When I was working I was more than a little addicted to Tesco's chicken pasta salad with honey and mustard dressing, eating it several times a week if I was in the UK. In the Middle East stuck for quick and easy lunches that would keep even when the coolbox ice had melted during longer desert trips I discovered John West tuna snack lunches that need no refrigeration (we actually have a few of these in the bilge as emergency rations as they keep for years). Then I realised I could easily make these myself cheaper and probably more healthily. If we are sailing I often dish these up into small lock'n lock type boxes as soon as I've made it then store in the fridge/coolbox until required. That way each member of the crew has their own salad "bowl" and the meal is ready when they want it, great on longer passages when watches don't always coincide with usual meal times.
The key is to cook extra pasta or rice when preparing an evening meal so it is cold ready for making lunches over the next couple of days. You need less rice or pasta per person for a lunch than you'd cook for an evening meal, I usually allow one main meal portion per two lunch salads. After that it is a case of adding things from the store cupboard or fridge:
1. Chicken with Honey and Mustard dressing
Add shredded cooked chicken, a tin of sweet corn (drained) and some finely diced red pepper. Make up a dressing with mayo, dijon mustard and a teaspoonful of honey, thin with yoghurt or milk if needed and season with ground black pepper and some salt to taste then stir through the salad ingredients.
2. Beetroot and Pulpo
Vac packed beetroot chopped into small dice, chopped fresh tomato, tin of pulpo/octopus and a tin of sweetcorn (drain both tins first), dress with a mayo-yoghurt mix and sprinkle with chopped herbs eg basil
3. Tuna Salad
Tinned tuna (drained), a handful of cooked peas, chopped green pepper or thinly sliced courgette, some olives, season with freshly ground black pepper and dress with mayo or french dressing
4. Ham and Radish
Any cooked sliced meat even salami or chorizio will do for this one chopped up into slithers. Add slices of radish, tomato and finely diced green pepper. Make a dressing from mayo thinned with a bit of yoghurt and a dash of chilli powder and stir through.
5. Blue Cheese and Egg
Hard boil one egg per person and steam some cauliflower florets over the pan, then cool both. Add tin of sweetcorn (drained), cauliflower florets and chopped tomato to the pasta or rice base, season. Crumble plenty of blue cheese into some mayo and stir well then mix into the salad lightly. Top with quarters of egg.
To ring the changes add nuts like cashews or walnuts or some cooked pulses such as creamy black eyed beans or green lentils, try smoked salmon instead of chicken replacing the honey and mustard in the dressing with horseradish, substitute sweetcorn and/or tomato with mushrooms, lettuce or lightly steamed green beans. The options are endless, the crew won't get bored and it is so easy to make in advance.