Packed Lunches that Aren’t Boring

Miriam Alvarez-Rosenbloom, Layout Designer

Bringing lunch to school every day allows me to save money, feel better about what I’m eating, and have something to shamefully snack on when CM hunger hits. Often, I just throw leftovers into a container and call it a day. But when I have slightly more time (or fewer leftovers), this “formula” allows for quick lunches that are easy to make and pack.

The Formula:


Make a big batch of something on the weekend (see below!) or repurpose extra meat or plant-based protein from dinners.


I love carbs, so I like to have a good portion of them in my lunches. I usually boil a few cups of any whole grain in well-salted water on the weekend and then keep in the fridge to use throughout the week. Farro, rice, barley, etc. are always great.


Similar philosophy to protein here. If I know something that presumably grew out of the ground will find itself in a Tupperware after dinner, I lean on that for lunches. If not, I will roast whatever root vegetables I have on hand, sauté the wilting greens in the bottom of the crisper drawer, or massage some kale with oil and salt to have on hand. If your family doesn’t always find itself with leftovers, it may be wise to ask whoever is cooking to make a little extra to last for an additional meal or two.


A bowl with dry grains and proteins is just sad. So, make a sauce! My go-tos are a basic vinaigrette or tahini thinned with water and lemon (plus garlic and salt).


If you’re feeling fun, toss on some toasted nuts, cheese crumbles, or quick pickles.




This is more of a formula than a recipe, but it’s fun to make and hard to screw up.

To start, soak dried beans in cool water overnight. For a week’s worth of beans, I usually use around two cups. Drain and then place in a medium saucepan and cover with fresh water by at least two inches. Bring this to a boil and skim off the foamy scum that will collect on top.

Lower to a simmer and add a pinch or two of salt and any aromatics of your choice. I usually throw in wide strips of lemon zest, mint, and parsley. Crush 4-5 garlic cloves and cook over low heat in a generous amount of olive oil, then pour this onto your simmering beans. The goal is to have a layer of oil covering the top, so be generous.

Let cook, stirring occasionally and adding more salt periodically until beans are creamy and tender. Remove pot from heat.

Now, the key to flavorful beans: the cooking liquid. When checking for seasoning, taste the water, not the beans, as they will absorb the flavors surrounding them in time. Doctor up the liquid with pepper flakes, a few splashes of vinegar, lemon juice, and more salt, tasting until the flavors feel right. Let beans sit in liquid at least 30 minutes, or better yet, overnight.

Store in fridge in liquid and enjoy throughout the week.


Quick-pickled Vegetables:

Thinly slicing vegetables and giving them a quick toss in vinegar makes for an easy way to add crunch and brightness to any dish. (Also, my mom calls these quickles, so go ahead and do that if you want to.)



1 cup thinly sliced or shaved carrots, onions, cucumbers, or whatever else!

½ cup vinegar (white, rice, or apple cider are my favorites)

½ tablespoon sugar

2 tsp salt



Whisk vinegar, sugar, and salt together, making sure that everything is dissolved. Add in vegetables and mix, scrunching them a bit with your hands. Let sit at least 10 minutes, or store in the refrigerator and eat within a few days.


This piece also appears in our February 2019 print edition.