You don’t need us to tell you that if you’re buying your lunch every day you’re misapplying a whole lot of funds, but let’s run through the numbers…
Say your takeaway chicken salad costs you $10-$20 a pop. That’s between $50-$100 a week, which is around $2,500-$5000 a year, which is anything from a Chloe ‘Drew’ bag to a return airfare to New York, wasted on a daily dining experience that you don’t even really look forward to.
We get it, though. Bringing your lunch from home is hard. You have to be organised: not only at the start of the week when you’re doing your grocery shopping, but every day (sometimes morning and night) when it comes to assembling the components. Often your fresh produce perishes quicker than you expected and you have sludgy salad greens by Thursday, and even if your individual ingredients are faring pretty well, once you’ve combined them (and they’ve endured your morning commute) the result will be something that, come 12:30pm, it’s hard to get excited about.
But as we’ve discovered at FQ HQ, all it takes is one recipe that meets the criteria of easiness, durability, value, and tastiness, and you’re in the money (literally). On the path to the holy-grail DIY lunch we’ve had a few misses between us (looking at you, salad made of artfully peeled strips of carrot that quickly browned and resembled the contents of a scrap bucket). But we’ve also had some absolute hits, and we hope that they serve as useful #lunchspo to you. Thank us one year from now when that Net-a-Porter package arrives.
Phoebe Watt – features writer
Steak and spinach salad with brown rice
This salad is my current fave because the payoff is so good for how easy it is to prepare. The following quantity of ingredients is enough for two portions, so you could be the smartest person ever and make it for your BF/GF/flatmate/Mum in exchange for them doing some other dreaded task (in my house, one lunch is equal to one ironed shirt), or just have it for yourself two days in a row.
In the evening, cook one serve of brown rice (or if you’ve had brown rice for dinner, just cook a little bit extra). Then fry a steak for like, 1 minute each side, slice it up and put it in a container in the fridge. In the morning all you have to do is throw half the rice, half the steak, and about ¼ of a punnet of cherry tomatoes in a lunchbox, fill it up with baby spinach leaves, then add a miniature pottle of dressing (my go-to is just a haphazard pour of balsamic vinegar and a haphazard pour of olive oil). At lunchtime, pour the dressing over the salad, give everything a toss in the lunchbox, season with salt and pepper and voila!
Addendum 1: Eating straight out of a Tupperware container feels really low-rent to me. If you can find a chip-free white plate to tip your salad onto, I promise you you’ll enjoy it twice as much.
Addendum 2: You can totally forgo the rice for a lower carb option, I just find that I’m in a better position to resist a way worse treat at 3:30pm if my lunch is slightly more substantial.
Lucy Slight – features and beauty editor
Beetroot and carrot salad with chicken and haloumi
Years ago I discovered the sheer joy of Ripe Deli’s raw energy salad, but in the interest of saving money on bottles of pomegranate molasses, I’ve adapted (read: simplified) the recipe for an easy, healthy and hella delicious lunch.
You will need:
1 cup grated raw beetroot
1 cup grated carrot
1 handful of shredded chicken (from the deli section at the supermarket)
A few slices of fried haloumi (never skimp on the haloumi)
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
A sprinkling of sunflower seeds
A sprinkling of pumpkin seeds
A sprinkling of sesame seeds
A sprinkling of chia seeds (optional)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Season to taste with salt, pepper and chilli flakes if you want a bit of extra zing
While I have given exact measurements here, I’ve never actually measured anything when making this salad – which is what makes it so great. Grating the beetroot and carrot is quick and easy, meaning you can whip this up in about 10 minutes before work in the morning. And if you’re vegetarian or vegan, just ditch the chicken and cheese and maybe add in some roasted almonds for extra texture and taste.
Kelly McAuliffe – digital editor
Chicken, cherry tomato and pesto zoodles
It’s probably easier if you prepare this one the night before. Nobody wants to be spirallizing a pile of zucchinis before work…
I spirallize 2-3 zucchinis/courgettes (you can use a mandolin slicer if you’d prefer) and then cook them lightly in some coconut oil – or chilli oil for an added bit of zing – on a skillet until they are soft but not soggy. I throw some cherry tomatoes, jalapenos and some grilled chicken into the pan, before adding a smidge of fresh pesto and some salt and pepper. I garnish with either some crushed feta or if I’m feeling a bit naughty, some grilled halloumi… you could probably also use parmesan. If you’re reheating the noodles in the microwave at work, leave the feta off until you’ve heated it up. It’s heaven.
Tyla McKenzie – editorial and fashion assistant
I usually get obsessed with one meal and in turn have it on repeat until the sight of it makes me gag. Avo on toast makes a regular appearance but it’s a falafel salad that has become the reg as of late.
I add a grated carrot and zucchini to my falafel mix, I’m not the biggest vegetable fan, so like you would for a toddler, I have to sneak extra veges in where I can. I keep the mix covered in the fridge and each morning, simply roll and fry three patties. I pop the falafels along with olives and hummus and the usual salad suspects into a glass bowl (that comes with a lid – genius!). Salad goes into bag, I trot off to the office and whip it out as soon as the clock strikes 12pm. Easy!