I'll be completely honest - the canteen at work is not one of my favourite places to eat for many reasons but mainly because there's aren't many healthy options and at around £3 per meal it can get a little expensive. Luckily we have "kitchen" areas dotted around the office. Don't get excited, it's just an area with a fridge, microwave, kettle and sink but having a microwave makes it really easy to bring in something tasty (and healthy and cheap) so you can have a delicious lunch. There's also a little competition between me and the guy I sit next to - who's got the best looking and smelling lunch?
Instead of having to whizz up something in the morning or have another boring sandwich, here are some of my favourite ideas to make lunchtime easy, cheap and something to look forward to!
Courgette, Asparagus and Smoked Tofu Risotto
This does take a little time to make, what with the constant stirring and adding of stock but it's definitely worth it. My recipe makes about 4 portions so in theory you could have it for dinner and then two lunches - don't forget that rice can only keep for a couple of days when refrigerated and don't reheat more than once. You could go one step further and use leftover roast chicken or veg.
Total cost - approx £1.30 per serving
Turkey Meatballs with Green Pepper Tomato Sauce
Using turkey instead of beef lightens up these meatballs a little and making your own tomato sauce means there are no preservatives that you get in shop bough sauce. I like to make a big batch, portion them up and freeze them. If you do freeze them, I'd recommend taking a portion out of the freezer the night before and keep in the fridge for lunch the next day. Microwave for a few minutes until piping hot.
Total cost - approx £1.25 per serving
Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie
I'm not vegetarian but love using Quorn to replace meat in various recipes. Mostly because it's so easy and convenient to just ale out of the freezer exactly what you need and things like the mince used in this can be cooked from frozen! Oh and it's a little healthier than actual beef! I've not tried freezing this before so I'm not sure how well it would reheat but it's just as good the following day after being portioned and refrigerated!
Total cost - approx £1.30 per portion
Rosemary Roasted Roots with a Balsamic & Maple Drizzle
Roasted veg might not sound like enough for a filling main course or lunch but it really is and it's so delicious - I have this for dinner/lunch at least once a week especially now it's autumn as it's one of my favourite comfort foods! By the way - the feta in this recipe has been replaced with halloumi because it's just so good!
Total cost - approx £1.70 per serving
Beetroot & Red Pepper Soup
Soup is ideal for lunchtime but the stuff that comes in a can always leaves me thirsty because there's usually a load of salt in it. Making your own soup couldn't be easier and you don't need to add much salt or "flavourings" (an "ingredient" listed in most shop bought soups) as fresh just taste better!
Total cost - approx £1 per serving
I like meatballs, can you tell?! These are made using beef and sausage meat and rather than frying them , they get baked so a *little* healthier! Like the turkey meatballs, these can be frozen so are perfect for making in a big batch and freezing. Make sure when you reheat them they are piping hot all the way through.
Total cost - approx £1.65 per portion
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
These are one of my favourites because there's no cooking involved whatsoever and although I love cooking, sometimes it's nice to not have to turn the cooker on or wash up multiple pots and pans! Spring rolls are also great because you can put anything you like in them - veg leftover from a stir fry, roast chicken from Sunday's roast dinner…anything!
Total cost - £1.29 for the spring roll wrappers, free for everything else if you're using leftovers!
This never fails to get noses twitching in the office - a chicken broth with garlic, ginger and lemongrass packed with veg and noodles. Make a big potful, refrigerate and then reheat the following day. It's the ultimate in healthy comfort food!
Total cost - approx £2.75
If you must resort to the trusty sandwich, promise you'll try to make it a little more exciting by using bagels you made the day before?!
NY Style Bagels
I love making sandwiches with bagels - beef and mustard on an onion bagel, chicken and rocket surrounded by everything bagel, ham and cheese with sesame. I didn't realise how easy it was to make bagels and they're just as good as anything you can get in the supermarket (well, here in England anyway!). You can put pretty much anything you like in/on the bagel and it's so nice to think that the thing you are eating for lunch was happily turning golden brown in the oven 24 hours ago!
Total cost - £.10p per bagel!
Do you have any favourite leftover ideas or cleve ways to make lunch in advance?