One of the things I most often get asked, besides what camera I use (Canon Digital Elph for out and about, Nikon D3000 at home,) and if I can post the recipe my Mom made for our Sunday dinner is, got any lunch ideas?
Lunch isn’t the most glamorous meal of the day, and a lot of people find it’s easier to hit the nearest drive-thru, or place a lunch order, than stand in front of the fridge at 7am trying to figure out what they’re going to eat 5 hours later.
But, as many of you know, eating out adds up. If you spend $5 minimum on lunch every day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (2 weeks for vacay – woot!) – that’s $1,250!
You can take a 5-day, all-inclusive trip to Mexico for that kind of cash! Not to mention drive-thru and takeout options are not always the healthiest, often leaving you feeling icky and sluggish for the rest of the afternoon.
The alternative isn’t chowing down on cheap, but boring, PB&J sandwiches for the rest of your life though. Here are 35 tasty, inexpensive, non-boring lunch ideas:
Choose Lunch Friendly Recipes
Make then package any of these lunch-friendly salad, soup or sandwich recipes:
Chicken Salad – Mayo free!
Cook Freezer Friendly Recipes
These recipes are great to make during the week for dinner, then freeze individual leftover portions for lunches down the road. Just defrost for 2-3 minutes in the microwave, and cook on high for another couple minutes until warmed through.
Ban Lunchtime Boredom
Falling into a rut of eating the same thing for lunch every single day is the quickest way to send yourself straight to the drive-thru. Salads are my secret weapon for avoiding lunchtime boredom, as the topping ideas are virtually endless. I like to make “Kitchen Sink Salads” by throwing in everything “but the kitchen sink”.
Click here for my tips to build a better salad, including gobs of topping ideas.
BTW: Don’t forget to keep a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge at work. There’s nothing worse than having to eat a dry salad because you forgot to bring yours in!
Find These Frozen Meals
Some pre-packaged frozen meals, while not ideal, are often a better choice than a KFC Big Bowl for lunch. (Mmm…kfcbigbowls…) Here are my go-to brands/picks:
Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake (my #1 fave of all time)
Think Outside the (Bread) Box
One can only eat so many boring sandwiches on boring bread before one goes crazy. Change things up by making wraps instead! Try any of these yummy flavor combos:
- Low-sodium deli turkey, bacon (cook multi strips on Sunday, then store them in a ziplock back in the fridge for up to 3 days,) pepper jack cheese, tomato, lettuce, squeeze of Italian salad dressing
- Low-sodium deli ham, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, banana peppers
- Low-sodium deli chicken, muenster cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, flavored cream cheese
- Bagels are also a fun alternative to bread!
Bring Fun Snacks
Think about it – what did you get most excited about when you opened your lunchbox in grade school? The turkey sandwich, or the FRUIT BY THE FOOT (that you had to trade your friend for because your Mom only bought Sunbelt granola bars…)?! Lunch’s supporting cast is often more fun than the main dish itself. Here are my favorite items to fill my lunch box with:
- Natural style/no-sugar added applesauce cups
- Any and all fruits that don’t require peeling/chopping: apples, oranges, bananas, cherries, berries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, pears
- Any and all veggies: baby carrots, cucumber slices, celery, snap peas,
- Sabra Hummus Singles or Pretzel Packs
- Dole Fruit Cups in 100% Juice
- Orville Redenbacher’s Natural Microwave Popcorn. The Lime + Salt flavor is AMAZING!
- Chobani Greek Yogurt
- Graham crackers
- String cheese
- Cheese cubes (they come in convenient 100 cal packs too!)
- Cottage cheese
- PURE Bar or Larabar
- Trail mix or almonds
- Think about the foods you usually buy for lunch, then figure out a way to recreate them at home. That way you can control the cost and ingredients.
- Pack your entire lunch box/bag the night before. THE ENTIRE THING! Chips won’t even get soggy in the fridge. That way you have no excuses for not packing a lunch in the morning when you’re inevitably (ALWAYS – GAH!) running late.
- If making salads, prepare 3 or 4 at once in those big 5-6 cup Gladware containers so they are ready to grab and go throughout the week.
- If people steal your lunch at the office (which they totally do at Ben’s!) give these anti theft lunch bags a whirl. That outta’ stop ‘em. ;)
- Get a cute lunch bag so you’re not literally brown bagging it to work or school. I love this reversible bag, that also supports a great cause!
Do you usually bring your lunch from home, or eat out? Care to share any of your go-to lunch ideas?