The move to working from home for many people has upended a lot of routines. Lunch is one of them. You’re probably not making a daily run to your favorite fast-casual, and your typical brown-bag might not even make as much sense as it used to.
For freelancers and others used to putting in days at the home office, it’s more of the same. We turned to one experienced veteran, cookbook author Jennifer Tyler Lee (source of our recent banana bread recipe), for some advice.
Actually make time to eat. “I think the schedule is your friend in your situation,” Lee says. “If I don’t keep myself on the schedule, I will just eat pretzels all day.” Whether it’s easier or harder to step away from your computer at home than at the office, do carve out time for lunch. Lee focuses on writing in the morning and calls in the afternoon, which leaves a natural break in the middle to eat. If you have kids at home, trying to keep some semblance of a schedule, at least when it comes to meals, is important, too.
Make-ahead is your friend. As your schedule allows, devote time on the weekend or even a slower weekday to prep for lunch. That way you can spend most of your break time eating and not cooking, especially if work time bleeds into lunch time. “Stuff happens,” Lee says. “You get a phone call at the last minute, or you get an email that you have to respond to right away.” That’s less of a crisis if you can move straight into eating.
Lee’s staple for make-ahead lunch is Mason jar salads, which she usually assembles on the weekend. She also makes onigiri, or stuffed Japanese rice balls, as another grab-and-go option.
Lean on leftovers. This goes hand-in-hand with make-ahead. “My kids and my family in general need the leftovers to be reworked into something else,” Lee says. So roast chicken will go into those salad jars or onigiri, or even on top of a very minimal pasta dish that can be quickly thrown together on the lunch break. I’m less picky about eating the same thing over and over again, and if you’re the same, consider a healthful soup as a good option. Ditto egg or chicken salad to last you a few days.
Take care of yourself, but take it easy on yourself. “I don’t put too much pressure on myself for lunch,” Lee says, who prefers to leave her more involved meals for dinner. “For me, it’s just about making sure I eat a lunch.” She notes that is especially important right now, when we’re counting on our immune systems to be strong. Still, not every day will be a home run, whether you cobble together a bunch of snacks or just work through lunch. “There are going to be exceptions, and that’s 100 percent fine,” she says. “You want to do your best, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect.”
What are your work-from-home lunch strategies and dishes? Please share in the comments below.
Meanwhile, check out a few ideas from our archives.
Cold Tahini Noodles With Vegetables. Adapt this make-ahead option using whatever noodles and vegetables you have around.
One-Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes. Roast a chicken for dinner on Sunday night, and repurpose it for weekday lunches.
Greek Lentil and Spinach Soup With Lemon. This one has the endorsement of a nurse who has been making it for lunch for 17 years.
Sesame Salt and Pepper Steak. You can cook this five-ingredient steak in advance to save for sandwiches or salads.
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