When it comes to handling eating on a budget, work lunches can be a significant culprit. When you buy lunch every day, it quickly adds up to a significant portion of the money you could be saving. It's hard to find time to pack a lunch every night on top of household chores. Investing a little additional time at the beginning of the week to prepare meals for several days, or perhaps the full workweek can substantially make a difference in your time and money.
If you don't meal prep for lunch, you're either going without, which isn't great, or dining out for lunch, which can be pricey. Lunch is the most extended break we take during a hectic workday. It's a moment to refresh, unwind, and re-energize in preparation for the activities ahead. Healthy lunch ideas that you can prepare ahead of schedule can fill you up and help you stay focused throughout the afternoon, and the best nutritious lunch options are also delicious! They offer a fun and tasty element to your workday, making your mid-day break extra-refreshing and enjoyable.
Meal Prep Benefits
- It's easier to resist unhealthy meals. No more turning to takeaway whenever you don't feel like cooking. Structured meal making keeps you on track with your balanced diet.
- You have control over the size of your portions. If you want to prevent overeating, prepping your lunches ahead of time allows you to calculate your portion sizes more precisely.
- You'll spend less time in the kitchen. Spending a little more time on the weekend making your lunches ensures that your weeknights are free to rest after a long day.
- Food waste would be much less to manage. Meal planning pushes you to use whatever you buy by ensuring it is cooked before it goes bad.
- You'll be able to save money. Those work lunches add up quickly. By planning ahead of time to cook your meals, you can save more money in the bank for that sparkling new item you've been considering.
Some Must-Have Tools
We are all in favor of having home appliances that you will use most. These are the must-have meal prep equipment, in our opinion:
- Reusable silicone bags
- Slow cooker
- Instant pot
- Food containers
If you're going food shopping, here are some pantry essentials we recommend for meal prep:
- nuts and seeds
- dried fruit
- herbs and spices
- diced tomatoes
- tomato sauce
Easy Lunch Ideas
The key to keeping to a meal prep program is choosing simple dishes with a shortlist of ingredients. We hope that you find something that you like, whether you're new to preparing lunches or an experienced pro seeking for fresh, easy lunch ideas:
It's a crowd favorite for a reason: you wouldn't have to heat it, and it's simple to pack for lunch. Plus, if mayo isn't your thing, there are many alternatives, such as avocado, Greek yogurt, and even lighter vinegar-based choices. Serve the chicken salad with crackers or bread.
Salads and Grain Bowls
If you feel like having a salad, simply follow the same recipe without the grains. Prep all of your vegetables over the weekend, so they're ready when you are. To prepare a grain bowl, simply select a grain—any grain—and combine it with your chosen vegetables and proteins. Quinoa, farro, millet, couscous, wild rice are good options.
Avocados and Chickpeas
Avocados and chickpeas are incredibly adaptable. You may combine the two to make three meals that are ready to eat right away, like a chickpea salad, Greek salad-style grain bowl, and a veggie-packed wrap. They're pretty simple to create, and you wouldn't even need a well-stocked kitchen to do so.
Pasta salad does not have to be hot to be delicious. Its coldness is what makes it such a good match for something off the grill. There are several types of pasta salad, but there are also many different pasta recipes, so you'll never grow bored with them. Without a recipe, you may easily switch around the dressings, vegetables, seasonings, and proteins you use.
Mason Jar Salads
This style of meal is ideal for meal prep since it keeps the vegetables and dressing completely separate, so nothing gets mushy, with no need for a slew of different storage containers. And, of course, the only way to consume them is cold. All you'll need is a dish or bowl to eat the salad on—no microwave required.
The secret to meal prepping tacos is to prepare your filling in meal prep containers and pack two or three tortillas to construct at work. This prevents the tortillas from becoming soggy.
Cold noodles will satisfy your craving, and you won't need a microwave to appreciate them. They're quick and easy to make, and they're a fantastic way to avoid getting takeaway. Cold noodles are also an excellent foundation for creating a hearty, substantial vegetarian or vegan dinner. If you're searching for a gluten-free solution, rice noodles are an alternative.
Fresh Spring Rolls
They're stuffed with sticky peanut noodles, avocado, and sautéed mushrooms. Keep additional peanut sauce on hand for dipping.
This extra-fresh egg salad is salty, vibrant, and herb-laden. Use chopped tofu in place of the egg for a good vegan version.
People have highlighted how useful these maybe if you wouldn't feel comfortable cooking with meat and do not have access to a complete kitchen, and demand animal protein in your meals. Canned tuna is commonly used to make tuna patties, but I believe it would be a better complement to a poke-style grain bowl. Hard-boiled eggs go well with almost anything, whether it's a sandwich, a salad, or even a soup.
Soups are excellent choices for work and are much easier to transport than you might imagine! But before you assume soups aren't nourishing, reconsider. We've included some thicker soups/stews to give you some ideas for ways to increase protein in your soups. Most are vegan/vegetarian-friendly, so soups can be quite cost-effective if you have accessibility to a microwave at work.
Sandwiches and Wraps
Briefly toast the bread before stacking, and this will help to prevent sogginess. Any sandwich that involves cooking, such as grilled cheese, is not a viable option for no-reheat meal planning because the residual heat will make it soggy regardless. Pack all of the ingredients separately in a bento box and assemble your sandwich right before serving to avoid sogginess.
An excellent sauce may elevate a simple salad of vegetables and grains to an A+ workplace lunch! When it's time to eat, keep the sauce in a separate pot and sprinkle it over the other components.
A fantastic sauce may turn a simple salad of vegetables and grains into an excellent workplace lunch! I keep the sauce in a sealed pot and sprinkle it over the other ingredients when it's ready to eat.
Filling a pita with vegetables and meat is the quickest and easiest method to make a lunch. It's easier to wrap than a tortilla, and there's usually no need to heat them because they're nicer fresh. Again, the key to preventing sogginess is keeping the filling and pita separated until you're ready to eat.
The Korean Chicken and Mango Chicken are favorites because the sauces are unique. Still, burrito bowls are also extremely simple to make, and you can save time by using pre-chopped vegetables and store-bought salsas, which are a wonderful low-calorie alternative for your bowls.
Instant Pot Lunches
Rice bowls, casseroles, pasta, taco meat, and more lunch-friendly meals are available. I like to batch cook a large pot of pasta for workweek lunches, such as the Pesto Chicken Pasta mentioned below – it's one pot for minimal cleanup, easy to bring to work, and reheats well.
Easy Fried Rice
If you have a large batch of leftover rice, this is a great way to use it up. You may also add various vegetables to your fried rice to make it last longer and provide more nutrition. Make a pot of this fried rice on Sunday evening, and you'll have enough lunches for two until Wednesday. Refrigerate your portions for up to three days.
Begin by making one or two of the aforementioned dishes for your weekly lunches and working your way up from there. You may also try combining any of the previous ideas to change up your weekly meals.