Working from home means no commute, but it also (usually) means no free food. You can't grab a donut from the break room when you work from home, and there's no "we're making a lunch order; do you want anything?"
Of course, working from home also means you don't have to risk lunchbox interference in the refrigerator or a mysterious Tupperware that's been unclaimed for so long it's likely radioactive.
So what do remote workers eat for lunch every day? I asked them—here's what I heard.
Dear WFH friends, please eat lunch
Creating boundaries when your home becomes your office is tricky, and some of our remote-working-peers don't set aside time for a mid-day meal. A study from Skynova revealed that 12.5% of remote workers skip lunch entirely, and around half eat lunch during meetings a few times a week.
When I first asked what people ate for lunch, Whitney Rudeseal Peet simply responded, "What's lunch? 😅"
What's lunch? 😅— Whitney Rudeseal Peet 📚🏳️🌈 (@whitneyrpeet) October 31, 2022
A huge group of people also use their lunch breaks for something other than eating, at least in part. 72% of remote workers use the time for other activities like walking, cleaning, watching TV, and working out.
13 WFH lunch ideas to keep your days interesting
Who's ready to get hungry? Folks shared tons of easy work from home lunch ideas, and I've combined them into 13 popular categories. Read on if you want to branch out to a new lunch category or need a shake-up of your current go-to.
I love having leftovers for lunch—it doesn't get better than fast and cheap. I'm not alone, either. Jorge from Zapier shared:
"We plan our meals for the week and specifically make leftovers to serve as lunch a couple of days after we've had something for dinner. So, for example, Monday's dinner would be lunch on Wednesday or Thursday, Tuesday's for Thursday or Friday, etc."
If you want to join the leftover lunch club, be sure you know how long leftovers last. Unless you like to live on the wild side.
2. Sandwiches and toasts
Sandwiches and toasts are easy to throw together with whatever you have around the house (as long as there's bread on hand), since there are so many possible combinations.
Gregg Blanchard likes a ham and cheese sandwich that he can take with him on a stroll.
The classic ham and cheese sandwich. Also because it's portable and I like to use lunch time to wander around outside.— Gregg Blanchard (@greggblanchard) November 1, 2022
Jaina Mistry is also a sandwich supporter who likes tuna salad, smoked salmon and cottage cheese, cheese and pickles, or the classic peanut butter and jelly.
Usually leftovers! But also...— Jaina Mistry (@jainamistry) October 31, 2022
- Scrambled eggs + toast
- Tuna salad in many ways. Whatever looks good and is in the fridge/pantry
- Smoked salmon + cottage cheese on toast
- PB&J if i need something super quick
- Cheese and pickle sandwich
- Salad + some boiled eggs
The combinations are almost endless, so try a few ingredients on for size and see what sticks.
3. Stir fry
Stir fry is another WFH lunch that you can use as a template with unending possibilities. You make the rules about what makes it into your stir fry, so it's a creative challenge to see what you can whip up. And that's exactly why Kitty Bates likes stir fries: they're a quick (and tasty) way to work with what you have.
Any kind of stir-fry combo, really quick to cook and is so easy to use a variety of food up!— Kitty | Email and Content (@kittydoesemail) November 1, 2022
Salads can be tough because they need to be fresher than some of the other options on this list, but they're yet another easy-to-customize option (and you can prep salads for the whole week). Renee from Zapier likes salads because they change seasonally, so it keeps things changing.
Bonus idea from Renee: bento boxes. You can use some of the same ingredients you'd have in a salad (nuts, veggies, fruit, protein), but deconstruct them.
5. Quick noodles
Noodles are a great base for whatever you're in the mood for. One of Claire Beveridge's favorite lunches is peanut noodles with chili oil topped with a fried egg. Simple but flavorful!
omg so many... peanut noodles w/chilli oil + fried egg, insanely massive sandwiches, dhal, tuna salad (the best kinda salad!), baked potato, or whatever didn't get eaten the night before.— Claire Beveridge (@CBeveridge) October 31, 2022
6. Breakfast food
My latest lunch obsession is…breakfast. Specifically, oatmeal. Especially on a cold day, I love a warm bowl of cinnamon spiced oatmeal with a big spoonful of peanut butter. If you want to get fancy with your oatmeal flavors, add toppings like fruits, nuts, seeds, or chocolate chips (you make the rules).
Every Sunday, I make a big batch of quick oats + brown sugar + spices that I put back into the oatmeal canister. When I'm ready to eat, I shake out my portion of oats, add oat milk, microwave, and enjoy.
7. Smoothies or soups
In the summer, I trade in oatmeal for smoothies. If you're a big kid like me, they're a great way to sneak more spinach into your day. Kristina from Zapier does something similar but with soups:
"If you live somewhere with hot summers and have a smoothie blender, Spanish cold soups (gazpacho, salmorejo, ajoblanco) are super quick and refreshing. The key is to put about 10 times the amount of olive oil than what seems like enough."
8. Snack plates
One of the most popular WFH lunch idea responses I saw was snack plates. Instead of a single meal item, people like to pair smaller items together. Here's what Danielle from Zapier was eating the day we asked:
Fran, also from Zapier, has wonderfully named this style of lunching a "raccoon charcuterie board."
Restaurant delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash are useful if you want to eat out but don't have time to step away from work. Some companies even offer food delivery credits to remote employees since they can't enjoy the occasional office potluck or Friday donut.
Spencer Carli told me: "My company sent new remote employees a $75 DoorDash credit so we could order lunch during orientation week. It was a nice welcome and treat during meetings."
Zapier teammates also get a monthly meetup budget, which they can use toward virtual lunch deliveries with their coworkers.
10. Eating out
If you have a flexible enough schedule, it can be nice to leave the house for lunch. Stacie from Zapier built lunch out into her budget because it was important enough to her quality of life. And based on her pictures, I can see why.
11. Meal kits or prep services
Meal delivery kits or prep services strike a balance between home-cooked and convenience. Alexis from Zapier shared:
"I used to get Splendid Spoon when the company I worked for would pay for it (because they had in-office lunch if you were in the office), and it was a nice way to eat lunch. They're mostly grain + bean + sauce + veggie bowls, and sometimes I'll make my own version of one for lunch or to freeze."
Lots of other Zapier folks use meal kits too:
Joel uses Zilla Meals to enjoy quick reheat-to-eat meals since he spends his lunch break at the gym.
Elise uses CookUnity, which delivers meals fresh and chilled, not frozen (and, Elise notes, "they’re hand-delivered, so it's in a bag they reuse as opposed to shipping packaging").
"My wife and I have finally come to terms with the fact that neither of us are good about prioritizing cooking, and also thanks to YNAB we were able to figure out that this winds up being cheaper than the abandoned groceries + lots of takeout life we were living before!"
12. Frozen meals
Having a mix of frozen meals, burritos, or appetizers is great for the days when you need something a little faster or you want more flavor than you can create quickly at home. Ben from Zapier said:
"I keep a variety of frozen meals handy (specifically some unique ones that have bold/spicy flavor), and make a spontaneous selection based on what I'm craving (and have available)."
Pro tip: Trader Joe's is your best friend.
13. Home-cooked meals
Finally, the OG lunch: full home-cooked meals.
Some people savor time away from the computer with a freshly cooked meal each day for lunch. Max from Zapier gets to eat a daily fresh batch of the same food he used to pack for the office.
And Steph from Zapier is lucky enough to have a partner who takes care of that home-cooked meal.
If you want to go home-cooked but don't have the time, lean on your Instant Pot.
Balance is important as a remote employee
Our personal and professional lives can blend together when we work from home, but keeping a balance is essential. Part of that balance means taking the time to eat a lunch that brings you joy—whatever that means for you.