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I'm trying to find a good variety of cheap foods to eat for lunch at work. Since I make lunch the night before, it has to be something that's good cold or microwaved, and since I'm making this frequently, I don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

Also, I'm looking for things that are healthy (I know I could bring bacon to work every day and microwave it, but I don't want to die).

So far the things I've found are:

  • Chili
  • Salad (with some sort of beans or meat to make it filling)
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Pasta (with tomato sauce or pesto, or sauteed with mushrooms and tempeh)

Please include a link to a recipe or ingredient suggestions.

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I thought there should not be questions for recipes –  txwikinger Jul 10 '10 at 4:09
Two of your examples (salad & PBJ) probably aren't that great reheated. Might want to edit the question title? :) –  Andrew Jul 17 '10 at 6:28
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closed as not constructive by Mien, Chris Steinbach, SAJ14SAJ, KatieK, rumtscho Jan 8 '13 at 18:40

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10 Answers

Khichdi is India's most popular comfort food, easy to cook, stores well, and an immensely satisfying single-dish meal. Usually made with rice, lentils and vegetables, but it's possible to add meat too. Can be eaten cold, but you can't beat piping hot khichdi served with a sliver of butter, on a cold wet day.

The version without lentils is called tehri.

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This is a wrong choice. I strongly disagree. Khichri is very messy to cook. I needs millions of ingredients and very hard to cook properly. For example, slicing onions, making ginger/garlic paste and what not. Probably that is why this answer was not accepted. –  BROY Aug 24 '12 at 9:11
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Since I'm from Asia, maybe I could provide some input on the oriental side.

  1. Rice - Cooked rice can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days without problems, and you can reheat them using the microwave without problems, just make sure the rice container is water tight -- or else the rice would be too dry after refrigeration/cooking. Rice is usually used as the starch component.
  2. Meat part - I would usually just poach beef slices in hot water, and then store it. Then I can prepare sauces such as the 'black bean with chili', 'ginger and scallion', 'fermented tofu' these kind of sauces and then mix it into the poached beef slices. microwave after you mix it. Another choice is poached pork bellies cut into very thin slices, apart from the sauces above, you can try to mix chili bits, garlic paste with vinegar, add a little bit of sugar and dip the pork slices into this sauce. works wonders with rice.
  3. Vegetable part - I would suggest trying to marinade fresh cucumber with white vinegar, chili oil and a little bit of sesame oil. If you do not oppose it, a little of fresh garlic paste do wonders when added just before eating (don't mix it into the marinade, make fresh garlic paste by using e.g. a food processor with garlic cloves skin off, then mix with little oil to help preserving it, store in fridge. you can always use it back for cooking if necessary)
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Most of the time, I am doing curries for my lunches. They are relatively easy to make in large quantities and freeze very well.

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I find things that I can freeze are:

  • Casseroles (store really well and are easy to make in bulk so they last over 2 nights)
  • Bolognaise
  • Lasagne
  • Pie Fillings (I freeze the fillings and when it's time to eat, just get a quick pastry ready, put the filling in and stick it in the oven for 20 mins)

Things that are quick and easy are:

  • Most egg recipes (Scrambled, omlettes, fritata's etc)
  • Pizzas with pre-made bases (or make your own bases and freeze them)
  • Steak Sandwiches (use minute steak and cook on each side for 1 min)
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You can make the pie crust ahead of time, too -- a trick from watching The Best (imdb.com/title/tt0356230) -- freeze the dough in a block (well wrapped), then when you need it run it through the coarse side of a grater, then pack the shreds into the pie tin. –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 12:06
I really like the pie filling suggestion. Not something I would take for lunch, but it's a great idea for after work. –  Brendan Long Jul 11 '10 at 4:05
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If you have a toaster handy (since they can get soggy in the microwave) you can make your own pocket sandwiches, waffles, etc. Just fully bake them and then freeze.

Pretty much any crockpot recipe can be portioned out into individual servings and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated easily. Soups and stews are good for this, but I've even done "all-day macaroni and cheese" this way.

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Definitely agree with this, a pound of pasta + sauce will easily last a couple of days –  Kryptic Jul 12 '10 at 20:31
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One of the items that can always be found in my freezer is home-made tomato sauce. I use a very simple recipe that doesn't take a long time to make and the result is a tasty tomato sauce that can form the basis of a lot of different recipes:


  • Fresh tomatoes - skin removed
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • Star Anise - optional
  • Fresh Basil

Remove the skins by dropping the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds. Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Cook on a medium heat with a lid on for around 15 minutes. Check from time to time they are not sticking. Turn the tomatoes over and repeat. Whe the tomatoes are soft, take a potato masher and break the tomatoes up to your desired consistency.

Meanwhile, Mince as much garlic as you like and heat around 2 tablespoons of good quality Olive oil in another pan, when hot add the garlic and star anise (if used) and sauté for a few seconds, don't let the garlic burn. Add the oil, garlic and star anise to the tomatoes and add lots to shredded fresh basil. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Let it cool and you can freeze it in what ever quantities you need.

Now you have the basic sauce, you can add what ever you wish, such as mince, to make a Bolognaise, of add it to your chili instead of tinned sauce. You can even use it on it's own.

To make it a little richer, add diced carrots and celery and a good quantity of passata.

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I never go out of my way to cook things to make for lunch -- I just make extra for dinner that I can package up. I'm also not making such large batches that I need them to keep for a week or two.

Pasta dishes, stir fry, casseroles, enchiladas, most anything works well. If it's something that's going to require a fork and knife to eat, I cut up the item to bite sized pieces before packaging in individual serving sized containers.

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Stews are your friends. You can use cheap cuts of meat, simmer them long and slowly in huge batches in whatever delicious sauce you like, divide them into portions, freeze them and they reheat really well.

In the winter, one of my favourite things to have on hand for microwave reheating is a frozen bag of stew with small dumplings in it. They freeze and reheat right alongside the rest of it, and I don't have to prepare anything else for accompaniment. But then, I am a bit of a dumpling addict.

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For an easily contained salad in one container that doesn't go wilty, I recommend preparing chicken/tuna salad, putting it in the bottom of a to go container, then topping it with lettuce, tomatoes, etc. Obviously this doesn't need to be reheated (nor should it be), but it makes for a good lunch solution that's cheap.

Even if you don't have refrigeration available, if you keep refrigerated all night and then keep it in a cool dark drawer of your desk it doesn't warm much (my to go is Pyrex, and it stays wrapped in my suede satchel), nor does even the tuna salad smell much (though I have not tried this with egg salad, which I expect would smell bad anyway).

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This is not a direct answer but more or a workaround w.r.t you question. When I was doing my masters I had 9am classes and it was tough for me to wake up and cook lunch so I started preparing rice dishes which I could cook in a rice cooker and to save time sometimes I would keep all the ingredients ready at night and all i needed to do was dump everything into the cooker in the morning. This way I would spend less than 5 minutes in the morning preparing my lunch. The advantage of a rice cooker is you dont need to worry about food getting burnt or anything. This also works with a microwave.

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