Meal preparation (preparing the ingredients for multiple meals in advance) is something I do regularly for breakfasts and our evening meals. I batch cook and freeze stews, bolognaise and curries so that on busy days, I can whip our evening meal from the freezer. I also make big batches of stewed fruit or fruit salad so that I always have a healthy breakfast within reach.
Although I enjoy cooking for others, I noticed that I’m pretty feeble at preparing nice lunches for myself when I’m home alone. I keep a photo food diary on my phone to encourage me to eat healthily but I noticed that my default for lunch tends to be toast or cereal. My lunches feel neither particularly nutritious nor enjoyable. I eat mindlessly at my desk and I’m usually craving something sweet by mid-afternoon.
I asked myself what’s stopping me from preparing a tasty, healthy lunch. I realised that the main challenge, especially in winter is that our kitchen can be a cold and inhospitable place at lunchtime. In winter, we have the heating on in the early morning and evening but it’s off the rest of the time. I work from home and layer up to keep warm but at lunchtime, it’s too cold to linger in the kitchen.
I asked myself what’s stopping me from preparing a tasty, healthy lunch. I think the main challenge; especially in winter is that our kitchen can be a cold and inhospitable place at lunchtime. When it’s cold, we often have the heating on in the early morning and evening but it’s off during the day. I work from home and layer up to keep warm but at lunchtime, it’s too cold to linger in our kitchen.
I realised the solution to my problem was to do a bit of lunch based food preparation. My favourite lunches are the sorts of dishes your find at a spa or a deli/café. So I decided to start to pre-prepare lunch ingredients that would allow me to assemble spa type meals. I wanted to be able to create a variety of salads using lots of fresh ingredients, colours, textures, and tastes. I wanted to create the basis for a salad bar in my fridge. Now over the weekend, I look at what I already have in my fridge and pantry and plan my lunches from there.
This week, I have the following in my fridge:
- Half a tin of tuna, ½ dozen eggs, uncooked new potatoes, salad leaves, red onions, radishes, cucumber, pepper and mushrooms, carrots, mozzarella cheese, some left over feta, 2 slices of left over bacon, ½ jar of black olives
In my pantry, I have the following:
- Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, avocado oil, tinned lentils, unsalted nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins, honey, Dijon and wholegrain mustard and apple cider vinegar
From the ingredients I have listed, I can create a wide variety of spa quality lunches that will keep boredom at bay. For example:
- On Monday, I had tinned tuna chunks, boiled egg, sliced new potatoes, red onion, and rocket plus French dressing.
To see what I had for the rest of the week and get a printable to make your own spa quality meal plans, download the pdf below.
Doing a bit of preparation at the start of the week means that I can prepare my lunch each day within a couple of minutes. I look at my meal plan and get the pre-prepared ingredients from the fridge. I then add in fresh herbs cut from the windowsill, if desired. I might also snip some fresh pea shoots (also on my windowsill) as these make a fresh and pretty addition to any lunch and are so cheap and easy to grow.
Spa quality meals are about more than fresh ingredients. They say that we eat first with our eyes and arranging ingredients attractively on the plate makes all the difference. A drizzle of your favourite dressing, a snip of fresh herbs and a good grind of black pepper help make lunch feel luxurious.
These days I use my favourite china plate, put my phone on silent and sit at the table, using a napkin. This creates a welcome pause in my day which I look forward to all morning. I also feel so much more healthy than when I just used to eat toast or cereal.
Do you eat lunch at home or do you take it with you to work? What are your favourite healthy lunch choices? Do leave a comment on the blog or a voicemail on my podcast.
Incidentally, if you’re interested in living luxuriously on a budget, you might enjoy one of my printables on Etsy. My first one is called ‘Make your Holiday Magical without Blowing the Budget’ and you can find me on Etsy at ‘myyearbydesign’ without any spaces.