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Food52's How-to Guide to Lunch Success

Summer is ending and it’s time to get back into your routine. But there’s no need for lunches to be routine! Get inventive, make things from scratch and use what you have on hand.

Here are five tips for making a better packed lunch.

1. Sandwiches don’t have to be PB&J.

Chicken Salad with Cornichons and Radishes

Photo by Karen Mordechai

Recipe: Chicken Salad with Cornichons and Radishes

Easy, versatile, and handheld -- sandwiches are the ultimate lunch food, but they’re due for some sprucing up. There’s no reason you should be subsisting on a lunch diet of peanut butter and jelly! Leftover roast chicken, falafel, grilled eggplant … you can put just about anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich. This take on chicken salad is simple but sure to impress with tangy cornichons, crunchy radishes, and fresh herbs.

2. Homemade condiments make all the difference.

Old Bay Aioli

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: Old Bay Aioli

Say goodbye to sandwiches dressed with plain mayo and open yourself up to a whole new realm of possibilities. Condiments are key to a good sandwich yet most of us put all of our thought into the bread and other toppings. A good mayo can transform dry bread, simple tomatoes, and a few slices of bacon into the best BLT you’ve ever eaten. Aiolis, mayos, spicy spreads --- they are so simple to make and can really elevate a meal.

3. Anything can be a salad.

Radish Couscous

Photo by James Ransom

Recipe: Radish Couscous

Salads are one of the easiest ways to pull a nice lunch together. Just throw in some fresh vegetables, grains, and cooked beans or leftover chicken. Toss it all together with a light vinaigrette, and you have a fast and simple lunch. This couscous salad is crunchy, savory, and filling with all the vegetables you need sans the wilted lettuce you most definitely won’t miss from salads past.

4. Leftovers are your friend.

Short Rib Ragu

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: Short Rib Ragu

The school week is hectic enough; make your life easier and turn to your leftovers for midday meals. That pasta you made last night for dinner is equally delicious when packed for lunch, and that pulled pork you spent all Sunday smoking? It’s only going to be better the next day. This short rib ragu not only holds over well, it’s tender enough to be eaten with a fork, so there’s just one utensil to add to your lunch bag.

5. Pudding.

Nutella Pudding

Photo by Sarah Shatz

Recipe: “Nutella” Pudding

It’s pretty simple: pudding makes everything better. It makes kids happy and adults nostalgic. No lunch – at school or in the office -- should be without pudding, and this homemade version, which shows off the well-loved duo of chocolate and hazelnuts, is the perfect place to start honing your pudding-making skills. With adult supervision, it’s also a great recipe to make with your kids, because not all education takes place in the classroom.

What are your lunch packing tips? Share your comments below!

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Gerald Moore says …

Thanks... Whole Foods great ideas