On an ideal day, the idea of a packed lunch doesn’t cross my head. I’m free to spend plenty of time pondering what to cook for lunch – a stew that takes 2 hours to simmer? Sure. A pie that needs 45 minutes in the oven? Okay!

But in reality, those slow days are way less common than the manic, busy ones. Sometimes you need a packed lunch. Of course, when you think of a packed lunch, one of the first things that comes to mind is a sandwich. Ah yes, the humble sandwich: so easy to prepare, so portable.

But to that I say: wait. What about those other easy, portable options out there? With just a little bit of planning, your packed lunches have the potential to be so much more interesting. Let your lunch live out its prepare-ahead dreams with these quick, delicious, and portable packed lunches.

1. Tortellini

Packed lunch

Photo courtesy of @mealmakeovermoms on flickr.com

These are (literally) packed with flavour, which cuts down on the time you have to take seasoning them. They are also very versatile – you can add them to soups, salads, or as the base for a pasta dish. Put this tortellini soup in a properly sealed container, and you have a perfect packed lunch in 10 minutes.

2. Mason Jar Salad

Packed lunch

Photo by Bernard Wen

Mason jar salads are healthy, quick, and pretty too, which makes them a great alternative packed lunch option. All of these options take 10 minutes or less – just remember, as Stephanie states in the recipe, keep the dressing at the bottom and away from the leafy greens to stop the salad from getting soggy.

3. Mason Jar Sushi

Packed lunch

Photo by Gabby Phi

Keeping with the mason jar theme, this single-serve sushi recipe has all the goodness of a sushi roll sealed in a handy little bottle. While it does take a little more prep time (20 minutes), if you do this the night before, it takes next to no time to throw together the next day.

4. Ramen in a Jar

Packed lunch

Photo by Brandon Slover

A final jar recipe idea is this brilliant, refreshing take on the student classic, instant noodles. These only take 15 minutes in total to make, but with all of the spices and extra pieces you can add, it’s a serious upgrade from your typical cup noodles.

5. Couscous

Packed lunch

Photo by Summer Si

If the cooking time required for rice is too much for you, couscous is a great alternative. This super simple vegetarian couscous recipe is quick to make and highly adaptable.

6. Wraps

Packed lunch

Photo by Maxine Mendoza

Wraps are both quick and portable, making them one of the best packed lunch ideas there are. If you want a few different options, check out this list of super quick wrap ideas – there’s bound to be one that takes your fancy.

7. Vegan Cucumber Salad

Packed lunch

Photo by Steven Shaltiel

This is especially great for when you want a light, refreshing, lunch – and it’s super healthy too. If you want a really quick recipe, this one only takes 5 minutes.