Meal preps usually need to be kept in a fridge or need a microwave to heat them up, but what if you don’t have either of these at work? Do not worry at all, because, with these tips, you can still meal prep and keep your food fresh too.
I always advocate bringing your own lunch to work rather than buying it every day. When you add up the amount you save over a month and a year the numbers speak for themselves. Not to mention the healthier you will feel having prepared something fresh and nutritious.
I have lots of ideas in this article for meals that will stay fresh without the fridge, but the most important thing to remember is to make sure the food stays sealed. No matter how good your recipe is, and how well it’s prepared. If it’s been exposed to air for too long, it will spoil and could be dangerous to eat.
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Eight rules to follow when making your meal preps
The number one thing that you need to be careful of is food poisoning.
Preparing and storing are super important. Keep to these rules to stay safe.
- Wash your hands and the cooking area before preparing any food.
- Prep vegetables and fruits in one go and then wash away any dirt or residue that could contaminate the cooked food.
- Prepare food in order. Prepare the veg then the meat.
- If you’re prepping meat, make sure to trim off any fat and wash it with cold water. Let any excess water drip away before storing it in the fridge or freezer.
- Wrap the meat you are preparing ahead in containers or jars. The important thing is to make sure that it is airtight to prevent bacterial growth.
- Always cook your food to the correct temperature.
- Store and label (contents and date) all cooked meat, eggs and leftovers in the fridge.
- Throw away any food that is mouldy or smells off.
How long can food be left at room temperature?
According to the FDA, it is not safe to eat food that’s been left at room temperature for two hours or more. After that, food enters what is called the “danger zone” which is when the temperature reaches between 40 and 140 degrees F. At that point, food can start to develop harmful bacteria and will be unsafe to consume.
The best way to store your food so it stays super-fresh
After spending the time to meal prep your food in advance the last thing you want is to have it wasted. So how can you meal prep without your food going bad?
Refrigerate overnight and remove at the last minute
Make sure your food is as cold as possible before you take it to work. Store it in the fridge until the last possible moment before transferring it to your insulated container. If you pick the right lunch box you can put it straight in the box.
If you can, use glass containers to store your meal preps. Glass doesn’t react with the food and it’s super simple to clean. If you have no choice in the matter though, go for a great set of plastic or silicone prep containers.
Use an insulated container with an ice pack to store your food once you take it out of the refrigerator.
This is the most important part. If you can’t put your meal in a fridge at your workplace you need to keep it as cold as possible so that it is safe to consume. The great news is that an insulated container and an ice pack will at least double the storage time.
If you are not sure whether your lunch is safe to eat, you could always check it hasn’t reached the danger zone with a thermometer. (above 8°C/46°F).
If you are going to reheat your food at work make sure you do it thoroughly
If you are not eating your food cold, it goes without saying that you should always be careful to reheat your food thoroughly in a microwave, especially if your food contains rice.
4 best lunch boxes that keep food cold
Durable Insulated Lunch Box Tote Reusable Cooler Bag 25% Larger Greater Storage
This one comes in several colours and is great for men too.
Insulated Lunch Bag Tote Bag for Women
I love the design on this one. It looks like a handbag.
Pioneer Vacuum Insulated Lunch Box
This one will keep your food warm as well as cold.
Kordear Insulated Lunch Bag – Lunch Tote Bag
This one is my favourite because you can simply transfer your glass or plastic meal prep container into this from the fridge. Perfect!
If you need to keep your food cold for longer simply add a few ice packs.
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10 meal prep lunch recipes your can store without a fridge
Here are my top picks for lunch box meal preps that you can eat cold. Check out my Pinterest board here. Don’t forget to click save on your favourites!
Vegan Spring Roll Bowls
I’m not vegan, but this idea is delicious even so. Swap the meat for tofu and you have the perfect vegan meal. The tofu is ridiculously easy to prepare, just toss it in some soy sauce and bake for 5-10 minutes.
Meal Prep Caprese Chicken Quinoa Bowls
Quinoa is a very nutritious ingredient that you simply boil like rice, without the food safety concerns that rice has.
Thai Chopped Chicken Salad
A chicken salad with a Thai flavour from peanuts and limes and added chilli spice. This is a lunch to look forward to!
Coconut Mango Chicken Meal Prep Bowls
I had to include this idea because I love avocado and the dish is so colourful too. The mango marinade gives it a gorgeous summery flavour.
Easy Turkey Pinwheels
Ditch the boring sandwiches for these turkey pinwheels. If you don’t have turkey or prefer a vegetarian option, these pinwheels will work just as well with something else.
Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken
The buffalo chicken preps in about 20 minutes in an instant pot while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
High Protein Low Carb Shrimp Ceviche
I had to include a seafood option in this list because I just love shrimps/prawns whatever you wish to call them!
Spicy Slaw Bowls with Shrimp & Edamame
And another one with shrimp plus my favourite, avocado, make a great combination.
Low Carb Big Mac Salad Jars
Want the big mac experience without the carbs? Here’s your answer. These use a mason jar which might not fit in your lunch box, but these would work just as well in a rectangular glass bowl.
Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls
This one screams healthiness, doesn’t it? Beautiful colours and flavours make for a delicious lunch.