If you’re sick of sandwiches for lunch but don’t have a microwave, DIY adult lunchables are your best bet. You won’t get sick of them because it’s easy to change up different fruits with the season or to grab a new type of cheese at the supermarket. Having a cheese plate for lunch is the ultimate no cook meal prep you can do in less than 10 minutes. Sometimes you want a no cook lunch for work but are sick of salads. Enter in fancy cheese plates for lunch!
This is a simple no heat lunch that is perfect for eating at your desk. A great thing about cheese plates for lunch is they can help with portion control. You can easily portion out the crackers and cheese and bulk up the nuts, fruits and veggies. My favorite part is that I can graze on a bunch of different flavors and textures. Plus, it gives me a reason to try new cheeses, meats, crackers or fruits.
No doubt that cheese plates can be a stunning array of colors and textures. Additionally, they can be intimidating because there are so many different types of cheeses and meats. Fortunately, there is no right way or wrong way to make a cheese plate but I can offer a few pointers to get your started on the path of cheese.
Why Pack an Adult Lunchable?
A lot of times I get stuck in a rut of making the same or similar foods and need to change it up. DIY adult lunchables are a unique meal prep option to change up your lunchtime routine. When you meal prep a cheese plate, you’re more than likely going to have something a little different each time.
A big real why I started doing this is because I love cheese. Trying new flavors, textures and milk types makes my day. If this is news to you, Hi. My name is Sam and I talk about cheese way too much. But for real, this is a way to eat more cheese and branch out of your comfort zone. No you don’t need to spend $50/oz on cheese. But since you only need a small amount, you can splurge a little bit.
I’m a big fan of grazing and eating a little bit of everything. I’m the type of person that likes to order a bunch of appetizers at a new restaurant and try a little bit of each. This is essentially what I’m doing with a cheese plate. A little bit of sharp cheddar, salami and dried mango is one of my favorite combos.
Sometimes I’m lazy and want a delicious and easy cold lunch option. This is the fastest meal prep option and as a bonus, it’s a no cook option. Chop up some cheese and fruit and pack it up for a fancy desk cheese plate for lunch tomorrow.
The best reason to have a mini charcuterie plate for lunch? All your super jealous coworkers watching you have a fancy lunch.
Tips, Tricks and Substitutions
How much of each ingredient do you need? Not a lot. A good rule of thumb is to use roughly a serving of that ingredient. For cheese I usually do about an ounce and cut it up into small cubes or a small portion of a creamier cheese.
What types of things should you avoid? Really fresh cheeses like a fresh mozzarella, burrata or anything in a brine like feta. If you have your heart set on it, store it separately. But these can be messy to eat at your desk with your hands.
Also avoid storing wet veggies (like carrots or cucumbers) directly next to crackers. It will result in everything being soggy.
You can include a juicy peach in August with your lunch, but I’d avoid cutting it up and storing it with your cheese plate. Same things with watermelon or fresh pineapple. Store it on the side.
Pistachios are a great source of protein, salt and crunch to any cheese plate. However, they can be a pain to shell when you’re grazing on other things and I’d recommend the already shelled pistachios or storing them separately.
Pickles and olives are a great salty/vinegary addition to any cheese plate but are best stored separately so their brine doesn’t flavor the other ingredients.
Packing and Storage
What kind of containers do you use? I have 3.5 cup glass containers with a snap-seal that I like to use. Another option is using a container that has dividers to keep things separated. Anything that allows you to store the crackers away from moisture rich veggies should work.
How long do store DIY adult lunchables? I usually pack mine a day or two in advance so they last two to three days. Longer than that and certain fruits may not last and crackers may get soggy. If you’re packing cheese plates for a few days, pack the crackers the morning of or on the side. However, you can do a lot of prep work and cut up cheese and meats once for the week and add in the extras the night before.
Do you have to pack everything together? Nope! I like to because it is less dishes to use and it takes up less space in my lunch bag. But sometimes I want an apple on the side or I have a lot of cucumber to use up. However, if you find that your crackers are always soggy, maybe you should pack the cucumbers or crackers separately.
What order should you pack things? This really depends on how much you’re packing and what type of container you’re using. But I usually start with the meat and cheese together in the center so that the crackers/pita can be on one side, away from any wet fruits or veggies. I also always pack nuts and dried fruit last because they are good fillers.
How do you know what goes together? I have a general understanding of the basic types of cheese and what goes together so I usually just wing it. If cheese is very intimidating, I’d start simple with cheeses you’ve heard of and expand your horizon. Start with a sharp cheddar, cranberry goat cheese or even parmigiano reggiano. Think about what might go with those flavors (sharp cheddar and mango, cranberry goat cheese and walnuts or parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto). Think about flavors that compliment each other and explore what works. If you’re not sure, Google it or ask your cheese counter staff.
Where do you find small portions of cheese? Whole Foods usually has a section of small portions of different cheeses. Usually odds and ends that they had leftover. It’s a great way to check out a new cheese without committing to a big portion or price tag. I also use leftovers from my own fridge, although I recognize that maybe not everyone has six different types of cheese in their fridge at home. Another option is to go to a farmers market to see what’s available locally. They typically have samples to try which can be helpful. At the farmers market they typically will have suggestions of what it will go well with.
Don’t have a Whole Foods, six cheeses in or your fridge or a local market? Regular grocery stores should still have a cheese section for you to experiment with. It doesn’t need to be local, artisan cheese to taste good to you.
What kind of cheeses should do you use? I like to pick one cheese and then pick another cheese that is a different flavor/texture or milk type. If you have two types of cheeses that are very similar, you might as well be eating the same cheese. You want them to stand out against each other. By flavor I mean spicy/garlic and herb/cranberry. By texture I mean creamy (like a chevre or brie) compared to an aged gouda (crumbly and drier). And finally by different type of milk I mean cow/buffalo/sheep/goat. A goat cheddar is going to be tangier than a cow cheddar.
How many cheeses do you use? I usually use one or two different types of cheeses. Any more than two cheeses can be too much for one person for one meal. Frequently, I have a lot of odds and ends of cheeses to use up, so this is a good way to make sure I’m not being wasteful.
What kind of meats do you use? I usually go for salami, pepperoni, speck, prosciutto or chorizo. You can find these types of cured meats in a range of flavors (sweet or spicy) and they add a nice smoke/meat/salt addition to your cheese plate. I’d make sure you like eating it cold/room temperature because otherwise you’ll need to pack it separately to heat it up. Summer sausage is also a great addition.
Fruits and Desserts
Do you use fresh or dried fruits? It depends on what is in season. In the winter, I use a lot more dried fruits because my options are limited for fresh fruit. But if I have the choice, I use a combination. I like the amount of things you can get in a dried variety (like figs, apricots, mangos, pineapple etc) as well as their different textures. However, nothing beats fresh raspberries in the summer. I love fresh berries or grapes with dried mango or apricot.
Can you add dessert/something sweet? Yes! If you have a sweet tooth and want to add a few pieces of dark chocolate or chocolate covered nuts or fruit that will go well with a lot of cheeses.
1) Start with the cheese
- 2 types of cheese
- Mix different textures (creamy, semi-firm, firm, aged)
- Use different milks (cow, buffalo, sheep, goat)
- Mix different flavors (garlic and herb, cranberry, smoke
2) Next pick out a type of carb to go with it
- Crackers (neutral flavors so you can taste the cheese)
- Baguetta (goes well with creamy cheeses)
- Pita chips (goes well with creamy cheeses)
- Soft pita
3) Pick out 2 types of protein
- salami/prosciutto/pepperoni (something cured and salty or spicy) or ham/turkey
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
- Eggs (hard boiled eggs)
- Pick something with a crunch that you can eat without a dip
- If very moist, pack separately or away from the crackers/baguette/pita
6) Optional - Salty
- Pickled veggies
7) Optional - Dessert
- Chocolate covered cherries/almonds/fruit/nuts or a piece of chocolate
If you find a cheese and you’re not sure what to do with it you can either search for that specific cheese (Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar) or the type of cheese (aged/sharp cheddar) and you should get some ideas.
Hopefully this inspires you to try something new for lunch. It’s a great way to try new ingredients. Depending on your diet needs you could easily make this low carb or keto with more meat, cheese and veggies. If you’re a vegetarian, you could leave out the meat and add in more nuts and in season fruits. I encourage you to explore your local farmers markets or farm stands for things in season and locally produced. You never know when you’ll find a new type of cheese to enjoy.
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DIY Adult Lunchables
- 1 ounce each of the 2 different types of cheese
- ¼ cup crackers
- 1 ounce meat
- ¼ cup shelled and roasted nuts
- ⅓ cup fresh vegetables
- 2 tablespoons dried fruit
- ⅓ cup fresh fruit
- ¼ cup pickles optional
- 1 tablespoon dark chocolate optional
- Cut up any firm cheese into cubes, cut up any large pieces of fruit and vegetables.
- Start assembling cheese plate in a food storage container by placing the cheese and meats in the center of the container.
- On one side of the cheese and meats add the crackers, nuts and dried fruit.
- On the other side of the cheese and meats add the veggies and fresh fruit.
- Avoid any cheeses with a brine as they will make everything soggy. You can use them but store separately.
- Store crackers away from wet fruit and vegetables.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
- This is a rough recipe for one cheese plate for one person for lunch. Scale up or make changes as you see fit.
Originally posted May 15, 2019. Republished with new tips, tricks and a recipe on December 9, 2019.