Where I work, we have an awesome cafeteria with many, many food choices, and while after a few years working there, it’s easy to complain that there is too much repetition in the menu and that it can be kind of pricy, I think those of us that work there do recognize how nice it is to have a good place to grab lunch when we need it.

For me, I have started to bring my own lunch to work most days, mainly because I want to have more control over the food I eat. The cafeteria has an awesome salad bar every day, and it’s a great back up for when I am in a hurry or forget to bring my lunch, but there are also some dessert temptations that win over my willpower pretty regularly. And, many of the options beyond the salad bar, don’t necessarily meet my personal definition of “real food.”

Some weeks, I make lunch each evening, and other weeks, I make four lunches on Sunday so I’m ready for the week. That’s what I did this week and I thought I would share these lunches with you, maybe for inspiration on how you can bring your own lunch to work.

I usually bring a cold lunch but occasionally bring something I can heat up in the microwave. I also find that I am more satisfied with my lunch if I bring a variety of items in smaller portions. I try to make sure I have sort of vegetable and fruit in each lunch. It may look like I am a vegetarian, but that is just how the lunches this week turned out. Usually, I have at least one with some salmon, tuna or chicken.

After making these four lunches, I also took the time to make some oatmeal powerballs for a sweet snack to put into each lunch. They aren’t shown in the picture, but I usually pack them in a snack size Ziploc and just bring one each day. I’ll pick the lunch that I bring each day based upon what I ‘feel like,” but also keep in mind which lunch might keep best for last in the week. As you can see, I typically use divided Ziploc containers my lunch, and they fit into my LLBean insulated lunch bag, along with a flat ice pack.

Lunch 1

On the menu is cut up vegetables including carrots, radish, green pepper, cauliflower and broccoli that can be dipped into the homemade hummus (with a few slices of jalepeno mixed in when I made it). I also have some dill pickle sliced and some jalepeno stuffed olives (that I found on today’s grocery store trip to get the veggies), a Minnesota grown honey crisp apple and a single serving of pepper jack cheese. (I see now that this lunch certainly has a jalepeno theme.)

Lunch 2

This lunch includes some refried beans (that I had in the freezer) topped with shredded Colby jack cheese. I will heat this up in the microwave. I also have some of a friend’s homemade salsa to top the beans with. Alongside the beans is a kiwi and some radishes. (In looking at this now, it looks like it might need a little something else, not sure what yet?)

Lunch 3

I boiled a few whole wheat rotini noodles and mixed them with cut up vegetables and a homemade dressing of olive oil, rice wine vinegar and some spices for a cold pasta salad. There is also a hard boiled egg, a chunk of cheddar, some Triscuits, dried plums and a small bag of pistachios.

Lunch 4

This last lunch includes a some cut up vegetables, a hard boiled egg, home canned peaches, hard boiled egg, a piece of cheese, some Triscuits and a whole wheat waffle that I will top with almost the single serving packages of peanut butter and honey.