12 Quick and Cheap Lunch Ideas on a Budget for Work

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Are you looking for some super easy and cheap lunch ideas for work that don’t require more than five minutes to get ready? Today I will give you some ideas to help you keep taking your lunch to work without having to stand in the kitchen and cook (for very long)!

I recently searched for easy lunch ideas for work, and what I found in the search results sure looked delicious. However, most of the results yielded lunch ideas that you have to cook ahead of time.

Call me lazy, but I don’t want to spend more than a few minutes putting my lunch together. I want to take something for lunch that is so simple that I don’t have to think about it and don’t need to follow a recipe to prepare it. I want something so simple I can throw it together in five minutes or less.

For real! You can make the cheap lunch ideas in this list in five minutes or less. Are they the most exciting lunchtime meals you will eat? No, of course not. But they get the job done.

When you only get a 30-minute break to gobble down your lunch, you want your lunch to be ready to eat, and you want to be able to eat it quickly. That’s probably why I don’t want to spend much time preparing my lunch. I barely have time to taste it!

Reasons to Take Your Lunch to Work

There are also great benefits of taking your lunch to work instead of buying your lunch. Let’s review those first.

Save Money

Everyone is well aware that taking your lunch to work can save you so much money over the course of the year.  By spending less on eating out, you will be able to put that money you would have spent on restaurant food toward your financial goals.

Eat Healthier

You will have better control over what you are putting in your body by taking your lunch to work.  This is important if you are watching what you eat so you can lose weight or if you have chronic medical conditions you need to control, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiac issues.

Make Sure You Eat

As I said earlier, when you only have a 30-minute break for lunch, it makes it hard to order food or go out to eat. In my situation, if I want to eat lunch, I pretty much have to take it to work. 

Improves Concentration and Focus

Your meal break at work is a time for you to rest and refuel so you can perform well for the rest of the day.  By eating something healthy, you won’t feel as sluggish or sleepy as you might feel after eating takeout or restaurant food.

There are also things you can do to make it easier to pack and take your lunch to work consistently every day.  Some things you can do include:

  • Make sure you have all the supplies you need to pack your lunch.  A lunch bag, cold packs, and reusable containers are necessary.
  • Planning ahead.  This will help ensure you purchase all the food items you want to take for lunch.
  • Keep your lunches simple. As you will see below, all these lunches are super simple. Most take less than five minutes to prepare!
  • Get all your lunches ready ahead of time.  If you want to do it all on Sunday for the entire work week, this should not take long.
  • Pack up everything you can in your lunch bag the night before. Do you need utensils for the lunch you are taking? Put it in your lunch bag. Are you taking pretzels, chips, crackers, or other snacks? Put them in your lunch bag the night before.
  • Get in a routine in the morning so you don’t forget your lunch. Do the same thing every single morning when you walk into the kitchen.  This will help you not forget things as you rush out the door.

Here are more tips for packing your lunch consistently every day.

Quick helpful tip: If you absolutely hate meal planning or you have tried it and you can’t seem to figure out a system that works for you, you should take a look at $5 Meal Plan.

$5 Meal Plan is a meal plan service that sends you weekly meal plans right to your inbox and the grocery list for the meal plan already done for you!  

All you have to do is check off the things you already have and head to the grocery store to get the rest.

Most of the meals work out to be around $2 per person.  And it’s only $5 a month!  

So if you would like to check it out, they have a free 14-day trial you can sign up for here.  

Then you can see for yourself how much money and time it can save you!

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Now on to my top 12 quick and cheap lunch ideas for work!

12 Quick and Cheap Lunch Ideas for Work

Leftovers

This is the easiest thing you could take for work.  The meal is already cooked. All you have to do is put it into reusable containers.  Depending on when you will take it for lunch, you could put it in the fridge for the next day or in the freezer until you take it to work.

Easy and Cheap Lunch Ideas on a Budget Cold cut sandwiches

Cold Cuts or Lunch Meat Sandwiches

Yes, I know this is super boring. But lunch meat, as it is called in this area, is a lunch staple for some people (like my husband), so I had to put it on the list.

You could try different types of bread or rolls to change it up and make it more interesting. Also, try some different condiments or cheeses to spice it up.  There are tons of different flavored mustards and dressings you could experiment with.

Wraps

Yes, you could put your lunch meat in a wrap, but why not try a wrap full of fresh veggies, tuna salad, egg salad, or chicken salad? This brings me to my next idea.

Easy Lunch Ideas on a Budget Wraps

Tuna Salad, Egg Salad, Chicken Salad, Ham Salad

Make a big batch on Sunday to get you through the week.  You don’t have to cook the chicken to prepare the chicken salad. You can use canned chicken.

If you have an Instant Pot, making hard-boiled eggs for egg salad or to eat as a snack is quick, and the shells peel off so easily.

You could have your tuna, egg, chicken, or ham salad over lettuce, in a wrap, on bread, on a roll, in a pita, with crackers, or eat it as is.

Easy Lunch Ideas on a Budget chicken salad on a bagel

Nut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Good old PB and J sandwiches are easily made ahead.  You have to spread some peanut butter (or whatever nut butter you use) on both pieces of bread, then put the jelly on to avoid mushy bread. 

You can also make a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Grab one out as you head out the door, and it will be thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime. 

Adult Lunchables

Kids love Lunchables! It’s no wonder; what isn’t to like? Adults should be able to enjoy Lunchables, too. Bento Boxes are super popular right now, and you can create your grown-up version of Lunchables in them. 

You can fill your Bento Box with all the snacks you enjoy eating to create a healthy meal.  Fill your box with things like rolled-up deli meats, grapes, cheese slices, apples, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, & avocado slices.

Easy Lunch Ideas on a budget oatmeal

Oatmeal

I love taking oatmeal for lunch. It is one of the staples for my work lunches.  You could take instant oatmeal packets or make it ahead of time and take it already made.  I prefer the latter. Here is how I make it (just in case you are curious).

I buy the big canister of old-fashioned (aka rolled oats). It is so cheap to buy that huge thing! I make three servings at a time.  Old-fashioned oats only take 5 minutes to cook once the water boils.  Remember that you are making three servings, so it takes under two minutes to cook each lunch serving.

I then evenly divided it up into three reusable containers. I add a teaspoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of strawberry preserves to add some sweetness, and that’s it!

You could use any nut butter and preserves flavor to change it up to your taste buds. Other add-ins for oatmeal are chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, fruit, brown sugar, & honey.

After I divide it into containers and put in my add-ins, I put them in the fridge to grab for lunch during the week. Then, I have three lunches ready to grab and go in under 10 minutes. 

At work, remove the lid and microwave your oatmeal for one minute, and you have a super healthy, cheap, and filling lunch.

Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I could eat it anytime! Scramble some eggs and throw them in a wrap with some cheese and a slice of deli ham, and you have a yummy breakfast burrito. 

Or you could fry up a couple of eggs and put them on English muffins with a slice of cheese. Put them in reusable containers in the fridge, and you can grab them for lunches throughout the week. Heat them up in the microwave at work for a few seconds for a quick lunch!

Easy Lunch Ideas on a budget salads

Salads

Are you having a side salad with your dinner? Why not pull out a container to make an extra one for your lunch the next day? Making an extra salad when you are already cutting up veggies does not add much time to your prep work.

Just leave the dressing off so your lettuce remains crisp.  You could take a bottle of your favorite dressing to leave at work if you have access to a fridge. Or use a small container to put a couple of tablespoons of dressing in to take along.

Cottage Cheese and Fruit

Cottage cheese is great for work lunches.  This is my other staple.  I buy a large cottage cheese container and divide it into four reusable containers. 

You can either put some canned fruit on top or grab one of those small fruit cups to take along to top the cottage cheese with fruit at work. 

Canned Soup

There is nothing easier than opening a can of soup for your lunch.  If you don’t have access to a microwave to heat your soup at work, you could get a Thermos. 

To use the thermos, heat the soup in your microwave in the morning. Then, put the hot soup into the Thermos to take with you. It will still be hot by lunchtime when you go to eat it.

My husband bought one for work when he was getting tired of cold sandwiches every day.  He really likes using the Thermos, especially in the winter. 

Easy Lunch Ideas on a budget fruit and yogurt

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

This is a super simple lunch idea for work. It is probably best assembled at work to avoid the granola from becoming soggy. Just grab a cup of yogurt, put some fruit in a container, and take some granola to work on layering your parfait with and enjoying on your lunch break.

Conclusion

As you can see, becoming devoted to taking your lunch to work does not have to mean you have to work hard to prepare it. There are so many easy lunch ideas on a budget!

I mean, who really enjoys prepping food for the workweek anyway?  I can think of many things I’d rather do on a Sunday afternoon instead of standing in the kitchen making my lunches for the week.

Spending time with my husband and kids, going for a run, & reading a good book are just a few things I’d rather do.

What would you rather do on a Sunday afternoon than make your lunches for work?  Do you have any other quick lunch ideas you can tell me about? I would love to hear them. Please let me know in the comments!

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