Trim your lunch budget without shortchanging your taste buds. We’ve curated a list of cheap lunch ideas for work that are simple to make, satisfying to eat, and kind on your wallet. Expect no-nonsense recipes that save you cash with every delicious bite.

Key Takeaways of Cheap Lunch Ideas

Budget-Friendly Sandwich Makeovers

A quick sandwich, held in one hand and a cup of tea is the other is ideal for your get-together
A quick sandwich is ideal

Let’s start with something familiar: sandwiches. But we’re not talking about your basic ham and cheese sandwich. We’re talking about sandwich makeovers that transform the ordinary into something extraordinary yet budget-friendly.

Here are some delicious sandwich ideas to try:

  1. Turkey, avocado, and hummus wrap – a nutritious twist on the traditional turkey sandwich.

  2. Veggie-packed grilled cheese – adds nutrition to a classic favourite.

  3. Pesto chicken salad sandwich – puts leftover chicken to delicious use.

So next time you think about packing a sandwich for work, why not give it a makeover?

Turkey, Avocado, and Hummus Wrap

Our turkey, avocado, and hummus wrap is a delicious and pocket-friendly way to upgrade your lunch routine. It’s as simple as spreading a dollop of hummus on a whole-wheat wrap, topping it with slices of turkey and fresh avocado, and rolling it up. Not only does this sandwich makeover taste great, but it’s also packed with protein and heart-healthy fats to keep you satisfied throughout your workday. And the best part? You can make it in less than 5 minutes!

Veggie-Packed Grilled Cheese

If you like the classic grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll love our veggie-packed version. Adding spinach, tomatoes, and onions transforms a simple cheese sandwich into a more nutritious and satisfying meal, perfect for those who enjoy cheese sandwiches with a twist. The vegetables add a variety of flavours and textures, from the subtle flavour and plentiful nutrients of spinach to the juiciness and hint of acidity from the tomatoes and the slightly sweet and savoury crunch of onions. And the best part? No complicated cooking techniques are required!

Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwich

Got leftover chicken? Great! Turn it into a flavorful pesto chicken salad sandwich. Simply:

  1. Toss 2 1/2 cups of shredded chicken with half the usual amount of mayonnaise

  2. Replace the other half of the mayonnaise with basil pesto

  3. Mix well to combine

  4. Spread the chicken salad on whole-wheat bread

The result is a creamy, flavorful chicken salad with a hint of lemon juice and a touch of ranch dressing, which tastes great on homemade bread or whole-wheat bread.

This sandwich makeover saves money and reduces food waste by repurposing leftovers. Plus, it’s so delicious that you won’t even realize you’re eating yesterday’s dinner!

Nutritious Meal Prep Bowls

Nutritious meal prep bowls

If you’re looking for a way to save money and eat healthily during the workweek, meal prep bowls are the answer. These versatile bowls can be filled with various nutritious ingredients and prepared ahead of time, taking the stress out of deciding what to have for lunch each day.

For example, quinoa and roasted vegetable bowls are a great option, as are Asian-inspired rice noodle salads and protein-packed lentil and chickpea salads. The endless possibilities result in a tasty, nutritious lunch that won’t break the bank.

Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Bowl

Among our favourite meal prep bowls are the quinoa and roasted vegetable bowls. This bowl consists of cooked quinoa paired with a medley of roasted vegetables like red onions, red and green peppers, sweet potatoes, and yellow squash, often garnished with tahini sauce. What’s great about this bowl is that it’s easily customizable. You can incorporate seasonal vegetables or your favourites and add toppings like fresh citrus juice, cilantro, chives, or sesame seeds to enhance the flavour.

Plus, it’s not just tasty but also good for you, with approximately 413 calories, 11 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 9 grams of dietary fibre per serving.

Asian-Inspired Rice Noodle Salad

Looking for a refreshing lunch option? Try our Asian-inspired brown rice noodle salad. This salad features a rich tahini and smooth peanut butter dressing, enhanced with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and spices like ginger, garlic, or chilli. Add a variety of crunchy vegetables such as carrots, red bell peppers, and cucumbers, and you have a salad that’s not only delicious but also satisfying and budget-friendly.

And for an unexpected twist, why not add some ripe mango pieces for a touch of natural sweetness?

Protein-Packed Lentil and Chickpea Salad

Our protein-packed lentil and chickpea salad is a must-try for those who want to add more protein to their diet. It’s as simple as mixing lentils and chickpeas with your favourite salad ingredients, and you have a filling lunch option that’s also budget-friendly.

This salad is also ideal for picnics and work lunches, as it can be prepared and stored in the fridge.

Quick and Easy Mason Jar Salads

Make Everyone Jealous with these mason jar salads
Make Everyone Jealous with these mason jar salads

Mason jar salads are a fantastic solution for anyone looking for quick and easy lunch ideas for work. These salads can be prepared in advance and stay fresh for up to a week, making them a highly convenient and practical lunch option.

You can make a variety of mason jar salads, such as Greek, Southwest, or spinach and strawberry salads. The key is to layer the ingredients correctly so the salad stays fresh and crisp until you’re ready to eat it.

Greek Salad in a Jar

A Greek salad in a jar is a simple and delicious lunch option. To make it, you start by putting Greek dressing at the bottom of the jar. On top of the dressing, you layer:

  • diced tomatoes

  • cucumbers

  • chickpeas

  • red onions

  • kalamata olives

  • feta crumbles

  • Grilled or baked chicken breast: Add a dollop of Greek yogurt on top for a creamy twist.

The last layer should be chopped romaine lettuce, which stays crisp until you’re ready to eat.

When it’s lunchtime, pour the salad onto a plate or into a bowl and enjoy.

Southwest-Style Salad in a Jar

If you like bold flavours, you’ll love the Southwest-style salad in a jar. This salad includes corn and red onion seasoned and roasted to enhance their flavours. Add spiced black beans and creamy avocado for a genuine Southwest experience. And the best part? You can prepare it in advance so it’s ready to go when needed.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad in a Jar

Try the spinach and strawberry salad in a jar for a light and refreshing lunch. This salad features:

  • A nutrient-rich base of spinach

  • Sweet and tangy strawberries

  • Crunchy nuts like almonds or walnuts

  • A dressing made with balsamic vinegar and olive oil

This delightful salad, featuring fresh parsley and a delicious salad dressing, is perfect for a quick and healthy meal.

Savoury Soup Ideas for Work Lunches

Hot delicious beef soup close-up. Homemade soup with meat, vegetables and gnocchi.
Hot, delicious Homemade soup

Soups are a comforting and filling lunch option, especially during colder months. Depending on the ingredients used, they are also economical and easy to transport. From hearty vegetable soup to chicken and rice soup and lentil and sausage soup, there are countless possibilities to explore.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

One of our favourite soups for work lunches is a hearty vegetable soup. This soup uses canned or frozen vegetables and pasta to create a nutritious and filling meal. You can prepare it in bulk, making it an efficient way to have ready-to-go, low-calorie lunches for work.

Plus, it’s a cost-effective way to get a variety of vegetables into your diet.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken and rice soup is another excellent cheap lunch idea, especially for work lunch. You can make this soup by repurposing pre-cooked chicken and leftover rice, making it tasty and budget-friendly. Add a homemade pesto swirl for a quick Italian flair to enhance the flavour. Consider exploring soup recipes that utilize leftovers and inexpensive ingredients for cheaper lunch ideas.

This soup is a great way to use up leftovers and create a satisfying lunch at the same time.

Lentil and Sausage Soup

If you’re looking for something different, try lentil and sausage soup. This soup uses a flavorful broth as a base, with lentils and sausage adding protein and depth of flavour. Lentils and sausage are cost-effective ingredients, making this soup an affordable lunch option.

Creative Pasta Dishes for Lunch

Pasta with grilled vegetables
Pasta with grilled vegetables

Pasta is a versatile ingredient that can be transformed into countless delicious dishes. The possibilities are endless, from pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes to pasta salad, cold sesame noodle salad, and spinach and feta stuffed shells.

Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

One of our favourite pasta dishes is pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes. This dish bursts with flavour thanks to a homemade sun-dried tomato pesto and browned butter sauce. Adding pasta water helps create a creamy sauce that clings to every piece of pasta, delivering maximum flavour in every bite.

And the best part? Leftover pesto can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks so that you can enjoy this tasty dish repeatedly.

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad

For a refreshing change, why not try a cold sesame noodle salad? This salad features a rich dressing made from a mix of:

  • tahini

  • smooth peanut butter

  • rice wine vinegar

  • sesame oil

  • soy sauce

  • spices like ginger, garlic, or chilli

You can add various crunchy vegetables such as fresh broccoli, carrots, red bell peppers, and cucumbers for a satisfying crunch, and even some ripe mango pieces for a touch of natural sweetness.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells

Spinach and feta stuffed shells are a hearty, delicious pasta dish for lunch. This dish combines Greek and Italian flavours, with a filling of:

  • spinach

  • garlic

  • ricotta

  • mozzarella

  • feta

  • walnuts

  • lemon zest

  • spices

Stuffed into jumbo pasta shells with parmesan cheese.

Once filled, the shells are covered with tomato sauce and baked to perfection, resulting in a tasty and satisfying lunch that’s also budget-friendly.

DIY Bento Boxes for Work

Bento boxes originated in Japan and are a great way to pack a balanced lunch. These boxes typically contain a variety of foods, such as vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates, neatly arranged in a compact box.

You can make protein-packed, Mediterranean-inspired, or sushi-style bento boxes, depending on your preferences.

Protein-Packed Bento Box

A protein-packed bento box is a great way to stay full and satisfied throughout your workday. This box could include store-bought rotisserie chicken, a variety of grains, and additions of fruits, vegetables, and a fat source. It’s a balanced and satisfying lunch option that’s also budget-friendly.

Mediterranean-Inspired Bento Box

If you’re a fan of Mediterranean flavours, you’ll love a Mediterranean-inspired bento box. This box features:

  • A versatile selection of hummus flavours paired with pita bread for a protein-rich and flavorful lunch

  • Common plant-based sides such as cherry tomatoes, baby bell peppers, and sliced cucumbers for added freshness and colour

  • Nuts like almonds, pine nuts, and pistachios for an extra flavour boost

Sushi-Style Bento Box

For a Japanese-inspired lunch, try a sushi-style bento box. These boxes traditionally include fish, rice, and fresh vegetables as common ingredients, but you can customize them to suit your preferences. Whether you’re a fan of sushi or just looking to try something different, a sushi-style bento box is a tasty and healthy lunch option.

Vegetarian Lunch Ideas on a Budget

If you’re following a vegetarian diet, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of budget-friendly and tasty lunch ideas for you too. The options are varied and delicious, from stuffed bell peppers to veggie quesadillas and falafel wraps.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Vegetarian stuffed bell peppers are a delicious and budget-friendly lunch option. These peppers are filled with a protein-rich mixture of chickpeas and quinoa, which provide essential amino acids for a plant-based diet. For added flavour and nutrition, you can also add various vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, onions, and garlic. And for flavour, why not add flavourful spices like cumin, paprika, and turmeric?

To finish, add some vegan cheese for a deliciously cheesy flavour. And if you want to get creative, you can even carve jack-o-lantern faces into the peppers for a fun Halloween twist.

Veggie Quesadillas

Veggie quesadillas are a fast, savoury, and cheap lunch choice. They are made with a flour tortilla filled with melty cheese and a mix of veggies. You can customize the fillings to include your favourite vegetables and add beans for extra protein.

For the best results, layer the cheese on the bottom and top of the other fillings inside the tortilla. This helps to keep the quesadilla closed after folding. When it comes to cheese, choose one that melts quickly, like cheddar or Monterey Jack, with freshly grated cheese preferred over pre-shredded for better melting and texture.

You can serve the quesadillas with a variety of accompaniments, such as:

  • guacamole

  • salsa

  • sour cream

  • fresh cilantro

These additions will add flavour and texture to your quesadillas. Plus, this recipe can be completed in roughly 10 minutes, making it a convenient, cheap lunch option for those with limited time.

Falafel Wrap

Finally, for a plant-based protein option, try a falafel wrap. This wrap features:

  • Falafel is a mix of ground chickpeas, herbs, and spices that are formed into balls and deep-fried

  • Fresh vegetables

  • A flavorful sauce, such as tahini or tzatziki

The falafel, often enjoyed with feta cheese, is then wrapped in a pita or flatbread.

This wrap is delicious and packed with protein, making it a satisfying and nutritious lunch option.

Snack Ideas to Complement Your Lunch

No lunch is complete without a tasty snack to complement it. Whether you’re craving something sweet or savoury, there’s a plethora of budget-friendly and easy snack options that you can pair with your lunch. From homemade trail mix to fruit and nut bars and veggie sticks with dip, these snacks will help keep you energized throughout the day without breaking the bank.

Homemade Trail Mix

Homemade trail mix is an excellent snack option that you can customize. Whether you prefer a mix of glazed nuts and dried cherries, a festive mix with cranberries and chocolate, or a sweet and spicy combination using ingredients like Sriracha and pretzels, the possibilities are endless.

And if you’re following a specific diet, you have options, too. You can create a nut-free mix by substituting seeds for nuts or a Keto-friendly mix with low-carb nuts and low-sugar chocolate chips.

Fruit and Nut Bars

Fruit and nut bars are another great snack that’s easy to make at home. These bars balance healthy fats, fibre, and natural sugars to energize you throughout the day.

They’re a budget-friendly snack option that can easily be packed in your lunch bag.

Veggie Sticks and Dip

If you’re looking for a snack low in calories and nutrients, veggie sticks with dip are a great choice. You can cut up your favourite vegetables, such as carrots, celery, or bell peppers, and pair them with a healthy dip like hummus or tzatziki.

This snack is delicious and budget-friendly, especially if you buy vegetables in season.

Summary of our Cheap Lunch Ideas

In conclusion, there are numerous ways to enjoy a tasty and budget-friendly lunch at work. The possibilities are endless, from sandwich makeovers and meal prep bowls to mason jar salads, soups, pasta dishes, bento boxes, and vegetarian options. And let’s not forget about the snacks that can complement your lunch. Whether you prefer homemade trail mix, fruit and nut bars, or veggie sticks with dip, there’s a snack option for you. So why not try some of these lunch ideas and make your lunch break something to look forward to?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prepare these cheap lunches in advance?

You can prepare these lunches in advance using meal prep bowls, mason jar salads, and bento boxes. Give it a try and enjoy the convenience.

Are these cheap lunch ideas suitable for specific diets?

Yes, many of the lunch ideas mentioned can be adjusted to fit specific diets, such as vegetarian ones. Stuffed bell peppers, veggie quesadillas, and falafel wraps suit vegetarian diets.

Do these cheap lunch ideas require a lot of cooking skills?

No, these lunch ideas are easy to make and can be prepared using simple cooking techniques.

Can I customize these cheap lunch ideas?

Yes, you can customize these lunch ideas to your liking. Add your favourite vegetables to pasta dishes, or choose your preferred protein for bento boxes.

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Trim your lunch budget without sacrificing taste! Discover a variety of easy, affordable lunch recipes for work, including sandwich makeovers, meal prep bowls, mason jar salads, soups, pasta dishes, bento boxes, and vegetarian options. Plus, find delicious snack ideas to complete your meal.
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