Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

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Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by fips »

Hi everyone,

I have a job where we go out for lunch almost every day of the week.

However, in order to better control what I eat, to eat healthier and to save money, I would like to prepare lunch for some days of the workweek, possibly in batch and in advance. Depending on where I work, I do have access to hot water (usually yes) and access to a microwave (usually no).

Recipes I find on the web regularly require too many ingredients or too much preparation time.

Therefore, I was wondering if any of you prepare your own food along the same line of what I am looking for.

Of course, I am looking for the holy grail in vegetarian lunch ideas, so here are the requirements ;-)

- less ingredients > more ingredients
- based on ingredients combinable with many dishes > based on very specific ingredients
- less preparation time > more preparation time
- organic/raw > processed
- vegan > vegetarian
- cheap > expensive

Any (recipe) ideas are welcome!

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Stahlmann »

Oatmeal + raisins (if you are not so cheap ;p) + water (not even hot) <- my 'own' recent solution ... E_Cookbook ... hy_Recipes

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Off the top of my head:

1) Carrot-bran-raisin muffin
Marinated firm tofu/red onion/cucumber

2) Sunflower seed butter/plum preserves on sprouted wheat bread
Chopped greens/orzo/tomato/vinaigrette (suitable cheese or cheez would be good addition)

3) Black beans refried
Jalapeno corn bread casserole

4) Mushroom/walnut/sage filled pasty

I am an omnivore, but I have a good deal of experience with packing lunches and cooking for vegans/vegetarians. All of the above could be prepared very cheaply from near-scratch in fairly large batches, and will keep for the extent of a lunch week. All could be eaten at room temperature, but the casserole and pasty might benefit from brief heating. I have a sweet tooth, so I included something to fill that bill in each suggestion. YMMV.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Fish »

How much do you care about taste? ;) I'm no expert, but as a vegetarian that also eats fish, I do have some experience:

The simplest I can think of is a spinach salad (take organic, pre-washed spinach, and stick it into a container). I just eat it raw like that. Feel free to complicate it with hardboiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, cheese crumbles, sunflower seeds, etc. If you require a dressing, balsamic vinaigrette is easy to make. Of all things, I've found that small breastmilk containers work really well for preparing and transporting dressings because they don't leak and volumes are clearly marked (like a graduated cylinder). There might be something better for this, but I found this to be a really good improvisation.

Wraps are also convenient. Take a flour tortilla, spread hummus on it, and then add vegetables, scrambled eggs, cheese, avocados, whatever. I recommend fresh (uncooked) tortillas for this, you can control the cooking process to achieve a desired texture.

Hardboiled eggs and nuts (roasted almonds, cashews) are really simple and help achieve a feeling of fullness. Individually wrapped string cheese can be a side. Fruits like apples, bananas, grapes, etc. also work well.

Edited to add: Peanut butter jelly sandwich. Let's get the obvious out of the way.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by SnailMeister4000 »

Instant potatoes (I like it heavily spiced with curry powder, black & cayenne pepper, dried and granulated garlic, soy sauce and/or veg. bouillon powder) on a bed of salad and/or some diced bell pepers or cucumber, and with some balsam vinegar, perhaps also a bit ketchup.

You could heat up canned or home cooked beans, lentils or peas separately and then mix under the instant potatoes once warm.

Instead of instant potatoes you could use boulgur, couscous or instant noodles. Something like a DIY pot cozy would help with hydrating/"cooking" if you only have hot water, but no stove or microwave.

You could dehydrate larger batches of beans or lentils at home and heat and re-hydrate them together with the coucous/boulgur/noodles and spices.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by jacob »

Leftovers, straight in the microwave, is the easiest.

You can also reprocess leftovers into other dishes. See under the Similar Dishes sections and follow it around until you find a recipe that uses your output as an input.

Always be closing the loops ...

The general rule for all of them is to chop up leftover meat and vegetables and fry them; usually with a starch (potato rice) and then use some kind of binder, e.g. eggs =>, (you can put the result in wraps) or turn it into a goulash with a roux if it's too watery.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by jennypenny »

I like bento box lunches. I know you said you don't like prep work, but it only takes an hour or two every Sunday to prep food for the whole week (lunch and dinner). It's a great way to use up leftovers. I also like that you can pack several different items for variety instead of one or two things (gets boring IMO).

Check out pinterest for ideas ... .

I don't use official bento boxes, just plastic meal containers I got at an end-of-the-season sale at Target for less than a dollar like these...


The trick is to organize what you'll need and get it all prepped so that you only have to assemble your lunch every day. Wash and cut fruits and vegetables. Cook a few small potatoes and some rice. Chop everything into the appropriate sizes. Bake some bread and/or muffins and cut it into small enough pieces.

I like putting all of the ingredients into one or two bigger dishes so all I have to do in the morning is pull the one dish out and assemble lunches from that.

Containers like this work if you can find them at yard sales ...


I also use seldom-used roasting pans and put the contents into left over plastic containers inside of the roasting pan. You could also use a muffin tin and fill the cups with the prepped ingredients.


Even ice cube trays work ...


You get the idea.

I usually prepare a starch (rice/rice salad, potatoes/potato salad), fruit, cheese cubes, vegetables, make something crunchy like roasted chick peas, something sweet, and a main meal like lettuce-wrapped chick pea salad, tea sandwiches, sushi, or cut up tortilla rolls. I also do cold noodle salads with peanut sauce and cold pasta salads. I don't mind cold tacos so I'll put in a taco filling with black beans, corn, etc that I've cooked in advance and either wraps or tortilla chips. I also do spinach pie because it's easy to cut into pieces (spanakopita w/o the crust). During the colder months, I make soup in the crock pot and pack a thermos of it with lunch.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Bankai »

If you really need to eat lunch, here are some hassle-free options:

1) Wholewheat bread with houmus (perp. time 1 minute)

2) Fistful of nuts, seeds and dried fruits (you can buy these so prep time 0)

3) Apple, banana and few tangerines (prep time 0)

If you want a proper meal instead of a snack, you can cook whole week worth of veggie curry, freeze it and always keep 1 portion in the fridge overnight so it unfreezes, add some cooked pasta or rice and heat up in a microwave. This way you only need to cook once a week and have a nice and warm meal. You can even make it less boring by adding a small salad with different ingredients each day (with prep time under 2 mins, i.e. chop a tomato, add a bunch of olives, some nuts/seeds, some spices, and some greens like fresh spinach).

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by FBeyer »

Salad in a jar? ... 66&bih=637

Every foodblogger and their mother seem to be posting salad-in-a-jar recipes these days.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Scott 2 »

Pasta, sauce, broccoli, and cheese is easy to do a bulk ingredient prep for, then combine at work using microwave to heat.

Compared to eating out, a couple dollar can of lentil soup or chili, plus some cheese and crackers, is a lot cheaper. Essentially no prep as well. Maybe add half a bag of precut, washed lettuce and an apple as sides.

I'd encourage eating with the group at least twice a week, cause politics.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by jennypenny »

@FB -- I'd rather have tacos in a bag.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by borisborisboris »

Another vote for hummus. It is the perfect work food:
-reasonably healthy
-vegan af
-low effort / few ingredients which are mostly staples (making your own is easy but if you don't get around to it, just get a couple tubs of whatever is on sale at your grocery store next time you are there)
-no awkward waiting around the office microwave
-shelf life in the fridge is a solid 2-3 weeks

Use in-season fruit or veg (as raw as you like), plus some bread or crackers, as a vehicle.

Here is my favorite recipe (you can cut down on the tehina to save money but it is delicious if you go whole hog). ... mus-tehina

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by KevinW »

A "buddha bowl" is basically a stack of random plant foods that together look good and have interesting textures. You can google for many ideas.

My reliable vegetarian lunches are
- split pea stew (split peas, stock, carrots, onions, optional tofu/tempeh)
- chana masala with rice (garbanzo bean and tomato stew)
- Puerto Rican rice and beans (including cabbage and achiote sauce)
- feijoada (creamy black bean stew)
- Thai-style red/green/yellow curry (tofu, vegetables, coconut milk, and curry paste)
- homemade bean, rice, and grilled pepper burrito
- good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by halfmoon »

I want to be reincarnated as someone on jennypenny's lunch-packing list. Bento boxes?? I grew up on baked bean sandwiches with ketchup, so I have nothing to contribute but drool.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Jean »

Couscous! You can cook it with just hot water. Add some lemon juice and salt, and a few fresh vegetables and spices.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by BeyondtheWrap »

Rice and beans.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Campitor »

Veggie wrap:
Burrito Bowl:
  • White Rice
  • Black Beans
  • Guacomole
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Diced Red Onion
Homemade Tomato Soup - super cheap and you can added cheese if you aren't vegan - goes great with French Bread and an apple on the side.

PS - cook often and practice your knife skills - you'll be amazed at how fast you can prepare foods that some consider "gourmet" once you have some practice. Some of the most tasty dishes are very simple to make and require very little man hours but require a 1 hour cook time (my way of saying you should cook it the night before while reading/surfing ERE forums :D ). And my number 1 advice is learn to sharpen your knives. I have a set of sharpening stones - nothing speeds the preparation process like having a knife sharp enough to shave with.

On those days that you're in a super hurry and have zero leftovers or cook time - just pack a banana, an apple, some dates, some strawberries, and some nuts into a paper bag.

PS - I used to make homemade sourdough bread using my own yeast culture (sounds hard but it's not). I had the process down pat that I could time the bread rise to my morning schedule so I could have fresh sourdough bread just about every day. I don't make the bread anymore because its just way too easy to consume the whole loaf - fresh bread is so awesome. And I got tired of constantly feeding my sourdough starter. :roll: But homemade tomato soup with homemade sourdough bread will make your day.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by Scott 2 »

10 days and 15 replies since the original post... Fips what have you made???

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by fips »

Thank you very much for your ideas and sorry for the late reply.

oatmeal/cereals/muesli (+ nuts) (+fruits) and sandwich with cheese/spreads/cucumber/tomatoe/avocado
I should have mentioned it, but these are already my current go-to staples. I was looking for something more vegetable-heavy and potentially warm.

I completely agree that various combinations of leftovers are a must. I don't fall short on that option, I just ususally don't have leftovers to begin with.

I like to have salads, but a) I prefer using fresh ingredients (which - if fresh because in season - are then also comparably cheaper) ingredients which are easier available in the summer and b) I require a humongous bowl of salad to feel full-ish.

I now realized that one reason for having written this post was laziness/procrastination.
I guess what my lazy self was hoping for is to have been pointed to a collection of 5-10 different recipies of warm meals with no more than 5,6,7 ingredients that can be easily combined, that can be prepared in bulk and that don't have a prep time longer than 20-30 minutes.

As for my actual approach these last weeks:
I was aiming to do grocery shopping on Friday/Saturday and prepare a meal that is big enough for at least Sunday through Monday/Tuesday (starting out small). I haven't gotten past preparing Pizza twice and some more sophisticated sandwiches here and there.
As I often have simpler sandwiches in the evenings anyways (muesli in the morning), pizza and more sophisticated sandwiches (both basically bread+cheese+X) were a little bit of a cheat and didn't bring much variation. In my defense, there were some irregular personal and corporate events that made introducing a new habit and investing the time into finding the best recipies and actually do the cooking more challenging.

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Re: Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Work

Post by EdithKeeler »

I’ve been trying to eat more veg meals. I made up 5 bean salads this week for work—cooked a batch of beans, then chopped various fresh veggies, dressed with a bit of rice vinegar and herbs, then portioned out into containers. Just grab in the morning.

Apples and peanut butter make a tasty lunch. You can keep a jar at work and take in your apples for the week.

Homemade veggies lasagna freezes well. Freeze in individual containers and grab on the way out, or keep a purple at work if you have a freezer there.

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