GET YOUR GEAR READY
Try to get yourself good, solid food carriers that fit in your bag. Or get a separate bag altogether for your lunch. These can include (but not limited to) a small thermos, mason jars, plastic boxes in various sizes or a large, sectioned food box. Also, stock up on plastic bags, wooden, plastic or steel cocktail sticks and aluminium foil. Also, try to invest in an insulating lunch carrier that can maintain the right temperature.
WHAT’S ON THE MENU?
Do you happen to be the type who cannot imagine lunch without the Bengali staples — rice and curry? You are no longer limited to the ancient stacked metal tiffin carriers, but do check if your modern one can keep the food warm without leaking.
Overall, dry food has an upper hand for the busy lunch hours, especially if you happen to be away from your desk on work.
Also, get into the habit of having soups and salads occasionally. You can either take in a thermos, or have it from a jar. Jars in particular save a lot of time while being a portable solution.
ORGANISE OVER THE WEEKENDS
It might be a lot of drag at the time, but preparing some components for a week’s-worth of lunches on a Saturday afternoon will be extremely appreciated come Tuesday morning. Buy fresh bread on Friday, slice if need-be, and freeze it; poach a chicken breast and chop it; roast a small piece of fish fillet; make an oven-baked vegetable frittata and cut it into squares; parboil small amounts of lentils and beans, or hard-boil a few eggs. Don’t overdo it though; unlike diamonds, cooked food doesn’t last forever— not even five days.
FROM LAST NIGHT’S DINNER TO NEXT DAY’S LUNCH
If you know what you’re going to make for dinner on successive nights, think about what, if anything, you can make extra of, to take for lunch later in the week. Make a mini version of the dish you’re having on Tuesday and reheat it in the microwave on Wednesday at work, freeze an individual container of Friday night’s special chicken or mutton curry and defrost it in your office fridge on Sunday morning. What you expend on planning and organising on the weekend, you make up threefold in time on weekday mornings. Have a go and see if you’re not converted.
DIVIDE TO CONQUER!
Forget the perfect sandwiches and pasta with sauce that you have seen in the advertisements for lunch boxes. Take sandwich filling, bread and salad topping to work in individual containers or ziplock bags, refrigerate until lunchtime, assemble just when you want to eat. Say goodbye to limp lettuces, dry tomatoes or bread that falls apart under the weight of it all: when you really want a just-made sandwich experience, you’ve got it.
Freeze several cup-size portions of homemade stock in two-cup capacity plastic containers. On the day you want soup for lunch, take a single container, still frozen, to work with you, along with whatever other soup contents you want in other containers. The stock will have thawed by noon, when you’ll add to it all the other ingredients, and reheating the whole lot in a microwave oven.
Never pack a dressed salad or a sauced pasta. Keep the greens, croutons and dressing in separate containers (pour the dressing into a ziplock bag then throw it away to avoid having to wash a greasy container), and the same for the pasta shells and their sundried tomato sauce — the pasta will just suck up the sauce if they’re forced to nestle together in a single container for several hours.