Years ago, I was one of the organizers of a women’s networking event. One of the questions we prepared for our panel that afternoon asked our guests to share their best self-care practices.
One executive explained that she makes time to get her nails done every Sunday. It was a standing appointment she’d had for years and had only missed a handful of them over her career. As much as she loved to have her hands well-kept, she most appreciated the opportunity to fully check out of her life for a 45 solid minutes.
As much as I liked the sentiment, manicures just aren’t my thing. I still find it stressful to have my nails painted – all I do is worry I’m going to smudge the polish.
Yet, it was a less luxurious suggestion that has stayed with me all these years later.
Another speaker declared packing her lunch to be the very best thing she does for herself. I was confused at first – how can making your lunch be self-care. As she explained it self-care isn’t about pampering oneself a couple of times a year. It’s about regularly investing in caring for yourself.
There have been too many days where I haven’t eaten enough, let alone well enough. On those days, I’m never at my best.
Tired of feeling tired, I started making myself lunch – even on days when I’m working from home. It takes some planning and a good dose of discipline, but I’ve never regretted having lunch ready for me to eat during a busy day.
If you’re looking to get into the brown bag habit, you’ll want to be sure it’s easy and manageable for you. Here are some ways that can help:
Healthy doesn’t always mean salad
When I started to make my own lunch, my focus was to prepare healthy meals. So, naturally, I opted for salads. I’d throw on a protein and make fancy dressings, but at the end of the day a bowl of green leaves never cut for me and I was hunting for a tastier snack by 3pm.
So, I spent some time on Pintrest looking for lunch ideas that appealed to me and were quick and easy to prepare. This way when I was feeling stumped on what to make, I’d look at my list and give a new one (or a tried favorite) a try.
Double up on your kids’ lunches
With two working parents, we don’t have a two-dinner household. There just isn’t time to think up two meals or host two dinner shifts. I decided to apply this same thinking to the lunch hour.
So, now when I make my girls’ school lunches and snacks, I make an extra serving of the things I’d enjoy, too. Things like hummus and peppers, crackers and cheese or yogurt and granola, all go into a bag just for me.
Soup it up
I love soup – warm and hearty in the colder months, and light and tasty in the warmer seasons. It’s comforting and a great way to get in my veggies. Admittedly, it does take some effort to peel and chop the veggies. But once it’s all in the pot, it’s a pretty hands off process. It’s especially easy when using a crock pot: I toss in the ingredients to a favorite soup before I go to bed and it’s ready for me in the morning for me to take with me. If you’re going through all this effort, be sure to make a double or triple batch, so you can freeze individualized portions and take to lunch a few other times.
Sharing is caring
If you like thinking outside of the box, this one is for you. It starts with finding a lunch buddy. This person isn’t only someone to eat with, they’ll also make your lunch for you. Of course, you’ll do the same for her, too. Here’s how it works: find a willing partner and create a schedule of who is responsible for lunch on which days of the week. On your days, you create two lunch servings – one for you and one for your buddy. On her days, you get to enjoy lunch catered by someone else. You get a break and you get to try something new that you may not have considered before.
There’s nothing wrong with leftovers
It really can be as easy as packing up the previous night’s leftovers. If it’s a dish I really enjoy, I make a little extra and pack it up for the next day’s lunch. I also do this when I order in. As good as homemade is, sometimes I just want something different for lunch. The trick is finding dishes that reheat well or can be enjoyed cold.
If you’re already a bring-your-lunch kinda gal, tell us your secrets to making easy, unboring lunches.
*A version of this article first appeared in Fairygodboss.