We miss Pret sandwiches. And Starbuck frappés. Oh, and those delicious cinnamon swirls from Ole & Steen. While eating at home has certainly saved our bank balance, it’s not as varied and exciting as the options we had when we were at work. In fact, quite the opposite. Toast now seems to feature prominently on the lunchtime menu. As do chocolate biscuits, cake and crackers.

Lockdown 1 had us backing sourdough, but, alas, the passion and vim that came with our cooking has slowly waned. Which is why we think it’s necessary to offer up a list of lunch hacks so you can still eat well, but take less time over it. It’s no substitute Pret, but it’ll do for now. And if you’re feeling super lazy, use a takeaway alternative, just a click of a button away.

Noodles, plain and simple

Packets of noodles are the easiest thing to whack together at a moment’s notice. Boil them in hot water for a couple of minutes and there you have it – lunch. The chicken and beef noodles also fall under the list of “accidentally vegan” products weirdly, but check the packet just to be sure you’re not breaking your sterling efforts during Veganuary.

If plain old noodles get a bit boring and you’re missing your five a day, simply chuck in extra flavours for added oomph. Ones that you don’t have to cook include: grated carrot, cucumber, sesame seeds, spring onion, bean sprouts, ginger and tomatoes. Or if you’re willing to put in a further three minutes of time, fry some mushrooms and pak choi or boil an egg.

Takeaway alternative: Tonkotsu Ramen from Tonkotsu Battersea Power Station.

Four-filling wraps

You might’ve read our article on recipes that are trending on TikTok, and one of the leaders in this category is the humble wrap. The idea is that you divide your wrap into four quarters, add in four different ingredients, and then simply fold it into a fan shape. To get you started, here are some four-ingredient options to get you going:

– Hoisin sauce, tofu, spring onions, salad
– Pesto, mozzarella, red pepper, avocado
– Feta, harissa, humous, spinach
– Tomatoes, red onion, chicken, salad
– Prawn, avocado, mayonnaise, salad

Takeaway alternative: Caribbean Roti wrap from Wrap It Up! 

Avocado on toast – all ways

Ahhh. Avocado. Our favourite fruit. Keep your love alive for this green wonder with avocado on toast. It sounds simple, but with a few extra flourishes it will add a skip to your step. Our go-to is avocado, chilli flakes and scrambled eggs, but other toppings include:

– Canned crab and chilli flakes
– Grated carrot and slices of red onion
– Tomato and prosciutto ham
– Smoked salmon and chilli flakes
– Sliced radishes, cress and a sprinkle of za’atar
– Drizzle lemon for extra tang.
– Coriander, feta and corn
– Tomato and basil

Takeaway alternative: Avocado and salmon tacos from Coya Mayfair

Warming soups

You made sure to make bone broth after Christmas didn’t you? Well that’s just as well, because you need to get it out the freezer to make some soup for lunch. Go to the supermarket and pile your basket high full of veggies – carrots, potatoes, leeks, mushrooms – whatever you can get your hands on and whack it in a saucepan with plenty of herbs, seasoning and a splash of hot sauce – then blitz it all. Pour it into a load of Tupperware and freeze the lot so you can have it whenever you feel like it. Have a go at Searcy’s roast parsnip and cumin recipe.

Takeaway alternative: Royal sweetcorn soup with lobster from Hakkasan Mayfair.

Packed-full pittas

Get your pitta breads, cut them in half across the middle and pop them in the toaster. When you cut them in half they’ll leave two little pockets for you to fill (unless you’ve cut them lengthways, you idiot) and you can stuff them with pretty much anything. Our fail safe is to fry some halloumi and then chuck in capers, red onion sliced, slices of tomato, and chopped jalapeños. Delicious.

Takeaway alternative: Falafel Wrap from What The Pitta.

Rice paper rolls

This is essentially another alternative to wraps and pittas, but with an Asian infusion. Plus, they’re really easy to put together, but look super fancy. You add water to the rice paper and then wrap it around your selection of vegetable and meats. Start with a traditional duck, cucumber and spring onion mix and see how far you go.

Takeaway alternative: Tuck into a whole roasted duck, pancakes and all the extras from Park Chinois, Mayfair.

Healthy (but cheesy) toasties

Nothing beats a warm gooey cheese and ham toastie or a piping hot tuna melt. You might be sighing and saying you’ve had enough of sandwiches. But think again. Get yourself some decent brown bread, preferably with grains, then stuff it full with sweet potato, kale and (low-fat) cheese and then toast away. It’s delicious and not bad for you!

Takeaway alternative: A cheese and kim kong kimchi hot pressed sourdough toastie from Wine & Rind.

Pre-made grain bowls

Buy some pre-made lentils or pulses, and then add your favourite toppings. It’s as simple as that. There are some great packets available at Waitrose made by Merchant Gourmet. Flavours include Persian-style quinoa and lentils, Korean-style grains and Puglia lentils infused with truffle.

– Grains and rice with grated carrots, sultanas, parsley and cashew nuts
– Lentils with salmon, beetroot, cucumber and spring onions
– Quinoa with blackbeans, coriander and avocado

Takeaway alternative: An Italian Bowl from Farmacy.

Simple frozen meals

We know what you’re thinking: frozen meals aren’t appetising. They largely remind you of frozen pizzas, ice cream and lonely nights in. Well, you can get some healthy ones, such as from the Mindful Chef. Choose from a healthy chilli con carne, veggie shepherd’s pie or Thai green chicken curry and simply pop it in the oven or microwave for 7-9 minutes and there you have it: lunch as if it were straight from a restaurant.

Takeaway alternative: Order it now from Mindful Chef.


Want to receive more great articles like this every day: sign up here