When outdoor temperatures rise, our appetites often take a hit and we can feel sluggish. But a good meal will help. Try these easy cold lunches that can be made the night before and will hit the spot.
Hint: Store in a refrigerator or in a cooler with an ice pack to prevent spoilage.
Hummus, pita chips, olives, and cucumber slices
This simple meal is a great choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone following the Mediterranean diet. As far as easy cold lunches go, this one is a cinch to make too.
How to prep it: Spoon your hummus into a small container. Pack the cucumber slices and olives separately. Hint: a divided container can hold several components, making this easy to pack. Chill until the morning. Place the pita chips in a container and store at room temperature. In the morning, grab everything and go.
This is a great one for those who prep meals in advance, as it will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Cook 12 to 16 ounces of a shorter noodle like rotini or farfalle according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until cooled. Douse with 2 cups of Italian dressing and stir in grape tomatoes, black olives, mini mozzarella balls and sliced and quartered cucumbers. Then chill for at least an hour. This salad gets better the longer it sits, so making it the night before is an even better idea.
How to prep it: Stir the pasta salad to make sure the dressing is all over and then spoon it into a single-serving airtight container, cover and go.
Tuna salad lettuce wraps with tomatoes
Basic tuna salad is made with a can of tuna, a dollop or two of mayonnaise and sometimes chopped celery and a bit of relish. It takes seconds to mix up and is super inexpensive to make. If you don’t have time to mix your own, pre-made tuna will work just fine. Serving as lettuce wraps is an easy way to enjoy this classic. You’ll want to use lettuce like iceberg, little gem or Boston bibb, which all have sturdy leaves attached to thick ribs.
How to prep it: Place a few lettuce leaves in a container (want two wraps? Use two leaves. Want three? Use three leaves.). Spoon some tuna salad onto each of them and seal the container. Chill until it’s time to leave. Slice tomatoes thinly and cut into halves or quarters. Store in a second container and chill. When it’s time to eat, top the lettuce wraps with the tomato slices.
Deli meat sandwich and fruit
With whole grain bread, lean meat like chicken or turkey, and lettuce for crunch, you can turn a classic sandwich into a heart-healthy choice. Other add-ins like cucumbers and tomatoes can add variety along with a favorite tasty condiment. Pesto can add a nice dimension! And pack some sliced peaches or berries to go with it.
How to prep it: Make the sandwich, taking care to ensure that anything juicy like tomatoes or cucumbers doesn’t touch the bread. Putting them in the center of the sandwich is key. Place the sandwich in a container, baggie or your favorite sandwich wrap and chill overnight. Pack the fruit in a separate airtight container and chill until the morning.
Caprese salad and baguette
This classic salad is wonderful, especially during the summer months. But while you can prep the components ahead of time, you will have to do some last-minute prep too to ensure optimal textures and flavors. Slice a few Roma tomatoes (plum tomatoes) and some fresh mozzarella (the log-shaped fresh mozzarella is the perfect size for this), combine with fresh basil and, if desired, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Pack with a 4-inch piece of fresh baguette.
How to prep it: Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella in advance but store separately in the fridge. When you’re ready to pack, combine them in an airtight container with the basil and balsamic. Cut the baguette just before packing and wrap it in a paper towel before tucking it into your lunch bag.
Gazpacho and manchego
Another option for those plan-aheaders: place Roma tomatoes, red bell pepper, hothouse cucumber, fresh garlic, and a smidge of red onion in a food processor and pulse to chop them up. Combine with white wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste and pulse until it’s soup-like. Allow flavors to meld for a few hours in the refrigerator. Great with slices of manchego for a lunchtime mental vacation to Spain.
How to prep this: Make the soup the night before and store it in the fridge (in ready-to-go, perfectly portioned airtight containers!). Slice the manchego and place it in a separate container. Then it’s ready to grab and go.
The only question is which of these easy cold lunches you will make first.