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cheap lunch ideas

Cheap Lunch Ideas

Find cheap lunch ideas that you can make in 30 minutes or less for your family! If you are looking for quick and easy cheap lunch ideas, then this is the article for you!

These quick, easy, and cheap lunch ideas are perfect for busy workdays or busy weekends!

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to these cheap lunch ideas later!

 


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25 Cheap Lunch Ideas

Below are 25 easy and cheap lunch ideas that you can make at work or at home in less than 30 minutes!

One of the easiest things you can do to save money on food is to take your lunch to work, eat at home when you are not at work, and to keep things simple! Today’s families are busy, and keeping things easy will help you save both time and money! Your family will enjoy these cheap lunch ideas!

Why It Is So Worth It to Stick with Cheap Lunch Ideas

It is amazing to me how many people spend $5 or more every day for lunch at work! I just can’t do it.

Lunch is a meal that you can keep oh-so-cheap and easy if you choose to! I primarily eat either a peanut butter sandwich with fruit and carrot sticks, a simple ham and cheese sandwich, an easy green salad, or leftovers for lunch every day at work, so it keeps things very simple and inexpensive.

To me it is worth it to save the tons of money that we are able to every year by not buying work lunches at the nearby food court or even the cafeteria where I work. If I bought lunch every workday it would easily cost over $100 per month (if I bought inexpensive lunches). By bringing lunch every day and investing that saved money in my Roth 401(k) instead, that money can grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

In fact, if you invested just that $100 a month in your retirement fund from age 25 to age 65 and earned an annual average rate of return of 11 percent, which is very doable long term, you would have $774,992! If you were able to earn an annual average rate of 12 percent, also doable over the long term with good growth stock mutual funds, you would have $1,030,970! Isn’t that $1,000,000 worth bringing inexpensive lunches from home?! It sure is to me! I love the power of compound interest! Learn how to start investing here.

In the list below I am including only very simple lunch options that you can make in a matter of minutes—they are perfect for busy mornings when you are trying to get ready for work and get kids off to school. (Many of these options are great for school lunches, too!) Of course you can also use any of the ideas for dinner (or for breakfast!) listed later in this article as a meal for lunch, as well!

 

25 Easy and Cheap Lunch Ideas for Work or Home!

 

1. Peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana, or peanut butter and honey sandwiches

These are about as simple an option as you can get. 🙂 But I love them!

2. Tuna fish sandwiches (with pickle, if desired)

Though not as cheap as it used to be, tuna is still an inexpensive way to go for lunch.

3. Tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches

If you love tuna sandwiches and you love egg salad sandwiches, put them together for a new twist on an old favorite.

4. Egg salad sandwiches

In our family we love this simple and tasty cheap lunch option. All you need is bread and eggs and your favorite brand of mayonnaise or salad dressing and favorite seasonings, and you are ready to go!

5. Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches (with tomato and lettuce or spinach, if desired)

Choose your favorite lunch meat such as honey ham, chicken, turkey, or beef, and then add a slice of cheese, tomato and lettuce (or spinach), and a little mayo and mustard if desired.

 

 

6. Chicken salad sandwiches

Chicken salad sandwiches are one of my all-time favorite lunches. You can keep it really simple with just the chicken and a little may or salad dressing and your favorite seasonings.

Or dress this sandwich up (see the information about chicken salad supreme sandwiches below) with your favorite nuts (such as cashews or my preferred cheaper option, peanuts), seeds, sliced grapes, cubed cheese, finely chopped apples, chopped celery, and more! There are so many options for this versatile meal!

7. Grilled cheese (with lunch meat and spinach, if desired) sandwiches and tomato soup

This classic and cheap lunch idea is great any time of year, but is particularly delicious on cold days! To make this kid-friendly dish even more filling add your favorite lunch meat, or add spinach or another favorite vegetable to boost the nutritional value!

8. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese; add spinach to make them more nutritious)

Quesadillas are so easy! You can use just your favorite tortilla shells and type of cheese, or add sliced lunch meat, spinach, hot dogs (kind of weird, but my younger brothers love it), beans, or favorite cooked vegetables. Yum!

9. Avocado egg salad sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches are awesome, and adding avocado makes them even awesomer (but also more expensive :-\).

10. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheese sandwiches (BLTs)

What’s not to love about classic BLTs? Add mayo or salad dressing for a little extra zing, and swap the lettuce for spinach to make them a little more nutritious.

11. Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

This is a chicken salad sandwich with even more good stuff added, like sesame seeds or peanuts (we generally use the kind we have to shell ourselves, since they are cheaper), chopped grapes, raisins, chopped apples, and dried cranberries.

12. Chicken salad

I tease (but it really is kinda true :-}) that the salad is just the way to get the ranch dressing to my mouth and that the salads that I really like to eat are the ones where I basically turn them into a sandwich. So my favorite chicken salad, for example, has croutons and cheese in addition to my favorite veggies like spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and so on.

But whatever you like to put in your chicken salad, you can’t go wrong!

13. Traditional green salad

Like I said just above, in my opinion, the best green salad is the one that is filled with tons of other great foods like meat and cheese and croutons. 🙂 But you can also keep them simpler (as I often do, despite my preferences :)) with using simple greens like leafy lettuce and spinach or kale and adding your favorite vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, and the like.

14. Spinach and strawberry salad

Even though I do not turn this salad into a sandwich :), it is still one of my favorites. All you need are spinach, strawberries, and almonds if you have them on hand (or substitute less expensive seeds or nuts). Here is a simple strawberry spinach salad with tasty homemade dressing:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
10 oz. fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions

1. In a mixing bowl, mix the sesame and poppy seeds, sugar, oil, and vinegar.

2. In another large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

 

15. Avocado tuna melt

If you love avocado and tuna and cheese, you will love avocado tuna melt sandwiches! You can find a simple avocado tuna melt recipe here:

Ingredients

2 5-oz. cans of tuna
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 avocado, sliced
4 slices cheddar cheese
8 slices bread
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Directions
1. Mix the tuna and the mayonnaise. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place four slices of bread in large frying pan. Spread each slice with 1/4 of the tuna mixture. Add 2 to 4 slices of avocado on each.

2. Place a slice of cheddar cheese on top of avocado for each. Top sandwich with other slice of bread, butter side up.
3. Cook on medium high heat until bottom of bread is a golden brown, and then carefully flip over to toast the other side until it is also a golden brown and cheese is melted.

4. For even more goodness, add tomato and spinach or your favorite lettuce.

16. Avocado and chicken salad

This is another simple and tasty avocado dish, and a great option for a cheap meal. All you need for this easy salad are chicken, avocados, lime juice, green onion, and mayo.

Ingredients
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 medium avocados, diced
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
salt, to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 tablespoons mayo
Directions
1. In a large bowl, mix the diced avocado with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, and season with the salt to taste. Add the chicken and the sliced green onion.
2. In a small bowl, mix the mayo and the lime juice to make the dressing.
3. Add the dressing to the chicken mixture, and mix well to coat with the dressing. Sprinkle the other tablespoon of lime juice over the top (or omit, if you want less lime juice).
4. Serve as is as a salad, or serve inside pita bread or as a sandwich or lettuce wrap.

17. Chicken avocado salad sandwiches

Similar to the cheap meal mentioned just above, here is another tasty chicken avocado salad sandwich recipe:

Ingredients
2 cup cooked chicken, chopped
2 ripe avocados, chopped
2 apples, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
8 slices of bread

Directions
1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, avocado, apple, celery, and red onion. Gently mash the avocado with a fork and stir it around so that everything is mixed well.
2. Add the parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon of oil.
3. Spread on sandwich bread, toasted bread, or pita bread.

18. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato wrap

This tasty dish is a simple alternative to regular BLT sandwiches. Simply omit the bread and keep the bacon and tomato, season to taste with salt and pepper, and wrap in large lettuce leaves.

19. Meatball sub sandwich

After a delicious spaghetti dinner, don’t just put that tasty concoction away! Take a few minutes to put some of the meatballs and sauce in a microwave-safe container, grab a couple of pieces of your favorite bread and put them in an airtight bag, and tomorrow you can have a tasty and super quick and easy lunch at work. Just reheat the meatballs, arrange them on the bread, and enjoy!

20. Pasta frittata

The meatballs aren’t the only thing you can repurpose from last night’s spaghetti fest! Making a cheap meal out of pasta frittata is another great way to use up leftovers from spaghetti. All you need are several large eggs, a little oil, some cut up vegetables such as onion and tomatoes and peppers, a couple of cups of chopped spinach, and a little shredded cheese.

Ingredients
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped peppers
2 cups chopped spinach
4 oz. leftover or cooked pasta (such as penne, elbow, or spaghetti)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions
1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil. Once it is hot, add the onions, and saute them until they are translucent. Add the other vegetables, and cook them until they are slightly softened. Add the spinach and cooked pasta, and cook for 2 more minutes.
3. Pour the eggs into the pan, and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook the mixture, frequently lifting up the egg so that the uncooked egg flows underneath, until the egg is almost fully set.
4. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and continue cooking until the eggs are fully set. Uncover the pan and turn off the stove. Sprinkle the cheese over the frittata, and then cover the pan again for another minute or two until the cheese is melted.
5. Loosen the frittata from the pan and slide it onto a large plate. Slice into wedges, and serve.

21. Easy pasta salad

This is another cheap meal that is quick and easy to make. Use leftover pasta and add in some of your leftover vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, or spinach. Toss with a little oil, vinegar, and your favorite spices, and you’re set. You can also add chicken, ham, or another meat of your choice to add protein.

 

22. Parmesan pasta salad

Ingredients
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta
1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian salad dressing
2 cucumbers, chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the Italian dressing, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning, and gently mix into the salad.
  4. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

23. Quick and easy chicken fried rice

Ingredients
2 cups uncooked rice
1 package (12 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables
4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 large eggs
2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions

1. Cook rice according to package directions.

2. Prepare frozen vegetables according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add eggs; cook and stir until eggs are thickened and no liquid egg remains. Remove from pan.

3. In same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add cooked rice; cook and stir until rice begins to brown.

4. Stir in chicken, salt, and pepper. Add eggs and vegetables. Cook until heated through.

24. Chili cheese dogs

If you like chili dogs, then this is a simple and cheap lunch idea your family will enjoy. To your favorite hot dogs in a bun add your favorite canned chili and some shredded cheese. Serve with scoop chips and extra chili, if desired.

 

25. Sweet pasta salad

This is a fun twist on traditional macaroni salad. And even better, this simple pasta salad takes only 20 minutes to make, plus the time that you allow it to chill. (Personally, I like to eat my pasta and potato salads while they are still warm. :))

Ingredients

1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
4 medium carrots (or substitute baby carrots), shredded or finely chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cups mayonnaise
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 

Directions

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.

2. In a large bowl, combine macaroni and vegetables. Whisk together remaining ingredients until smooth and sugar is dissolved; stir into macaroni mixture. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

22. Easy pasta alad

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta

1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian salad dressing

2 cucumbers, chopped

6 tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the Italian dressing, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning, and gently mix into the salad.
  4. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

23. Quick and easy chicken fried rice

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked rice

1 package (12 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables

4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

2 large eggs

2 cups shredded chicken

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions

1. Cook rice according to package directions.

2. Prepare frozen vegetables according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add eggs; cook and stir until eggs are thickened and no liquid egg remains. Remove from pan.

3. In same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add cooked rice; cook and stir until rice begins to brown.

4. Stir in chicken, salt, and pepper. Add eggs and vegetables. Cook until heated through.

24. Chili cheese dogs

If you like chili dogs, then this is a simple and cheap lunch idea your family will enjoy. To your favorite hot dogs in a bun add your favorite canned chili and some shredded cheese. Serve with scoop chips and extra chili, if desired.

 

25. Sweet pasta salad

This is a fun twist on traditional macaroni salad. And even better, this simple pasta salad takes only 20 minutes to make, plus the time that you allow it to chill. (Personally, I like to eat my pasta and potato salads while they are still warm. :))

Ingredients

1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni

4 medium carrots (or substitute baby carrots), shredded or finely chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cups mayonnaise

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.

2. In a large bowl, combine macaroni and vegetables. Whisk together remaining ingredients until smooth and sugar is dissolved; stir into macaroni mixture. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

Conclusion

These 25 quick, easy, and cheap lunch ideas will let you get food on the table fast to feed your family and are a great option to avoid spending a bunch of money going out to eat on your lunch break at work or with your family! You can make all of these cheap lunch ideas in 30 minutes or less, and many of them can be ready in 5 minutes or less! Keep it simple, sweetie! 🙂

 

What are your favorite quick and cheap lunch ideas? Do you have quick and inexpensive go-to make-at-home work lunches that you just love?

Give these cheap lunch ideas a try and let me know how it goes! I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below!

 

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