I try to pack my lunch for work as often as possible. But there have been weeks in which I buy it, ignoring my almost empty bank account. Because, frankly, I’m only human and going through the effort of making my own lunch seems like a lot at 7 AM.
Yes, this is even though I know it’s good for my wallet and for my health. And yes, even though I know that the healthier you are, the more productive you are.
So, in effort to break my bad habit and yours as well, I’ve put together a list of 20 ideas to inspire you. And because I’m just like you when it comes to making excuses, I stuck to three rules when selecting each recipe:
1. It Needs to Be Cost-Effective
There are recipes out there that look and taste great, but the ingredients required are irrationally expensive. If you’re buying them in bulk and can use them for several meals, that’s good. But if not, it is the same like buying them from a restaurant.
2. It Needs to Be Easy to Make
Just as you want to keep the cost down, you also want to keep the time it takes to make it low as well. Nobody wants to spend hours every night preparing lunch for the next day. That is a habit simply made to be broken. So, with the exception of slow cooker options, they’re also pretty fast.
3. It Needs to Be (Somewhat) Exciting
I certainly don’t think every lunch needs to be a gourmet meal. And I don’t think every bite needs to be the most mind-blowing sensory experience ever. But you also don’t want to pack a lunch where you’re just like, “Eh, I’m just not in the mood for that.” And then you act like you didn’t bring it and you go buy something else.
So, check out the list below for some lunch ideas that are bound to make you the most enviable person at work and prevent you from using up every last cent.
1. Asian Quinoa Salad
This salad’s not only delicious, but it’s healthy, as well. If the number of ingredients in the dressing overwhelms you, pick up something similar to this Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette.
2. Avocado Chicken Salad
This chicken salad has just four ingredients. Four! Plus avocado. Point made. You can also make it into a sandwich or a wrap, which makes this quite the versatile recipe.
3. Smashed Avocado Chickpea Salad
A vegetarian twist on the salad above, this one uses chickpeas instead of chicken, so you can still get a great source of protein.
4. Brussels Sprouts Salad With Apples, Pecans, and Manchego
Brussels sprouts are a great alternative to lettuce for a greens-based salad. And as someone who studied abroad in Madrid, I can tell you that Manchego cheese is the best. Want a hack for this salad? Many stores sell sprouts that are already chopped and bagged, meaning you can just open and dump into a bowl.
5. Cherry-Almond Farro Salad
Farro’s a grain with a ton of fiber and will help to fill you up. And the cherries are the perfect sweet and tart addition.
6. Chopped Kale, Farro, and Chickpea Salad
This combination of foods is the perfect protein and fiber powerhouse. While the recipe calls for red miso paste, you can easily substitute another dressing for that. But if you do have it, go for it!
7. Chorizo and Tomato Salad
A reminder that simple doesn’t always equal boring. The chorizo adds some smoke and spice to really make this salad pop.
8. Lentil Salad With Goat Cheese
You had me at goat cheese.
9. Soba Salad With Honey Ginger Dressing
It’s a salad made with—wait for it—noodles. Plus, if you want, you can reuse that dressing you bought for the Asian Quinoa Salad.
10. Three Bean Salad
This recipe has three main ingredients, and they’re all beans. Talk about easy. And fibrous. Beans—they’re good for your heart and for your a tasty lunch.
11. Apple Sandwiches With Almond Butter and Granola
Talk about non-traditional. You’ve probably spread peanut butter (or almond, or cashew, or [insert nut here]) on your apple slices before, but have you ever thought of making your apple into a sandwich? Yep, mind blown. But this is the perfect lunch if you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to crash later.
12. Avocado Tea Sandwiches
How cute and simple are these? Plus, it’s OK to bring fish to the office if you’re not microwaving it, right? Report back.
13. Crunchy Peanut Butter Wrap
Need I say more? You’d be nutty not to try this one.
14. Hummus and Veggie Sandwich
The combination of vegetables (and fruit—ahem, avocado) in this sandwich provides a variety of textures to keep your palate excited.
15. Peanut Butter, Pickle, and Potato Chip Sandwich
Yes, you read that right. I did not accidentally write “pickle” instead of “jelly.” These flavors actually do work together, and the chips are a crunchy bonus.
16. Pear-Walnut Sandwich
Cinnamon-raisin bread for a sandwich? Yep.
17. Red Pepper, Goat Cheese, and Fresh Mint Wraps
This wrap has four ingredients (not including some extra salt) and the contents have strong and complementary flavors. Plus, it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.
18. Smoked Gouda and Apple Butter Sandwich
So simple, yet so tasty. And yes, cheese and apples go together. Perfectly.
19. Sweet Potato, Chickpea, and Quinoa Veggie Burger
Of course, these may take a little extra time to prepare. But if you prepare a bunch of them at once, all you have to do is grab one out of the freezer or fridge and throw it in your bag with a bun and some toppings!
20. Taco Truck Tuna Sandwich
How can you not like something that has the words “taco truck” in it? That’s what I thought.