If and when you return to in-office work, you’re presented with two possibilities: spend half your salary grabbing lunch near the office, or bring a lunch from home. The latter can be fun—satisfying, budget-friendly meal prep! Groovy lunch boxes!—but it requires a degree of planning. Enter the mighty office sandwich, a highly portable, satisfying lunchtime entree that doesn’t require firing up your stove. Forget about the wimpy peanut butter sandwiches of your youth: With a few upgrades, your office sandwich can outshine whatever your coworkers are toting in their Tupperware.
Plan ahead to store your ingredients at the office
Think back to your junior high days. Remember brown-bagging it? Remember carefully assembling a sandwich only to accidentally squish it sometime between third and fourth period? The worst, man. Fortunately, if your office has a communal fridge, you can plan ahead and avoid Squished Sandwich Syndrome.
Just haul your ingredients into the office on a Monday—loaf of bread, deli meats and cheeses, giardiniera if you’re feeling wild—and you can throw together feats of sandwich artistry all week long. Not the most groundbreaking tip, we know—but you’d be shocked by how much more you enjoy your commute when you don’t have to worry about manhandling two flimsy slices of whole wheat.
Embrace the art of quick pickling
We’ve sung the praises of quick-pickled red onions before. They add the perfect amount of acidic zing to a meaty, bready sandwich, brightening up the thing like you wouldn’t believe. Of course, quick pickling isn’t limited to onions. You can pickle pretty much anything, from green beans to ginger. One taste of that briny brightness and you’ll wonder how you ever sandwiched without it.
One more thing: Properly quick-pickled ingredients can be stored in the office fridge for up to two months. We recommend writing your name on the jar so Stan from Facilities doesn’t try to cop a spoonful. We see you, Stan.
Please, I beg you: Toast your bread
Does your office kitchen have a toaster? If not, does your office kitchen have a small space which could, hypothetically, house a toaster? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes,” you need to be toasting your bread. Of course, not all bread is conducive to toastage—you can pretty well forget about an evenly toasted hoagie roll unless you’re using a toaster oven—but toasting is the fastest way to upgrade a standard loaf of grocery store sandwich bread. It elevates an ordinary sandwich to the level of a golf course club sandwich. The kind with the little toothpick through the middle. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Add fruit to sweet and savory sandwiches
Obviously, peanut butter and banana is the greatest thing to happen to sandwiches since sliced bread. But your savory sandwiches can benefit from fruit, too. Throwing together a chicken salad or crisp veggie sandwich? Layer on the apples and grapes. Sticking some brie between bread? Pickled clementines could be just what the doctor ordered. Don’t be afraid to get weird with it.
Get funky in the bread aisle
There’s a lot to be said for a classic whole wheat sandwich loaf—but there’s also an entire world of bread waiting to serve as your bologna vessel. Consider a flaky croissant. A puffy, doughy pita. A homemade focaccia dotted with juicy roasted tomatoes. Switch up your bread options to take your lunch from “meh” to “mehhh-velous.” Marvelous. It’ll be marvelous.
Focus on crunch
A truly transcendent sandwich experience relies on texture, but you don’t have to stress yourself out to achieve a nice balance. If you’re feeling fancy, crisp veggies like cucumber and onion can achieve a bit of textural zsa-zsa-zsu, but you’re also just as well off layering some crunchy potato chips on top of your deli meats and calling it a day. Individual snack-sized chip bags are especially helpful in this scenario. Again, it’s all about an easy commute.
Be smart about sandwich assembly
We recommend storing bulk sandwich ingredients in the office, but that’s not possible for everyone. Maybe you work out of a coworking space; maybe you’re battling an unabashed office bread thief. Either way, you might be forced to bring new sandwich ingredients to the office every day. In that case, do yourself a favor and separate your sandwich ingredients in a hard-sided bento box.
A big enough box will allow you to separate individual components—bread, cheese, meat toppings—into their own compartments. That helps stave off any in-transit mushiness. For maximum freshness, you can also wrap components in wax paper before you pack them.
Fancify your condiments
Here at The Takeout, we have a frankly startling archive of easy homemade sauces. We got cilantro ranch. We got easy aioli. We got magical garbage pesto. Buckle up, friends: Whether you liven up your sauce with citrus zest, Sriracha, or zingy chipotle peppers, get ready to catapult your sandwich to the Flavor Zone.
Double—or triple—the protein
The next time you swing through the grocery store, check the nutrition facts on the back of a lunch meat container. The average serving size is two ounces, which is positively Dickensian as far as office sandwiches go. You’re a grown-ass human being, and your nutritional needs go far beyond a few wimpy slices of deli turkey. If you really want to beef up your office sandwich, try doubling (or tripling) the amount of protein recommended on the nutrition label. Stack it up, baby. Stack it up.