you start too. You can mix up the noodle type, veggies, protein and broth flavour in a million variations.
What Kinds of Food Can I Reheat For Lunch?
Almost everything! Soups, stews and one pot dishes are all absolutely ideal.
Anything in a sauce that can be served with rice, cous cous or potatoes is also great. Packet rice and other grains are super easy to microwave alongside the main dish and can help you mix up leftovers and batch cooked lunches.
Pasta is slightly more hit and miss. I’ve included my baked macaroni cheese below but I wouldn’t reheat something like my Spaghetti Carbonara.
Anything that you want to eat crispy should be avoided. I understand that some people wouldn’t want to eat microwaved quiche or pie. But I actually love slightly soggy pastry so I used to eat these for a hot lunch quite often. And I love a lunch of hot Sausage Rolls and baked beans. Yum!
I also wouldn’t generally reheat the kind of food that you cook to a certain level of “done”. A medium-rare steak isn’t going to be great after microwave cooking. And I like my salmon quite pink so tend not to reheat that either. (Both are great cold in a salad however).
But pretty much anything else is fair game. I’ve often taken in a whole roast dinner and microwaved it. Yorkshire Puddings and all. Just keep the gravy in a separate container and reheat that on its own!
When to Meal Prep for Office Lunches
There are two ways of doing this. You can do some big batch cooking in one day and freeze multiple portions of a few different dishes. I would tend to make 4 portions each of a soup, a pasta, a dish for with rice and something potato based.
This then gives me a different dish each day of the week for a month, With one day a week left free for ad-hoc eating or having lunch out. I hate having the same lunch twice in a row. I find that I get bored and end up not eating what I’ve prepped.
The other answer is to plan for leftovers. So if I’m making a macaroni cheese for 2 people one evening, I might make 4 portions and freeze two of them for lunches. If you do this a few times a week when cooking anyway, it takes barely any extra time out of your week to achieve.
Realistically I used to do a mixture of these two methods. A bit of batch cooking one weekend and then topped up and varied with leftovers.
All in One Dishes
These are recipes that don’t need anything extra. All of your protein, veg and carbs are contained in the one pot. Which makes reheating a breeze.
Don’t forget that extras and garnishes can always be packed separately and added after reheating. This is especially good with my White Bean Chilli and any soups.
Vegetarian & Vegan Options
Just Add a Side
Simply choose your carb or grain. Rice and potatoes etc can also be prepped in advance and reheated. Or you can grab a packet of rice/grains etc and nuke that alongside.
Another option that I used to use quite often was to keep a bag of couscous in my office drawer. I’d throw some in a bowl, add hot water and cover with a plate. Within 3 minutes I had a great and fresh side to mix into my lunch of choice.
Vegetarian & Vegan Options
Soup for lunch is an ongoing classic. I get bored if I have soup everyday but I love it every now and again.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
So now I’ve told you all about how I ate brilliant lunches at the office, I want to hear all about your lunches. Head to the comments section below and tell me how you lunch!
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