What’s Your Easy, Hot Workday Lunch?


biscuits with eggs, cheese, bacon and lettuce

Looking at the archives, I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this: What’s your easy hot workday lunch? Do you regularly eat out/order out, cook something fresh, eat leftovers or something else prepared? What are your easiest meals – your healthiest – and which are best for energy or satiety?

For years, I’ve been primarily one of these people: always eats the same food for lunch: eggs. Eggs are very hard. Omelette. omelette. Egg rolls. Delicious oatmeal eggs. Egg McMuffin type sandwiches. However, I’ve recently realized that eggs aren’t actually all that good for protein (and it’s hard to get a lot of veggies into even an omelet!), so I’m trying to mix things up.

Summer lunchtime meals in recent years have been very similar to basic turkey sandwiches, large bowls of Greek yogurt, and lots of cottage cheese—but as it cooled, I realized I didn’t want to eat them that much. So: as we head into the colder months, I try to brainstorm hot but easy meals for myself.

For me, this is like researching affordable freezer and pantry options. Obviously leftovers, ready meals or freshly made food would be better – but I don’t always have the energy or time to make them.

(My classic move is procrastinating anything until I “work out”, then I realize it’s 1:00 am, I’m starving, and I can’t handle the noon signs if I exercise and then try to eat.)

So: below are some of the easiest dishes I’ve found – but readers, I’d love to hear yours!

My Favorite Frozen Meals for Affordable Hot Workday Lunches

All of these are generally under 350 calories and over 15 grams of protein; I would complete all of this with at least an apple. (But I also tend to have a pre-dinner snack—popcorn, hot sauce beans, protein bars, etc.)

Tyson’s Blackened Chicken. These are really good (and spicy). They’re great as a side to boost protein in salads or any other meal in the summer.

Jimmy Dean Egg Loves His English Muffins. For years this has been my “don’t want to cook anything” dish but the last few years it has been getting harder to find. I love Delights because it has 18 grams of protein and about 300 calories.

Lean Cuisine Vermont Mac & Cheese. I always add frozen broccoli, sometimes chicken if available. They’re always on sale and you get 18 grams of protein per serving. (Other orange paste contains less protein.)

Lean Cuisine Spinach and Mushroom Pizza. This is another comfort food favorite – I almost never have pizza like this anymore because the kids don’t like it. I was very happy when I realized that it is quite good in terms of protein.

Amy’s Tofu Lasagna. I’m not usually a big tofu fan but this has been one of my favorites for a while.

There’s obviously a lot more – I’ve had a lot of luck with taste with foods from Tabatchnick, Red’s, Trader Joe’s, Evol, and more, but finding enough protein to keep me full can be a challenge. (I tend to avoid the Healthy Choice like the plague, so I haven’t tried any of them in years.) I’d love to hear what your affordable, easy favorites are!

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My Shelf-Stable Easy Workday Lunch

Over the years I’ve moved away from eating canned soup for lunch for some reason, maybe because my husband really likes soups, which is why we make them for dinner quite often. (And then it swallows the leftovers before I can get to them!)

However: I think this is going to go back to the old era of “empty a bowl of soup into a bowl and bombard it”, maybe try to “make it healthy” by adding vegetables and/or beans, lentils this year. or any other pre-prepared meat. (this bowl, perfect for landfill and nuclear weapon, or you can heat it at home and bring it somewhere. thermos jar.)

(I’ve recently done some research on this new target, so these are the best canned soups I’ve found in terms of protein/calories. So these should probably be “once or twice a week” lunches rather than daily lunches…)

  • Trader Joe’s Organic Lentil Vegetable Soup – 21 grams protein, 360 calories
  • Progresso Lemon Chicken Orzo – 15 grams protein, 200 calories
  • Pacific Vegetable Lentils Roasted Red Peppers – 14 grams protein, 260 calories
  • Pacific Black Bean Kale – 14 grams protein, 300 calories
  • Campbell’s Well Yes Chicken Noodle – 14 grams protein, 200 calories
  • (not soup) – Trader Joe’s Madras Lentils – 13 grams protein, 300 calories
  • (not that affordable) – Trader Joe’s Cioppino stew – 25g protein, 200 calories

I’m not a big fan of bone broth, but if you are, there are plenty of options for it.

My Easy Assembled Hot Work From Home Cooking

These will be a bit more difficult if you’re working with an office kitchen… For most of these, if I’m making one myself, I’ll reserve enough servings for the second or third meal that I don’t eat. go to many places to get supplies.

Turkey meatballs + jar of sauce + palmini, zucchini and/or protein pasta. The kids were fond of patties for a while, but no one eats them now – it’s not too hard for me to cook some in the microwave.

Tortilla egg sandwiches (per skinny taste). These are good with almost any cheese or tortilla you have on hand. I tend to make mine with 2-3 eggs, turkey pepperoni and shredded cheese and usually add hot sauce.


Chicken pizza. This is a weird thing I don’t do often – I ate a ton of cooked chicken breast a few years ago and would sometimes treat myself to stuffing chicken breasts with turkey pepperoni, cheese, and pepperoni. I usually pre-bake the chicken in the oven and reheat it in the toaster (10 minutes 350). You can customize it…

Sheet pan wontons. Haven’t tried it for lunch yet but was inspired by this NYT recipeI would try the , Bibigo or TJ wontons + meat + veg one plate of pan food – I have way too much turkey kielbasa for some reason so that’s what I had in mind. (The roasted kimchi bit is great.)

Rolled oats. I would add powdered peanut butter or protein powder + frozen berries or chocolate chips depending on my mood.

Protein pancakes in a bowl. I just started using this Jordo’s World like and appreciate the recipe for this snack; I’ve done it with both Birchbenders and Kodiak. I added chocolate chips with frozen berries and mango – it was okay when I added powdered peanut butter but it wasn’t great. Next time I might try drizzling powdered peanut butter on top because they need added sweetness and I’m not a fan of syrup. (Toffee sugar also works in a pinch, but then it really feels more like a treat.)

crispy sandwiches or burgers. I can never make mine crunchy enough, but if we have lavash, I like to make a “crunchwrap” – one of my favorites is the turkey burger + cheese + pepperoni.

What am I doing with leftover rotisserie chicken?: add to soup, add to bags of frozen stir-fry or “frozen cauliflower fried rice”, make a lazy “chicken quesadilla” in the microwave, make a weird chicken melt sandwich (hotdog bun + cheese + pepperoncini).

Readers, how are you – what’s your easy, hot workday lunch?

Stock photo via stencil.


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