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Secrets to a Serious Lunch-Making Pantry

By Molly Siegler, September 17, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Molly Siegler

During high school, I ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat bread, carrot sticks and an apple for lunch every day. Every single day for four years. (Don’t make fun!) I knew I would eat it and it would provide me the energy I needed to finish the day and head into practice after school. I will tell you though, this daily meal wasn’t inspiring, and I didn’t have a line of people clamoring to trade.

The bottom line? Lunch can be tricky. Lunch needs to be many things and it is not a meal we often have time to prepare the day of, so stock your pantry with a few go-to ingredients that make this noontime meal a winner.

1. Canned Components. Canned beans, fish and tomatoes can morph into a hearty and delicious lunch in no time. If you have access to a stove, a can of tomatoes and some black pepper, a luscious tomato soup is within reach. Bonus points for adding cooked whole grains and fresh veggies to the mix.

 Tomato Bulgur Soup with Warm SpicesWhite Bean Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing

2. Toast. Slices of bread are the foundations of classic lunch fare, but if you keep the sandwiches open-face, the meal feels a little more special. Tartines and toasties are ready for their close-up.

Tuscan Tuna Salad Turkey and Goat Cheese Open-Faced Sandwiches with Tangy Apple Slaw

3. Cooked Grains. Tossing last night’s cooked farro or quinoa with a canned component and several fresh editions means instant lunch. Some grains – like bulgur – don’t even need to be cooked; just rehydrate the grains in a little hot water and lemon juice.

 Lunch-in-a-Jar: Cherry Pecan Grain Salad Spelt Berry and Lentil Salad

4. Nut and Seed Butters. I still can’t ignore that nut butters make an excellent midday meal element. As a dip for fresh fruits and veggies, in a sandwich or blended into a sauce for a protein-packed addition to cold soba noodles, nut butters are lunchtime workhorses.

Sesame Noodles Fancy Ants on a Log

5. Condiments. A great dressing, a dab of harissa, a spoonful of chutney or a swipe of mayo can transform a ho-hum lunch into something to celebrate.

 Garlic and Shallot "Buttah"  Spicy Wine Mustard

What are your lunch-saving pantry staples? Do you do any batch cooking for lunches throughout the week? Share your tips and suggestions in the comments section below.

 

 

Category: Food & Recipes

 

11 Comments

Comments

concierge.quarry says ...
WOW! You saved the day, always looking for nutrious lunch ideas. Thanks.
09/18/2013 1:42:36 PM CDT
Sonya Everhart says ...
I these types of articles, i.e. "must haves" It make my shopping more effective and makes me feel less stress knowing I have the staples / makings for a great meal. I also know that later in the week or next week you will have a great recipe that I can put the "must haves" to use. Keep up the good work!!!
09/18/2013 4:21:43 PM CDT
Bette says ...
Great ideas. I like to make enough salad for two days and keep the dressing in a small leakproof jar so I have two lunch salads to go.
09/18/2013 6:57:54 PM CDT
Paula says ...
Great ideas for me, and I was hoping for some tips for my 15 year old football playing son....
09/18/2013 10:36:12 PM CDT
andrea from RaisingPeanut says ...
Funny you mention that PB sandwich... it's the easy go-to lunch pack for my 5-year old. However, he has only a few minutes to eat lunch (after he's done chatting with his friends, he has 5 minutes in silence where he actually then eats), therefor I've had to find healthy quick foods for him to eat. Today I rolled (organic) Black Forest Ham slices up. Tucked inside the rolls was a touch of Boursin cheese and purple lettuce. For a 5 year old, the fact that we use "purple" lettuce is exciting. He barely knows the lettuce is in there. I can slice up the rolls and hold them together with a toothpick or any fun little pick. We can drop in nuts, craisins, carrots, etc. He loves it and thinks eating is fun.
09/19/2013 9:32:48 AM CDT
andrea from RaisingPeanut says ...
Funny you mention that PB sandwich... it's the easy go-to lunch pack for my 5-year old. However, he has only a few minutes to eat lunch (after he's done chatting with his friends, he has 5 minutes in silence where he actually then eats), therefor I've had to find healthy quick foods for him to eat. Today I rolled (organic) Black Forest Ham slices up. Tucked inside the rolls was a touch of Boursin cheese and purple lettuce. For a 5 year old, the fact that we use "purple" lettuce is exciting. He barely knows the lettuce is in there. I can slice up the rolls and hold them together with a toothpick or any fun little pick. We can drop in nuts, craisins, carrots, etc. He loves it and thinks eating is fun.
09/19/2013 9:40:18 AM CDT
andrea from RaisingPeanut says ...
PS. Oh my, please, what is the recipe for that soup in the first image? :) Looks DEE-lish!
09/19/2013 9:41:05 AM CDT
Lark Marie says ...
Mix nut butter with raisins or your favorite dried fruit and your favorite flake cereal and refrigerate in bite sized balls or freeze on a cookie sheet in bars. Makes a good lunch with milk or juices.
09/19/2013 11:32:24 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ANDREA - You can click on any of the photos above and it will take you to the recipe. You can find it at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/tomato-bulgur-soup-warm-spices. Enjoy!
09/19/2013 2:40:50 PM CDT
Liz@smellthetoffee.com says ...
When in doubt, I eat leftovers. However, I usually keeps salad fixings in the office and make one soup a week to bring in single serving sizes. I intentionally try to keep it varied so I don't get bored and order junk food.
09/23/2013 1:32:31 PM CDT
Laura says ...
It's so funny that I saw this posted on Facebook today. I made the roasted red pepper and white bean salad for lunch this week :). I used dried beans and added tuna, however. It is absolutely one of my favorite lunches!
09/25/2013 12:42:57 PM CDT