Let’s face it: we all know that cooking lunch is less expensive (and healthier) than purchasing lunch, but we’re all busy and don’t want to eat boring dishes. So, where do we go from here?
It gives us more possibilities than you may believe. All of these cheap lunch ideas come together in under 20 minutes and generate enough food for a week’s worth of lunches. Enjoy them at home or pack them to bring to work.
We picked together our favourite healthy meals that won’t break the bank to make lunches enjoyable and affordable. Furthermore, many of them employ comparable components, so you’ll be able to enjoy them using things you already have on hand.
1. Salad in a Jar
Cut up a variety of fresh vegetables, such as lettuce, peppers, maize, tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli. Then put them together to make a week’s worth of jar salads. To keep your lunches interesting throughout the week, use the same combo every day or change it. To make your salads more full, add cheese, almonds, hard boiled eggs, beans, and meats. This is a terrific way to use up all of your fridge leftovers, so get creative with what you have on hand.
Put your salad dressing near the bottom of the jar to protect your salads from getting soggy. Then add the hard and soft vegetables, meats, and salad greens. Keep bread crumbs, corn chips, and other toppings in a separate container to prevent them from becoming soggy.
Simple mason jar salad recipe
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp honey
• 1 squeeze lime juice
• salt and pepper
• 2 cups baby spinach
• 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
• 1/4 cup chickpeas
• 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
• 1 tsp minced red onion
• 1/3 cup cooked quinoa
• 1/2 cup cubed roasted root vegetables (example: beetroot, yam, sweet potato, radish, turnips)
• 2 tbsp nuts, raisins or seeds
• 1/2 cup lettuce
1. Make the dressing first then put it in the bottom of a large mason jar.
2. Lay down the spinach, then layer on the carrots, chickpeas, cucumber, red onion, quinoa, root vegetables, mixed nuts, dried fruit and lettuce.
3. Seal the jar with a lid and refrigerate until you’re ready to enjoy it.
4. Right before you eat your salad, you can either shake the closed jar to mix all of the ingredients and eat the salad right from the jar. Or you can dump the salad into a bowl, mix and enjoy.
2. Wholesome Sandwiches
Tired of eating the same old bread every day? Change things up by substituting a healthful sandwich for your typical toast bread. Simply spread on your favourite sauces, load on some meat, then top with fresh vegetables and herbs. Things like chicken breasts and boiled eggs may be made ahead of time to save time in the kitchen.
Do you prefer a vegetarian option? Then try scrambled cottage cheese or a pimento cheese sandwich spread.
Avocado, Tomato & Chicken Sandwich Recipe
• 2 slices multigrain bread
• ¼ ripe avocado
• 3 ounces cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced
• 2 slices tomato
• Toast bread. Mash avocado with a fork and spread onto one piece of toast. Top with chicken, tomato and the second piece of toast.
• If you don’t have cooked chicken, you can poach it to use in a recipe. Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size. (Eight ounces raw boneless, skinless chicken breast yields about 1 cup sliced, diced or shredded cooked chicken.)
3. Burrito Bowls
One of my favourite restaurant copycat foods to prepare at home is homemade burrito bowls. They’re fresh, healthful, personalised, and cost-effective. Prepare a variety of tortilla components, including rice, beans, chicken or tofu, and chopped vegetables. Divide them into many small containers to make individual burrito bowls.
Add salsa, guacamole, sour cream, ranch dressing, cilantro, or whatever else you like to each one. They’re gluten-free and have less carbohydrates than a typical burrito wrap.
Vegetarian Burrito Bowl Recipe
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup brown rice
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 15.5-oz. cans black beans, drained, rinsed
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, diced
• 2 tablespoons lime juice
• 1 ½ cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen, thawed if frozen
• 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
• Sour cream, shredded Cheddar, cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, chopped pickled jalapeños, and tortilla chips, optional
• In a saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
• Warm remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1/2 cup water, beans, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once or twice. Season lightly with salt.
• Combine avocados and lime juice in a medium bowl. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Top with bean mixture, corn, tomatoes and avocados. Serve with garnishes and chips on the side, if desired
4. Quinoa Salad
Quinoa Salad is gluten-free and vegan. Prepare quinoa according to the package guidelines. Then combine it with chopped vegetables, beans, nuts, cheese, spices, herbs, and dressing to make a colourful and healthy salad that will keep you going all day. Begin with a recipe or create your own up as you go. You really can’t go wrong with this one as long as you stick to ingredients you enjoy.
Vegan Quinoa Salad Recipe
• 2 cups cooked quinoa (red or white quinoa)
• 1 can 500ml black beans, rinsed and drained
• ½ cup red onions chopped
• ½ cup red pepper chopped
• ¼ cup fresh mint Save some for garnishing the dish just before serving
• 1/3 cup homemade coriander dressing
• Place the quinoa in a large bowl and add the black beans, red pepper, red onions, and parsley.
• Pour the homemade coriander dressing over the quinoa salad and stir to combine.
• Garnish with mint before serving.
• This salad is good served at room temperature or chilled.
5. Veggie Buddha Bowl
You can prepare a week’s worth of lunches in approximately 10 minutes by utilising four easy ingredients from your local specialised food shop. To cut down on prep time, we’re using prechopped fresh veggie mix and cooked quinoa or millet (which heats in the microwave in under 5 minutes). These crunchy chopped salad bowls are strong in fibre yet low in calories, making them ideal for low-calorie diets.
Sweet potatoes, protein-packed chickpeas, creamy avocado, and homemade dressing round out this simple grain bowl. Make the entire recipe over the weekend and store in individual serving containers for easy work lunches all week.
Mediterranean Buddha Bowl Recipe
For the Quinoa
• 1/2 cup quinoa
• 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoons sesame seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
For the Bowl
• 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
• 2 cups spinach
• 1 cup quartered cucumber
• 1/2 cup diced tomato
• 1/2 cup sliced bell pepper
• 1/4 cup kalamata olives
• 1/4 cup crumbled low-fat feta cheese
• ½ cup hummus
• parsley (optional for garnish)
For the Quinoa
• Bring a pot of vegetable broth to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
• Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, sesame seeds, thyme, oregano and garlic powder. Pour over the cooked quinoa and mix well.
For the Bowl
• Portion out the quinoa and spinach to the two salad bowls.
• Add the rest of the toppings in sections on the bowl.
• Top with hummus and garnish with parsley if desired.
6. Clean-Eating Bento Box Lunch
Bento boxes were popular in Japan first. A bento box is a single-portion meal that can be purchased from a restaurant or prepared at home. A bento-style lunch packed with healthy, filling items is ideal for work. You may construct your own bento box lunch with whatever you like, but there are a few criteria we prefer to follow while creating our bento boxes to ensure that they are balanced and healthy meals on the move.
Bento box lunch ideas include a healthy balance of protein, fresh vegetables, and nutritious grains. What’s the best part? The boxes are best served at room temperature. Work lunch break and travel meal accepted!
For the Greek Salad
• 1 large cucumber, diced
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 green bell pepper, diced
• 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved
• 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
• salt and pepper
For the Box
• 1 tablespoon hummus
• 1 hard boiled egg
• 1 cup carrot sticks
For the Greek salad
• Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Drizzle with my homemade vinaigrette Dressing.
For Bento Box
• Assemble all the ingredients and place in the bento boxes. Just blend together a bit of hummus, chop carrot sticks, and add a hard boiled egg.