Are you bored of buying the same old lunch every week?
No matter how health conscious or adventurous we are in our eating habits at home, when you’re at work and it reaches break time, your best laid lunch plans can often go out of the window. So to help answer the eternal question of what to eat, we’ve asked some of the UK’s top food bloggers what makes the perfect working lunch:
The perfect pay day lunch:
Question: What is your ideal pay day lunch?
Patrick Drake is head chef at Hello Fresh.
PD: Tasty lunches don’t need to wait for payday because great food doesn’t need to cost the Earth. When wages come through go and splash out on those new shoes, but when it comes to lunch treat every day like payday.
Jane Sarchet is an award winning field-to-fork food blogger, based in Cornwall.
JS: A long lunch at Yo! Sushi, with plate after plate after plate of sushi & sashimi. Yum!
Jacqui Thorndyke blogs about food and writes restaurant reviews in Oxford.
JT: This would have to be a sumptuous sushi banquet – seaweed salad, gyozas, soft shell crab rolls, the lot. Even better, get it delivered.
Anneli Faiers is a British expat and mum, currently living in France.
AF: My ideal pay day lunch would be sushi. A huge platter of sashimi to be more precise! Healthy and low fat and completely delicious.
Penny Nicholson is a budget food blogger, providing a range of easy and low cost recipes.
PN: A (ripe) brie and grape sandwich with some olives on the side.
The budget banquet:
Question: What are your tips for dining on a budget?
JS: You have to make your own packed lunch if you’re watching the pennies and in the winter you can’t beat a food flask with homemade soup in.
JT: Head to your nearest farmers’ market or street food hot spot, there are always some amazing deals to be found here with creative and delicious fast food, often under a fiver.
AF: If you’re cooking at home, make a huge batch of vegetable curry. It’s cheap to make and keeps well for a few days and only improves in flavour.
Aoife Cox is a writer, food blogger, and all round potato fancier, living in Ireland.
AC: The best (or perhaps easiest) ingredients for making your own lunch are leftovers – if I’m cooking the night before, I’ll often make extra to bring the next day and that’s lunch sorted. For example, if I’m cooking spuds (as I have been known to do) I’ll always cook extra – last’s night’s jacket potato may well be tomorrow’s lunchtime potato salad.
PN: Drinks can be as much as the food so ask for tap water to drink with you meal. If in doubt, Google before you go – that way you can see if your favourite restaurant has any vouchers or special offers.
The best place to buy lunch:
Question: If eating out for lunch, where do you like to go?
PD: I love going to the little eateries around Soho in London – right now Koya the Japanese Udon Noodle place is my favourite – they are so good at what they do and the prices are totally reasonable.
JS: I would only really go out to lunch if with other people, so anywhere that fitted the group or the occasion, be it a pub lunch, cafe or finer dining.
JT: At lunch time I either want to go all out on American style wings and burgers, or I’ll be virtuous with sushi or salad. For the former, Big Society, Byron and Atomic get my vote, for the latter, The Red Lion in Gloucester Green or Taberu on Cowley Road.
AF: If I am eating out for lunch, I like to visit local cafes. I look for the specials as they are fresh and good value. Other than this, Indian food is always a great option: good value and full of flavour.
PN: My favourite lunch time place when I lived in Exeter was Herbies in North Street vegetarian restaurant as they do a fabulous set meal for about £6. It would fill you up all day and there would be no need for an evening meal. In Brighton – Foodilic, Western Road – really good low cost salads and iced tap water always available.
The best ingredients:
Question: What are the best ingredients if making your own lunch?
PD: Lunch at work doesn’t need to be a limp ham and cheese sandwich. Go grab yourself a bag of mixed greens, some poached salmon and a pack of mixed feta and olives (all easily bought from the shops). Microwave the greens for a couple of minutes and then toss them with the feta, olives and some chunks of salmon. Super easy, super tasty and perfect for getting in shape for the summer.
JS: Avoid anything with a barcode or plastic wrapper!
JT: My latest addiction is ‘njuda, a spicy and spreadable pork sausage from Italy – add it to frittata, stir into pasta, dollop onto pizza, or spread straight onto great bread. My previous love was chilli jam – stunning in a grilled cheese and onion sandwich, under melted brie on ciabatta, or as a side with chips or pate.
AF: If I making my own lunch, I would normally make a couscous salad and throw in lots of herbs, some leftover chicken, raisins, onions, cucumber and peppers and feta cheese. A good splash of vinaigrette brings it all together nicely. It’s filling and delicious.
PN: If you are on a budget you want something you can really enjoy. Try making your own bread – much tastier and cheaper than bought. Find really good food combinations such as brie and grape, ham and coleslaw and use the best quality ingredients – such as carvery ham. You will still be saving lots of money over buying sandwiches ready-made.
Question: What are your top tips for the perfect working lunch?
PD: Get inventive with leftovers. I always cook a bit extra for dinner and use the leftovers for a lunch the next day and let’s be honest, pretty much anything can be put between two slabs of fresh wholemeal bread.
JS: Preparing ‘real’ food does take longer, so learn to plan ahead. Bake muffins on the weekend & freeze them individually, pack tomorrow’s lunch tonight and if all else fails, go and check out some of the stunning packed lunch boards on Pinterest for ideas.
JT: Mix it up a bit, we all get bored of plain cheese sandwiches eventually. Use different ingredients and formats, keep exploring and ask for recommendations – there is always great food out there, it just needs to be found.
AF: In the winter, I make huge batches of homemade vegetable soup which I then place in a thermos to take to work. Comforting and hot and ever so easy and cheap.
PN: Make a budget for the week. Go careful Monday to Thursday and use what you have left for a treat on Friday! Take a thermos of your favourite coffee to work – or if you have a kettle get a good ground coffee and a cafetiere so you are less tempted to get a take away coffee.
Our top tips:
Here are some of our own top tips on how to make the most of your lunch:
- Be realistic, and don’t over order – nobody needs the 3 o’clock slump.
- Step away from the desk. Trust us, it’s for your own good…
- To avoid disappointment, if using communal refrigerators, always label your food.
- Variety is the spice of life. The same ham sandwich day in and day out is not the only option.
- Wherever possible, overcook at dinner. Leftovers are your friend.
- Treat every day like payday. (N.B. But only in spirit).
Here are a few more tips on how to achieve the perfect working lunch.
Patrick Drake (@patrickdrake) is Head Chef and Co-Founder of Hello Fresh. He’s presented for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. He blogs with his girlfriend Kylie about food here: http://kylieandpatrick.com/
Anneli Faiers (@Delicieux_fr) is a British expat, who has lived in the south of France for the past six years. She’s been featured on the Good Food Channel, The Daily Mail Online and her blog was voted Britmums Brilliance in Blogging award for food in 2013. Find it here: http://www.delicieux.eu/.
Aoife Cox (@DailySpud) is a food blogger and all round potato fancier. Twice named best food blog at the Irish Blog Awards, she’s written for the Sunday Times and is a member of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild. Her blog can be found here: The Daily Spud.
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