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Secrets to a Serious Lunch-Making Pantry

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.