Easy Lunch Ideas
April 28, 2010 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest some easy, low-prep or no-prep components for vegetarian bag lunches.

Lunches tend to get made last-minute in my house, and as a result they are boring and predictable. They also tend to be sort of wimpy, resulting in eating extra at dinner to make up for it. The usual suspects include: sandwiches of veggie lunch meat + greens on wheat bread, cheese sticks, carrot/celery sticks, nuts, yogurt, apples.

What sort of things can I keep on hand to make my lunches not only more interesting, but more substantial? There is a fridge and a microwave available at work. Devoting more time to making lunches is not likely to happen.
posted by gnutron to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
Leftovers from dinner. You don't need to do anything except put it in a bag.
posted by k. at 7:40 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quiche is actually pretty easy to make. Make a whole pie ahead of time, cut it into servings and wrap it up. Serves good cold, or you could microwave it.
posted by DeltaForce at 7:41 AM on April 28, 2010

Seconding DeltaForce. To make quiche still healthier and easier, you can double/triple the recipes and make crustless versions in (well-greased) big baking pans-- slices nicely into little brownie-sized servings for packing or freezing, and you don't have to worry about the crust getting soggy on reheating.

Also, sliced hard-boiled eggs are good on sandwiches, with mustard and mayonnaise.
posted by Bardolph at 7:44 AM on April 28, 2010

Try putting some spreads on your sandwiches, like hummus, peanut/almond/cashew butter, etc. Quick and easy to include, but adds lots of flavor and is filling too.

I also love making roasted chickpeas with chili powder in big batches, and keeping them on hand for snacking, or for adding to sandwiches and the like.
posted by goateebird at 7:46 AM on April 28, 2010

Oh, hard-boiled eggs is a fantastic idea too, good call Bardolph.
posted by goateebird at 7:47 AM on April 28, 2010

Bean salad! It needs to be made ahead of time, but it is really quick and easy to make, and really filling. We use this recipe and it yields enough salad for a week's worth of lunches. (You can substitute bottled Italian dressing for the vinaigrette, and you can use only canned beans if you don't feel like cooking.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:53 AM on April 28, 2010

Bonehead and I discovered this delicious recipe, which is entirely vegetarian and absolutely delicious. Make ahead, but make loads and store them in the fridge, and parcel them out for lunches.

1 litre water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp fine sea salt (to taste)
300g chickpea flour (sifted)
optional: spices like curry, garam masala, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic
more olive oil for frying

Heat the water and tbsp of oil in a pot on the stove, and when hot, sift in the gram flour and spice mixture. Stir like the dickens or use a stick blender to get it smooth. Cook for about 5 minutes, then turn out into an oiled 9x9 brownie pan (silicone works great for this). Smooth out the top and allow to cool completely. Turn it out of the pan, slice into sticks about 1"x1"x3" or so (eyeball it), then pan fry on all sides in about 5/8" of vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain. You can eat these with just a sprinkle of sea salt, or serve in pitas with sliced cucumber and tomato, shredded lettuce and yogurt.

For extra delish, make a quickie garlic mayo instead of yogurt.

For lunches, bring the makings of your pita but don't assemble. Heat the little gram sticks in a microwave before assembling the sandwich.

posted by LN at 7:54 AM on April 28, 2010 [19 favorites]

Next time you cook a curry, or chili, or pasta+tomato sauce, or vegetable stew or soup or whatever, make a double quantity. Freeze lunch-sized batches that you can take to work. No extra work involved (assuming you do at least some cooking in the evening or at weekends).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:55 AM on April 28, 2010

I'm going to try and make these with Japanese flavourings next - miso, soy sauce, garlic and ginger...
posted by LN at 7:55 AM on April 28, 2010

Black bean dip (mashed black beans, salsa, sour cream, grated cheese) with veggies, and/or pita bread, and/or nachos. Hummus with similar dippers.
posted by fish tick at 7:56 AM on April 28, 2010

Quick, easy, nutritious sandwich: multigrain toast, spread with plenty of hummus, with roasted red peppers and baby spinach. I would also add red onions or scallions. Optional: if you have paprika, sprinkle it on the hummus.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:56 AM on April 28, 2010

(Most of her stuff IMO, is not low prep. But you may find a few useful ideas there anyway.)
posted by pghjezebel at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2010

Burritos? It's pretty quick to slap some refried beans, cheese, and possibly rice on a tortilla and roll it up. If you want to spend a little time making some ahead of time - these are crazy good.

Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes? Pre-microwave them for a few minutes at home then finish them in the microwave at work and keep a few of your favorite toppings in the work fridge. There's a huge variety of stuff you can put on a baked potato - salsa, cottage cheese, vegetarian chili - or just keep it simple with some butter, cheese, and sour cream.
posted by Dojie at 8:03 AM on April 28, 2010

When I was working out of the home I'd often make a big batch of burritos, and put them individually wrapped in the freezer. I'd grab one or two when I needed a change - quickly microwave and eat.

A couple of other things I add to a meal to change it up a bit:

Roasted red peppers
Blue cheese
Assorted mustards
posted by backwards guitar at 8:14 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

cracker or bread sandwiches, either prepared in advance or on the spot (you can deduce which method will work better for each), of:

peanut butter

cucumber slices and hummus (best to add cucumbers immediately before eating, especially on crackers)

baked marinated tofu (marinade can be anything including a nice salad dressing or miso sauce)

fake "chicken salad" composed primarily of TVP reconstituted and cooked in seasoned bouillion - make some of this and it will go far and last a long time.

Also, you can get a surprising amount of delight from just cutting up some fresh fruit into bite-sized pieces and eating it as a salad, e.g. strawberries and banana slices, or melon and kiwi, or apple (cut immediately before eating) plus walnuts and/or coconut.
posted by amtho at 8:57 AM on April 28, 2010

Hummus is pretty satisfying, with pita chips or as a dip for your carrots, celery, or other vegetables.

Single serving vegetarian soups

Assortment of olives, if your grocery has an olive bar

Spaghetti sauce, warmed up with shredded parmesan, and breadsticks to dip in it
posted by lakeroon at 2:38 PM on April 28, 2010

Are you near a Trader Joe's? They have lots of interesting options, some prepared and some not. I've been addicted to their jars of Giant White Beans in Tomato Sauce, which can be split into 2-3 servings, depending on whether you are using them for a side dish or main. Also, make a batch of black bean, corn, and cilantro salad. I don't have the recipe handy but did link to it in one of my earlier posts. I can find it if you'd like.
posted by JenMarie at 3:26 PM on April 28, 2010

Every day for four years, I went to high school with a bag of trail mix. Peanuts, raisins, and (personal preference) peanut M&Ms, though Almond M&Ms are also excellent. Delicious, arguably not terrible for you, and fun - can you pick out the perfect bite-full? Can you mix a bag so that the last bite isn't all peanut or all raisin?

I liked my trail mix as simple as possible, but the possibilities are endless.
posted by Rinku at 8:33 PM on April 28, 2010

I would stock up on the shelf stable metal pouches of pre-prepared Indian food. They're affordable, have high nutritional content, interesting varieties and are spill proof. They'll serve as a main course to add some heft to the fresh veggies, fruit, yogurt and nuts you're already bringing.

And when the apocalypse comes, you'll be able to sell them to everyone who stocked up on canned beans. They'll be like bags of gold.
posted by jardinier at 4:08 PM on April 29, 2010

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