What are Your Lunch Hour Frustrations???

This is what lunch usually looks like for me. A salad with leftovers (grilled chicken and peppers, in this case). Or just plain leftovers. And if I’m really feeling unmotivated. PBJ.

For me, lunch has always been the “most frustrating meal,” and I have come up with quite a few tips and tricks to help streamline the whole lunch prep and experience for us.

But we are each in unique situations and while I have played the SAHM, WAHM and part time working mom roles in my life, I am missing the “full time work outside the home mom” part. And of course the “dad part” too.

Here’s where I need your help. In order to make sure I’ve got ALL the bases covered in the next cookbook, I’ll need to hear your experiences.

All I want to know is what frustrates you about lunch. That’s it!

What is the most frustrating part about lunch…packing it, preparing it, spending too much on convenience foods, lack of creativity, lunchbox getting lost in the office fridge?

It’s time to let your lunch hour woes be known!


  1. silver says

    I hate lunch. I never know what to make. I hate sandwiches and I don’t want to spend more than 15 active minutes preparing lunch (if it needs to cook 20-40 minutes, that’s fine). What I think would work nicely for my family is pasta that is quick to prepare, but isn’t just pasta with red sauce. But I don’t know anything that is both easy and isn’t red sauce.

    • says

      @silver, You haven’t tried Erin’s Fettucine with Peas & Ham! Mmmm! Had it for lunch today and was pretty quick and easy! But I’m with you on the quick and easy thing!

  2. Ingrid says

    Lunch is indeed frustrating. I have trouble coming up w/ something for lunch esp. when I have to think of packing it for my husband and feeding small kids. We usually end up having leftovers, but that gets old…quick!

    Sometimes for me and the kiddos we’ll do something quick and easy like pita bread w/ hummus, carrot sticks and fruit. That, however, would not keep my hubby full at work so he usually gets last night’s dinner again.

  3. says

    The thing I hate about lunch is deciding what to make. I end eating the same old thing, for weeks or months at a time. Eggs, salads and PBJ are my staples. I need some new and quick ideas. Quick is key.

  4. says

    the most frustrating part for me is finding the snacks from the food groups.
    I try to keep a balanced menu for the kids all day, and lunch is the worst. Finding the “snacks” that they all like is hard. I got the wrong yogurt because this one doesn’t like that kind … or I bought the whole grain goldfish or other cracker type things they like, but they don’t want to take them to school or don’t eat them because the other kids make fun of them for having baby snacks.

    So, to be less verbose, I think the hardest part for me is getting the snacks for the kids’ lunches. I hate putting fruit in their lunches, because I learned that you absorb the most nutrients from fruit when it is eaten alone (so, it’s our after school snack now.)

  5. says

    For me it’s lack of creativity and time. We usually eat the same stuff–and enjoy it, but I of course would like more variety. Time is usually in a crunch if we have just come back from preschool or a morning activity. Everyone (including me) is tired and hungry. It’s hard to prep before hand because we’ve just left after breakfast!

    I can’t wait to read this cookbook!

  6. Rebecca says

    For me, it’s about keeping it all day in my lunch bag without going bad, or worse, getting squished and congealed. I’m a pretty hungry person by the time lunch rolls around so I have yogurt and crunchies and veggies/fruit to worry about too….

  7. says

    Frustrations = eating reheated leftovers. Creative frustrations = using the leftovers & new stuffs to make bento creations! Salads? Thats a no-brainer, what is so hard about a salad?

    Food IS Fun!

  8. Stefanie says

    My daughters just went vegetarian this January so in a few days summer vacation starts and I will have to figure out what to feed them everyday for lunch. They are NOT putting up with pb&j since they overdosed on it during the school year. I’ll be searching for inexpensive easy to make salads I guess. Sometimes with their softball schedule we need to have salads for dinner too though so I am not sure how to keep variety there.
    My husband bring hummus and pitas to work and I am trying to make those from scratch to save money. They are expensive! But he will eat leftovers or even pb& j if needed.

  9. says

    Lunch is sometimes frustrating, especially for those of us who work full time (although I don’t have kids just yet), getting lunch together quickly in the morning can get frustrating. I usually either take leftovers from previous nights dinner, frozen Michelina meals (they are usually on sale for only $1 and can get them even cheaper with coupons sometimes) or something simple like a sandwich, can of soup or salad.

  10. Lauren says

    Definitely the lack of creativity – I know there are other things to eat besides sandwiches and salads, but somehow, lunch rolls around and there I am, unable to think of anything else. Lunch is definitely the most boring meal around here!

  11. says

    Soggy sandwiches! I hate dry, boring sandwiches (just turkey and cheese) but putting lettuce, tomato and pickle on it means it gets soggy before I get a chance to get to it. And I’m taking it with me to work, so I don’t want to have to do a lot of assembly, or carry tomatoes and pickles in a baggy that might leak.

  12. Christina Troeltzsch says

    I hate packing lunch for both my boys and myself. (Hubby is responsible for his own lunch). I don’t want to pack the same thinking all the time but lack the energy some mornings to add variety and keep it nutritious. Not to mention the boys are at different developmental stages so sandwiches only work for the older one. And I am trying to diet, and want to avoid things like sandwiches, since my tend to be full of fatty ingredients, i.e. cheese and mayo.

  13. Lisa says

    I am a full time working mom with a teenage daughter still at home. My husband and I take lunches and snacks to work every day. This saves money and is much healthier. When I am cooking dinner I plan for extra – usually double what we would eat. I put the extra in reusable/ freezable/microwaveable containers. The entree and all sides go in the container. Then I label them and put them in the freezer. In the morning we each grab a frozen meal, some fresh fruit, and put them in a reusable bag. Because the meals are frozen, we let them sit out on our desks…we don’t have to worry about there being room in the refrigerator at work. By lunch time they are partially thawed and microwave in 3-4 minutes.

    Our daughter also eats these for a snack after school…much better than chips, etc. She will also have them for lunch during the summer. I try to have a variety in the freezer so we are not eating the same thing every day and you feel like you have a choice. When I start to run really low, I plan a day where I make several meals to restock the freezer. These meals are also very handy when life happens and cooking just isn’t an option.

  14. says

    I’m a stay at home mom to a four year old and a two year old. I find myself making the same things all the time for lunches. I’m trying to get away from the processed, convenience foods like mac n cheese, chicken nuggets, etc. but have to find things to replace them. I have made homemade ravioli that my kids enjoy and am going to try homemade chicken nuggets today. But I need other ideas of what to feed my picky kids. They need some variety.

  15. says

    As a sahm I feel like I’m obligated to eat the leftovers. I feel like I never get anything nice for lunch, something new. I miss the occasional eating out I did when I worked, the nice salads and sandwiches someone else fixed for me! Reheated leftovers in between fixing pbj for the kids…sigh.

  16. says

    So, I love leftovers for lunch! That’s my go-to, and that’s what I eat most of the time. My frustration lies when there aren’t enough leftovers (if there is only one serving, it’s easier to send them with my husband rather than think of something new for him), or when the supper meal doesn’t lend itself to leftovers very well (fish, for instance).

  17. says

    Another tip:

    Get your children to help you make lunch into an art form…

    #1) Get to spend quality times with your children
    #2) Encourage creativeness in your child
    #3) Inspire a good hobby or even a profession in your child, maybe the next “Martha Stewart”.
    #4) 2 brains is better than one as is 2 hands
    #5) Making lunches is no longer boring…
    (all it takes is that 1 hr away from the TV after dinner for both the parents & the child)
    #6) Teach the child the importance in reusing food, hence no waste; good strategy for the eco-friendly green generation.
    #7) Let the lunch “art” speak for itself, start a good “green” trend that pass along visually & inspiration-wise to others;

    Make home lunches = no waste = green = no eating out = save $ = save gas = save packaging = endless ++ goodness in a counting…

    Just a good deed all in all. 😉

  18. claire7676 says

    I eat the same thing every weekday (lunch & b’fast since I eat that in the office too), mainly to keep it straightforward, and I know that what I eat is healthy & within my calorie plan. Prep time is the worst, ESPECIALLY when it comes to salads. I try to prep everything on Sunday nights & prepack everything I can, but I can’t do that with salad. The veggies will go bad or get soggy, etc, so I have to prepare that EVERY night. It’s just a pain to take 15 mins every night to make a salad. I try to do it if I have a break while making dinner, but I’m usually busy washing dishes instead. I eat soup in the winter and salad in summer (it’s too hot for soup in the summer). Soup’s easy…pour & go. But I do need to look into making a big crock-pot of veggie soup at home instead of buying those canned soups (which I’m sure aren’t as healthy). (HEY ERIN….that’s a great idea…include a recipe for crock-pot veggie soup for your cookbook. :) )

    In order to get all the food groups (except meat…I get that at dinner), I eat a “hodge-podge” of stuff during the day:
    -quick oats with cinnamon & brown sugar for breakfast
    -salad with various veggies & a cut-up piece of string cheese & vinaigrette (or soup if it’s cold out)
    -small pack of chips or pretzels (or other grain-type snack)
    -cup of lowfat yogurt
    -fiber bar
    -cup of fruit (usually pineapple)

    (PS…salad dressings would be another idea for recipes for your book.)

  19. says

    I always take leftovers, which is never a problem for me. But my husband is always looking for lunch ideas – he never has access to a refrigerator or microwave, and is easily bored. Right now he has a 4-tier tiffin container that he likes, but always seems to be taking the same variation of sandwich, salad, fruit, dessert. He likes experimenting with different flavors – he just needs to know ways to put things together that will keep him out of a rut (and out of expensive restaurants at lunch).

  20. Carol says

    I want things I can make ahead, pull out of the freezer, and pop in a lunchbox in the morning still frozen. I make stromboli with pizza dough, ham and cheese and do this. Works perfectly, and they are perfectly defrosted by lunch time. But I’m bored with just this one recipe–I need more.

  21. Morgan says

    I have two small ones and another on the way. I hate the prep time for lunch. I want something grab and go and I usually try to keep out some leftovers for that reason. I also hate the cleanup because my girls (and me) are usually ready for a nap after lunch and the dishes usually get left behind. I want easy, fast, and healthy (not prepackaged like hot dogs or spaghetti o’s). Salads are fine for me, but a 2 year old has a hard time eating such things!

  22. Emily says

    I agree with everyone else so far: for the kids, my frustration is getting lunch packed that they will actually eat (not bring home again in the lunch bag) or getting something fast that we can come home & eat! If we’re out in the mornings, it’s hard to come home & be creative on the spot. Having a meal plan has helped – I haven’t done lunches yet, but it’s helping for dinners. Maybe by the fall I’ll get it in gear to do lunches. :)

    For myself & my hubby, it’s variety. I can eat the same things every day, it doesn’t trouble me; but if I pack last night’s leftovers for DH he doesn’t want them – “we just had this” is a familiar lament. So it would be nice to stagger things by a few days, and have more ideas on meals that freeze well, or keep well.

    For us all, it’s about a fairly healthy, balanced meal that you can eat fast! The kids’ lunch at school is 20 minutes tops, and DH works in sales so he’s often called away while eating. I’d also like it to be filling, with room for additions/subtractions (like adding pickles or removing mushrooms) and something I enjoy is always good. :) Not like asking for the moon… Some of my kids’ favorite foods are highly processed (pizza rolls, hot dogs) and while it doesn’t worry me too much, I’d like to prepare fresher foods for them.

    In summary, I think preparation is key and we all need more of it! Darn it that so many parents have to work 2-3 jobs in a household to support everyone. :(

  23. Jennifer says

    My lunch dilemma is this: two of my kids are gone at school and I’m home with a 2 yr old and a baby. So, I have to pack a lunch for my olders and then feed myself and the toddler. The olders are so frustrating because it seems like I always send the same four things (main dish, grain, fruit, cookies) and I always hear complaints about how boring it is. BUT, when I try to send something different, more often than not, it comes home again. I hate packing lunches.

    Then, for myself and the toddler, it’s so much easier to grab something while we are out and about, or hit the drivethru down the street, so we eat out too much. But, hubby usually takes the leftovers and I don’t want to cook for myself only, so…unless I’ve just gone shopping and there is sandwich stuff, well, here I go again.

    Lunch is the bane of my cooking existence.

  24. Amy says

    My husband & I are boring when it comes to lunch & that is OK.
    Every day that I go to work I have 2 servings of fruit (one for a snack) and 1 serving of vegetables (carrots & celery) with hummus.

    My husband is not a fan of hummus so he has some meat instead.

    Changes to this plan are rare & few & far between. So we pack everything up on Sunday for the whole week. Then on each morning, we pull each piece & pack it.

    Luckily, our daycare provides food for our son, but I do send in a serving of fruit for him to have as an afternoon snack.

  25. says

    No matter what I bring for lunch, even if it’s leftovers of a scrumptious wonderful dinner or a wonderful homemade salad – I rarely feel like I’m eating and appreciating my food properly. There’s something lacking in presentation or atmosphere when I’m eating out of Tupperware, no matter how delicious the food is. For this reason I eat lunch out way too often – even at the cheap Mexican joint, at least they bring me a real glass for my drink and real plates/silverware.

    I also suffer from either boredom – or I go to the other extreme and spend too much time to make lunch or make too much of a mess.

  26. says

    Yes! I thought I was the only one who stared into the fridge, opened and closed it about 8 times, and then went out to buy a donut and ice coffee instead of fixing something. So I guess my biggest problem is that I lack the motivation and creativity to make a good lunch “just for me” now that I am a SAHM. Okay, I don’t always buy a donut but otherwise I usually just eat another bowl of cereal or a granola bar. Nothing exciting. Please share more posts about what you do to improve your lunchtime! :)

  27. says

    I am a SAHM and I home school, we live on one very small income. So my issue is money. I cook 3 meals a day 7 days a week for 6 people (2 adults, 2 teenagers and twin 6 year olds). My 17 year old son has FMS and food allergies. I also saw and read Food,INC. by Micael Pollen, so buying ‘cheap’ non organic food is not permissable. We follow a rotation diet, and I cook everything, and I do mean everything from scratch. Still the price on such items as spelt flour and organic chicken is killing us : ( So, trying our best to grow what we can in our garden and eat cheaper proties such as lentils and beans.

    I do have your cook book and look forword to the next one. I still can’t keep dinner under $7.50 and lunch under $6. I try to figure about $15 a day on food.

    Blessings, Beth

    • Julie says

      @Beth Danielsen,
      I also cook almost everything from scratch and am also cooking for 6 people. 2 adults and 4 kids( 8,8,6,3 yrs old) most weeks 7 days a week and 5 of the six of us have “food sensitivities”. I most days I don’t come close to the $5 dinners, but more like 7-10 dollars. Most of the time there is enough for leftovers for lunch either the next day or later in the week. Everyones situtation is different, you have to figure out what is the least amount you make a meal for and then use that for your goal. Mine will almost never be $5. I am hoping to get closer to this number since we have a pretty good sized garden this year.

  28. says

    I never know what to cook when we are home all together, especially on a Monday. It’s usually mac and cheese, from scratch or leftovers. We don’t have sandwich meat or we make tuna egg salad sandwich. Mid week, it’s leftovers to take to work for me, tuna egg salad sandwich, hubby eats at Costco 2x a week (polish sausage and a pop). Fridays we usually go to Subway, since I’m off and it’s a time for us, before he heads to work.

    It’s hard to be creative for lunches and i don’t know why. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m sure if I’d plan it better, then there would be better lunches.

  29. Kalla says

    I HATE LUNCH! IT feels like the most frustrating thing about the day. It would be easy if it was just me and the kids but most days my hubby is home and he won’t really eat leftovers. So we really end up eating pizza or mac and cheese and nuggets… it gets old… but at the same time I don’t want to be in the kitchen cooking up a big lunch!

  30. Mitzi says

    Hey! I’m just tired of the same old thing. Would love some EASY and Quick suggestions that would be good for the adults as well as our almost 10 year old son. Give me some new ideas. :)


  31. says

    I mostly enjoy bringing lunch to work, but I admit there are times when what I thought I would want when I packed it is not really what I want when it’s time to eat, and I end up feeling dissatisfied. Usually I like having lots of small portions of different things, to keep things interesting. But I don’t always succeed at that!

  32. jeanna says

    There are a lot of things that are frustrating at lunch.

    I try only to each meat with my supper so that makes it especially frustrating. If I have something yummy like pasta, I eat too much and find myself tired and sluggish. If I eat only PB&J or a HM bean burrito, I’m really too hungry and end up snacking too much while cooking supper.

    Also, I hate using plastic baggies and I can never seem to have the right takeout dish available for packing.

  33. Rani says

    My lunch frustration is….ideas…what in the world can be made for lunch that is quick and interesting?!

  34. says

    I end up taking the same boring lunch to work everyday because it’s easy and I don’t have to think on it: yogurt, granola bar, fruit.

  35. Dawn says

    The kids are easy. I can make them a simple lunch. I am the difficult one and with my son being in school in the afternoon the last couple of years (preschool last year and young five’s this year) I find I make them a quick lunch, we run out the door and so often I hit a drive through for myself.

  36. April says

    The hardest thing for me is that nothing sounds good in the morning! I am not a morning person and its hard enough to think about breakfast. I don’t usually like left overs although I will eat them and as a teacher we only get 30 minutes for lunch so it has to be quick. Throw the whole healthy thing into the mix (which I try to be) and it makes for a fustrating way to start the day!

  37. says

    My biggest problem is packing lunches that are yummy and nutritious, are varied (I don’t like to eat the same thing every day) and are QUICK to mak and pack.

    My picky, picky, picky husband doesn’t mind eating the same thing everyday though so lately I’ve been getting bread on sale and making the whole loaf into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I individually bag them and then put them back in the bread bag and stash them in the freezer. That works great because then I can just grab one out for his lunches.

  38. Julie says

    The first thing that came to my mind was that my kids won’t stay seated during lunch. They feel the need get up and go play and when they come back I have cleared their place(s) and they aren’t too happy. I always tell them that they must not be too hungry if they got up from the table before they were done. Oh, well sooner or later they will learn. I just included this as an entertaining tidbit. After my initial thought I knew what you were asking.
    You can always take your food and go on a picinic or let the kids eat outside especially in the summer and even thought it is the same food, its somehow different for them. My love to eat fruit especially watermelon outiside where they can spit the seeds and mom doesn’t say a word. Sometimes just a lot of little tidbits of food. We will do lots of little bits of fruit, maybe some veggies, maybe some pretzels all together with a smoothie. Our smooties consist of mostly, banana, mango and strawberry with a tad bit of raw baby spinach thrown in, but not enough for the kids to tell some agave nectar and water, blend and serve.
    We mostly do leftovers, with PB J, but we are usually happy with it. Occassionally, my kids will ask for hot cereal for lunch or pancakes for lunch. I am also intersted in different options, than listed. I wouldn’t say we are tired of what we eat, but to have options is great.

  39. AllieZirkle says

    Package issues & preparation woes…

    I have 4 kids (7th grade, 2nd grade, 2 yrs & 4 mos). I work full time outside of the home M-Th. My hubby works full time outside of the home during the school year as a jr high teacher. Oh and it’s hot where we live in Phoenix.

    We struggle to provide portable options that don’t go bad. Things that DON’T work include lunch meat, mayo, hard boiled eggs, cheese, cream cheese, fruit slices. The kids can’t take nuts (allergy free zone). (My struggles are circumvented by breakfasts heavy on proteins with lunches about carbs & whole fruits. Yes, ice packs are options but 1st graders lose EVERYTHING! and ice in ziplocs melt…

    I struggle to eat enough as a nursing mom. That means lots of fresh fruits, veggies, protein, etc. Lunches are exhaustive with the prep involved. (My struggles are circumvented by prep on Sunday or in the evening and assembly when at work.)

    My hubby struggles with temptations of the school volunteer room. there are too many treats around so instead of eating a healthy lunch, he’s swayed by the crap, I mean the lovely sweets provided by the parents to say thank you. :)

  40. Katherine says

    The biggest problem I have is with my husband’s lunches. I get in a rut, and always default to making him sandwiches, because he doesn’t have access to a microwave. Sadly, one day he said, “Honey, if I have to eat one more cold sandwich for lunch I am going to throw up!”. He meant it in love, but I just don’t know what else to make that is interesting and grown-up man friendly!

  41. karen l says

    I HATE cold bread sandwiches. I work outside the home part time as a substitute teacher often at different schools and so toasting bread for sandwiches or reheating food isn’t always an option. I struggle to find things that are quick for me to eat when I am at home too. My two girls ages 4 and 2 love PBJ and other quick food. I often feed them and then sit down with them. My oldest one always wants to know what mommy is going to eat. I never know. I dread going to the frig and seeing left overs from the night before. And yet I don’t have the energy to create something new and delish. I would love a quick, easy, and cheap way to enjoy lunch again.

  42. sarah says

    I hate lunchmeat sandwiches and salads never fill me up. I’ve been eating alot of pita bread with hummus and fruit but that’s not enough and I’m starving by the time I get home.

  43. Amanda says

    Wow! I feel much better after reading all of the comments. I really thought I was the only one in a lunch rut. I used to work and got these great subsidized lunches at my corporation. You couldn’t beat the variety or the price.

    When I became a WAHM coming up with ideas was so frustrating. My husband brings the leftovers to work and he likes it and is used to it. But the kids and I are in a rut. PB&J, Grilled Cheese and Cottage Cheese. Many days I don’t eat lunch because I can’t be bothered. Which really isn’t good.

    I’d love some ideas!

  44. Larissa says

    I end up taking leftovers most of the time…and I’m ok with that. I also have a stash in the freezer of single serve soups and stews that I make every one in a while for those no leftover days. Cheese, crackers, fruit and veggies are also good for those non-inspired days.
    My hubby eats out often as he travels for work and things get too warm or smushed in the vehicle. Every once in a while he goes on a packed lunch binge…when he starts to think about wasted money…but then goes back to buying lunch. Hmmm…

    Our son gets fed at daycare so that’s ok…my dilema will be when he starts school in the fall and we have to start packing food for him. So many restrictions on what is allowed because of other children’s allergies as well as how it is packaged for the playground and disposability. Crazy that in this “green” aware culture school requires sandwich bags etc. so that they aren’t responsible for the reusable containers…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *