8 Cheap Lunch Ideas That Are Good For You

8 Cheap Lunch Ideas That Are Good For You

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Tamara
January 28, 2022
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You know it’s not always easy to eat lunch. If you’re stuck at your desk working or running around completing a variety of errands, it’s easy to completely forget about eating at lunchtime.

You might also avoid buying lunch if it’s just too expensive.

Why is eating lunch important?

Eating something during the day helps you to avoid overeating later on at dinner and it also maintains your blood sugar.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy healthy, nutritious foods for lunch. You can make them yourself! 

8 Easy And Healthy Cheap Lunch Ideas 

#1 Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups

Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups

If you’re bored of having sandwiches on the go, the lettuce cups in this recipe will be a game-changer. They do contain a bit of bread, but they get filled with tasty ingredients.

The bread is also toasted in the oven for a more delicious spin on things. The macronutrient you’ll get in this recipe is protein. If you don’t eat chicken, replace it with a vegan protein such as chickpeas, lentils, or tofu.

What you’ll need

  • 4 ounces sourdough bread (cut into small pieces)
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt 
  • 2 romaine lettuce hearts
  • 2 cups roasted chicken breast (chopped) 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 2 tablespoons oil 
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (shredded) 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon mustard 
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Combine the oil and bread in a bowl, and spread in a layer on a baking sheet. 
  • Bake in the oven until toasted. 
  • Whisk the water, mayo, yogurt, cheese, mustard, pepper, and salt. 
  • Cut five inches from the top of both lettuce hearts. 
  • Put aside eight of the largest leaf tops – these will be your lettuce cups. 
  • Chop the bottom sections of the lettuce hearts into small pieces and add these with the chicken and bread to the bowl containing the dressing. Toss it well. 
  • Divide this mixture among the lettuce cups.

#2 Vegetarian Ramen Noodles

Vegetarian Ramen Noodles

For a convenient way to enjoy these delicious vegetarian noodles, make them in a jar so you can spoon them into your mouth when you need to boost your carb intake.

While these contain carbs in the form of noodles, they are filled with many healthy vegetarian ingredients, such as spinach, eggs for protein, mushrooms, and carrots. 

What you’ll need

  • 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable bouillon paste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon white miso 
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ginger (grated) 
  • 1 ½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce 
  • ¾ cup carrot (shredded) 
  • 1 ½ cups spinach (chopped) 
  • 3 boiled eggs (halved) 
  • ¾ cup mushrooms (sliced) 
  • 3 tablespoons scallions (sliced) 
  • ¾ teaspoon sesame seeds 
  • 1 ½ cups ramen noodles (cooked) 

Instructions 

  • Put the bouillon paste, chili-garlic sauce, miso, and ginger in a mason jar or other container. Note that if you’re storing this ramen noodle dish in a mason jar, the ingredient quantities are going to be too much for just one so you’ll have to reduce them.  
  • Layer the carrots, mushrooms, spinach, eggs, and noodles in the jar/container. 
  • Add the scallions and seeds on top. 

#3 One-Pot Pasta With Spinach And Tomatoes

#3 One-Pot Pasta With Spinach And Tomatoes

If you want to increase your carb intake to have enough energy for the rest of your workday, this one-pot pasta recipe is just the ticket. 

What you’ll need

  • 8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 cup onion (chopped) 
  • 6 garlic cloves (chopped) 
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you don’t eat meat) 
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach 
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (grated) 

Instructions

  • Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. 
  • Add garlic and onion to the pan and sauté until the onion becomes brown. 
  • Add your tomatoes, then the stock and oregano, and finally the pasta. Let it boil. 
  • Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium-low heat. Cook it until the pasta is almost done. 
  • Stir in salt and add the spinach in batches. You want to stir it until the spinach wilts. 
  • Take it off the heat and let it rest for five minutes. 
  • When you’re ready to enjoy it, sprinkle it with cheese. 

#4 Light Supergreen Soup 

#4 Light Supergreen Soup 

This soup contains a variety of healthy green ingredients. It’s the perfect light soup to enjoy all year round, and it offers a boost of healthy fats as well as protein. 

What you’ll need

  • 1 potato (cubed) 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
  • 1 onion (chopped) 
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed) 
  • 600ml vegetable stock 
  • Spinach, watercress, and rocket salad (bag) 
  • 150g pot yogurt 
  • 20g pine nuts (toasted)

How to make it

  • Heat oil in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook it slowly for about 10 minutes. 
  • Add the garlic and cook it for another minute. 
  • Add the potato and vegetable stock. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. You want the potato to be soft so you can slide a knife into it. 
  • Add the spinach, watercress, and rocket salad. Allow the greens to wilt. 
  • Add the mixture to a blender and blend it until it’s smooth. 
  • When serving it, toss on the pine nuts and yogurt

#5 Egg Roll Bowls

#5 Egg Roll Bowls

These egg roll bowls give you protein as well as healthy fats, so they’re a delicious and nutritious lunch that will keep you going. For increased flavor, this recipe makes use of sriracha, which is a hot chili sauce, and soy sauce.

If you’re worried about your sodium intake, choose sauces that have a low sodium content.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon ginger (minced) 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
  • 1 garlic clove (minced) 
  • 1 pound ground pork 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 
  • ½ onion (sliced) 
  • 1 cup carrot (shredded) 
  • ¼ cabbage (sliced) 
  • ¼ cup soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (toasted) 

How to make it

  • In a large skillet that’s on medium heat, heat up your vegetable oil. 
  • Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for one minute. 
  • Add the pork. Stir it until the meat starts to become golden. This takes about 10 minutes. 
  • Break the meat into small pieces with the use of a spatula or spoon. 
  • Put the pork to one side of the skillet and add in the sesame oil. 
  • Then, add the carrots, cabbage, and onion. Stir it well so that it combines with the meat. 
  • Add the soy sauce and sriracha. 
  • Cook all the ingredients until the cabbage has become tender. This should take about six minutes. 
  • Move the mixture into a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds. 

#6 Tuna Salad

#6 Tuna Salad

Tuna is always a healthy, high-protein snack to give you a boost of energy, so it’s the perfect lunch food. This recipe mixes tuna with healthy ingredients like lettuce, onions, and yogurt. For a boost of carbs, you can enjoy it with bread. 

What you’ll need

  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt 
  • 2 tablespoons mayo 
  • ½ lemon (juiced) 
  • 2 cans tuna 
  • ¼ red onion (chopped) 
  • 2 dill pickles (chopped) 
  • Lettuce and bread (for serving) 

How to make it

  • Quickly whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, and mayo in a bowl. 
  • Drain tuna from the can, then add it to the mixture. 
  • Using a fork, break up the tuna into flakes. 
  • Add the pickles and onion. Combine the ingredients well. 
  • Serve the salad with bread or lettuce. 

#7 Baked Sweet Potatoes

#7 Baked Sweet Potatoes

Enjoy delicious sweet potatoes during lunch to ward off sugar cravings. This recipe is a carb powerhouse, but it also gives you a bit of protein, so it’s ideal on days when you need a lot of energy.

What you’ll need

  • 2 sweet potatoes 
  • ½ lemon (for zest and juice) 
  • 80g fat-free yogurt 
  • 1 carrot 
  • 6 radishes
  • 1 beetroot (raw) 
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 apple  
  • 1 pinch ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cumin 
  • 2 tablespoons seeds (pumpkin and sunflower) 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus an extra tablespoon for rubbing potatoes)
  • 35g rocket 

How to make it

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, then rub a bit of olive oil on them. 
  • Roast the potatoes on a baking tray until they’re cooked through. 
  • Grate the lemon zest from half your lemon in a bowl, then add the turmeric, cumin, and yogurt. Set aside.  
  • Peel the onion and core your apple. Put these aside. 
  • Push the carrot, radishes, onion, apple, and beet through the grating blade of your food processor. Add them to a bowl. 
  • Mix the vegetables with lemon juice, then add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. 
  • Before the potatoes are ready, toast your seeds in a pan on medium heat for two minutes. 
  • Cut a cross shape into the top of the potatoes that have been cooked. Open them with a fork and mash them a bit inside. 
  • Add a spoon of some of the yogurt mixture and grated salad into the potatoes, along with the seeds. Serve with rocket.

#8 Healthy Buddha Bowl

#8 Healthy Buddha Bowl

Buddha bowls have become a trendy way to get lots of different healthy ingredients in one meal – simply add them to a bowl! This recipe includes ingredients such as radishes and other veggies.

It’s a carb and healthy-fat power lunch! What makes it convenient is that you can substitute various ingredients for whatever veggies and greens you have in your kitchen. 

Ingredients For the dressing 

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled) 
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley (chopped) 
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Ingredients For the Buddha bowl 

  • ½ cup wheat berries (cooked) 
  • ⅓ sweet potato (diced, roasted) 
  • ½ cup sprouts 
  • ¼ cup chickpeas
  • ¼ cup orange 
  • 5 sugar snap peas 
  • ½ avocado 
  • ¼ watermelon radish (sliced) 
  • 1 tablespoon red onion (pickled)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds 

How to make it

  • To make the dressing, add olive oil, yogurt, lemon juice, parsley, basil, and garlic to a food processor. Pulse and blend until the mixture is smooth. 
  • Then, for the bowl’s ingredients, you want to put wheat berries, sweet potato, and sprouts in a bowl. 
  • Layer it with chickpeas, peas, orange, radish, avo, onion, and pumpkin seeds. 
  • Add however much of the dressing you want to the bowl. 

Tips For Making Healthy, Balanced Lunches That Don’t Cost A Lot Of Money

Tips For Making Healthy, Balanced Lunches That Don’t Cost A Lot Of Money 
  • Plan your lunches ahead of time: This will ensure you buy healthy foods at the grocery store so that you fill your lunches with nutritional ingredients. 
  • You can even cook your lunches beforehand: Many healthy recipes can be refrigerated and enjoyed for a few days, which is a great way to make use of leftovers. 
  • Choose a lunch based on your activity level: If you’re working out later in the morning, you’ll need a higher-calorie lunch to replace your glycogen stores. If you’re less active, you can reduce your calories at lunchtime.

How should you spread out your calories throughout the day? 

It might help you to calculate calories for different meals, such as by consuming 20 percent of your total calories at breakfast, 30 percent at lunch, 30 percent at dinner, and saving 20 percent of your total daily calories for snacks. 

What are the benefits of eating a big lunch? 

Eating a large lunch can ensure you use up all the calories that you consume because you’re being active. This is better than filling up with a big meal at night when you’re less active. 

Conclusion 

The next time you leave the house for work, don’t forget to pack a healthy lunch.

This will give you the nutrients you need to get through the day while feeling satisfied so you don’t reach for unhealthy or expensive snacks.

In this article, we’ve looked at some of the healthiest lunches you can make at home. They’re easy, quick, and delicious. 

Resources:

Tamara

Tamara is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. She has dedicated a large chunk of her life to researching healthy food recipes and diet plans, and also teaching people how to improve their eating habits. Using Eatomology, Tamara shares the very best diet plans, cookbooks, and more. Also, for those on a quest to improve their kitchen, Tamara shares some awesome and high-quality kitchen equipment recommendations as well as buying guides on her website.