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by Cora L. Diekman

The reality of having to like…work every day is no reason at all to miss an opportunity for a picnic. If you’re the type to pack, rather than buy, your workday lunch, read on for a few ideas that won’t require waiting in line at the office microwave. Pack a picnic-perfect recipe, and find your spot outdoors for a mini-picnic. Sad desk lunch stops here!

Hummus Veggie Wraps

Healthy, flavorful, and perfectly delicious at room temp, hummus veggie wraps are ideal for lunches at work or on the go. This recipe suggests spinach tortillas, spicy roasted red pepper hummus, and a variety of veggie toppings, but use what YOU like. For a version that’s not totally veggie, rotisserie chicken or tuna (mixed with olive oil instead of mayo) would also be simple and satisfying.

Mason Jar Zucchini Noodle Salad

If you’ve never tried spiralized veggies before, this clever “noodle” salad is reason enough to start. Unlike most jar salads that look like, well, salad, this version tempts with “pasta” created by spiralizing zucchini. (And when mixed together, you’d never guess this isn’t a bowl of basil pesto over spaghetti.) Quinoa gives this salad a unique texture, and briny feta provides plenty of flavor and richness. Actually better at room temp, this “pasta” salad is a must for noshing al fresco this season.

Turkey and Cheese “Sushi” Sandwich

When you pack your own lunch, it’s easy to fall into a snooze-worthy sandwich rut. Shake things up with this fun take on sushi, made by combining traditional and non-traditional sandwich ingredients (like deli turkey with thinly sliced carrots). And, the delicious sushi effect is way less complicated than it appears – simply layer toppings on a tortilla, roll tightly, and slice. Eating “rolls” with chopsticks is totally optional, but completes the takeout feel.

THIS Bento Box

So, yes, the cereal may be a little too kindergarden for some, but the beauty of a bento box is that you can add anything you like, and we’re LOVING the rainbow of colors going on here. Instead of cereal, replace with your favorite pita chips, deli meat, or cheese if you like – anything that makes your lunch on the go complete. And, thanks to the fun versatility of the bento, eating outside is a must.

Fresh Summer Spring Rolls with Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce

If takeout calls your name come lunchtime (but your budget prefers homemade), listen up: these restaurant quality spring rolls are surprisingly simple to make, and seriously versatile – stuff with whatever ingredients you like best. Just remember that rice paper wrappers are key, and the peanut dipping sauce is a must (but you can always pick up a shortcut version from the supermarket). A little patience on Sunday afternoon, and you’ll look forward to these spring rolls for days to come – simply store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Asian Quinoa Salad

Salads are great for lunch during the summer months. So light and fresh, but generally only appetizing if eaten immediately – otherwise they tend to get wilty and sad. Not so with this lettuce-free Asian Quinoa Salad, that’s full of texture and topped with a delicious inspired dressing (think ingredients like fresh ginger, cilantro, and sesame oil). Mix up a large batch and enjoy outside on the hottest of days without worry that your lunch will overheat.

Green Goddess Sandwiches

If you’re going to pack a sandwich, make it something light, crisp, and packed full of delicious summertime flavors (i.e., not your traditional ham and swiss). This Green Goddess Sandwich is the real deal, complete with a homemade GG dressing, and topped with tons of flavor. Don’t let the monochromatic color palette fool you – there’s a lot going on here, like avocado, spring onions, thick slices of fresh mozzarella, and tons of fresh herbs in the dressing. With so much moist deliciousness going on, don’t let this sandwich sit for long before you dig in – and trust that it will be well worth the effort.

Gazpacho (12 Ways!)

Gazpacho is the quintessential summertime soup for good reason – it’s packed full of fresh summer veggies, and served cold for an instant refresh on a hot days. But, did you know that there are green and red versions that come savory and sweet? How about Avocado and Pea, Cucumber with Grape and Hazelnut, or Tomato with Strawberry and Basil? The best news is that there’s little to no cooking required (most just require a quick blitz in the food processor) and all of them travel well. Throw in some crackers or a hunk of crusty bread and you have hot weather lunch perfection.

Balsamic Chicken Salad with Lemon Quinoa

If you’re curious about quinoa but not willing to dive in all the way, try this flavorful chicken salad where quinoa is more of a topper than the star. With so many flavors at play, it may seem like this meal requires a lot of prep, but it’s mostly chopping. Take a shortcut with supermarket rotisserie chicken with time is limited, and simply pile everything into a portable container for an instant al fresco lunch on the go.

Salami and Cream Cheese Sandwich

When only an overstuffed deli-style sandwich will do, reach for this rich and filling version with salami and cream cheese. Yes, you will need to refrigerate until lunchtime, but with such hearty ingredients, this sandwich needs no sides – just grab and go.

Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Rollups

Another delicious wrap that’s good hot and room temp, these buffalo chicken pinwheels are like delicious little bite-sized sandwiches for eating on the run. Pair with some fresh fruit or raw veggies for a well rounded meal perfect for munching under the summer sun.

Lunch Kabobs

Who says lunch can’t be fun? These little lunch skewers are reminiscent of a summer barbecue, but packed with sandwich ingredients that are totally appropriate for lunchtime snacking. This version looks perfectly appetizing as is, but for a more traditional sandwich skewer, add bite-sized chunks of bread. And we like the idea of adding an all-fruit skewer for dessert, too.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Chia Parfait

PB&J can still make your lunchtime menu, but consider upgrading from the white sandwich bread we all remember from childhood. Rather, try a delicious PB&J parfait like this version, with seriously grow-up flavors like chia, almond milk, and fresh strawberries. Lots of healthy ingredients (some packing protein) make this parfait substantial enough for a light lunch. It’s delicious, sweet, and refreshingly cold – the perfect treat for lunch outdoors on a hot summer day.