51 Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas to Make Quick and Stay on Budget

51 Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas to Make Quick and Stay on Budget
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Introduction to Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas

Need some Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas? In today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to find the time and money to prepare healthy and delicious meals.

However, a little creativity and planning can go a long way in reducing food costs and saving precious time. In this blog post, I will explore some easy lunch ideas that are not only quick but also budget-friendly.

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Affordable, Delicious and Easy Lunches

We all know that eating out during your lunch break can be expensive and give you a wide variety of unhealthy options. Don’t worry – I have the perfect solution!

I will show you some creative ways to create a tasty meal at home without breaking the bank. From simple sandwiches and wraps to hearty salads and grain bowls that use leftovers from dinner, plus seasonal soups and stews for cold days – there are plenty of tasty meals to choose from!

What’s more, with just a few staple ingredients in your pantry or fridge like grains, legumes, nuts/seeds and fresh vegetables on hand it’s easy to mix up these recipes every week.

Let’s get started – let’s make magic happen in the kitchen together!

You can bookmark on Pinterest!:

chickpea salad, lentil soup, egg salad sandwich and hummus sandwich - easy cheap lunch ideas.

The Importance of Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas

Having easy and budget-friendly lunch ideas is essential for several reasons.

Firstly, it helps save money by reducing the need to eat out or purchase expensive pre-made meals. This can result in significant savings over time, especially for those on a tight budget.

Secondly, preparing homemade lunches allows for more control over ingredients and portion sizes, making it easier to incorporate healthy options into your diet.

Additionally, preparing meals at home can save time and stress during busy workdays.

The Benefits of Making Your Own Lunch

Making your own lunch has numerous benefits both for your health and your wallet.

The Advantages of Preparing Homemade Lunches

When it comes to mealtime during the workweek, it can be tempting to run out and grab a quick bite to eat or place an order for delivery. However, there are countless benefits to taking the time to prepare homemade lunches.

Firstly, you have complete control over the ingredients that go into your meal, making it easier to ensure you’re consuming healthy, nourishing options.

Additionally, bringing a homemade lunch to work can save you money in the long run, as restaurant meals can quickly add up.

A woman is getting something out of a small brown bag - easy cheap lunch ideas.

Furthermore, preparing your own meals can be a creative and enjoyable experience, allowing you to experiment with different flavors and cuisines.

Overall, the benefits of making your own lunch are clear – it’s a healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling option than relying on takeout or delivery.

The Potential Cost Savings

One of the most significant advantages of homemade lunches is the potential cost savings. According to a study by Visa, the average American spends over $20 a week on take-out lunches. This adds up over a year!

By preparing your own lunches at home, you can significantly cut down on this expense.

When you’re at the grocery store, buy ingredients in bulk and take advantage of sales and discounts. Also, plan out meals for the week. Not only will this save you money, but it also ensures that you have healthy options readily available.

Ingredients to Keep on Hand

To make preparing your own lunches a successful and sustainable habit, it’s important to keep certain staple ingredients on hand.

Staple Ingredients That Are Useful for Quick and Affordable Lunches

When it comes to quick and affordable lunches, having a well-stocked pantry can make all the difference. A few staple ingredients that are versatile and easy to work with include canned chicken, beans, tomato sauce, rice, pasta, and eggs.

a pantry with jars of grains, tomatoes, and eggs - easy cheap lunch ideas.

Canned beans can be added to salads or used to make bean burritos, while rice and pasta can be boiled and paired with a simple sauce or vegetables for a filling meal.

Eggs are another great option for quick lunches, perfect for omelets or scrambled eggs with leftover veggies.

These staple ingredients are not only budget-friendly, but also offer a great deal of nutrition and endless possibilities for lunchtime creativity.

How to Stock your Pantry and Fridge for Easy Meal Preparation

Stocking your pantry and fridge for easy meal preparation is an essential practice for anyone who wants to save time and make meal times more enjoyable.

Having a well-stocked pantry means that you’ll always have the ingredients you need for meal prep to whip up a delicious meal in no time, and your fridge will be full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins that you can easily incorporate into your meals.

Some essentials to consider include versatile ingredients like canned tomatoes, pasta, rice, and beans. In your fridge, consider stocking up on simple proteins like chicken breasts or tofu, as well as an array of colorful veggies and cheese.

Sandwiches and Wraps

Sandwiches and wraps are easy cheap lunch ideas, especially if you’re on the go.

A Variety of Sandwich and Wrap Ideas Using Common Ingredients

Sandwiches and wraps are a quick and easy meal that can be customized to fit any taste preference.

1) One easy lunch idea is a turkey wrap made with sliced turkey breast, cream cheese, spinach, sliced cucumber, and crispy bacon all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

For a vegetarian option, try a hummus and veggie sandwich with sliced avocado, roasted red peppers, shredded carrots and lettuce on your favorite bread.

2) Another classic sandwich combo is a grilled cheese with tomato soup. Take it up a notch by using sourdough bread, sharp cheddar cheese, and adding crispy bacon and sliced tomato to the sandwich.

a bowl of tomato soup - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Tomato and Tumeric Soup

You can find Tomato and Tumeric Soup at: Christina’s Cucina

With just a few ingredients, you can create endless sandwiches and simple wrap possibilities to satisfy your cravings.

Some more suggestions:

3) Chicken Caesar Wrap: Grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing in a tortilla wrap.

4) Burrito: Rice, beans, salsa, grilled chicken or steak, cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. You can add avocado or sour cream for extra flavor.

5) BLT: Bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo on toasted bread.

6) Egg Salad Sandwich: Hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and diced celery served on whole wheat bread.

Egg Salad Sandwich - easy cheap lunch ideas
Egg Salad Sandwich

You can find this egg salad sandwich recipe at Kristine’s Kitchen.

7) Vegan Burrito: Black beans, brown rice, guacamole, salsa, and shredded lettuce in a whole wheat wrap.

Ham and Cheese Sandwich: Sliced ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard on a baguette.

8) Tuna Salad Sandwich: Tuna mixed with mayonnaise, diced celery, and lettuce on whole grain bread.

Tuna Salad Sandwich - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Tuna Salad Sandwich

9) Egg Salad Wrap: Hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, and diced pickles in a tortilla wrap.

10) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: a Classic favorite made with peanut butter, jelly, and your choice of bread. (I use hazelnut spread instead sometimes).

11) Buffalo Chicken Salad: Shredded chicken mixed with buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, and diced celery in a wrap or sandwich.

Salads and Grain Bowls

Salads and grain bowls are easy cheap lunch ideas and great options for those looking for a lighter, healthier lunch.

Suggestions for Assembling Budget-Friendly Salads and Grain Bowls

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank, and budget-friendly salads and grain bowls are a great way to prove it. By planning ahead and prioritizing affordable ingredients, you can create delicious, nutrient-packed meals that won’t leave your wallet feeling empty.

12) For salads, try using leafy greens as a base and loading up on veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Add some protein with a hard-boiled egg or black beans.

13) For grain bowls, start with a base of rice or quinoa and top it with roasted veggies, chickpeas, or tofu. Get creative with your seasonings and homemade dressing to add flavor without added cost.

You can add your favorite toppings such as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for some crunch and sweetness.

More salad suggestions:

14) Antipasto salad with salami, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, olives, and balsamic dressing.

15) Pasta salad with tomatoes, basil, mozzerella cheese in an olive oil base with garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pine nuts.

Caprese Pasta salad - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Caprese Pasta Salad

You can find Caprese Pasta Salad at: What a Girl Eats

16) Cobb salad with grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and blue cheese dressing.

17) Burrito bowl with rice, black beans, corn, salsa, and avocado.

18) Mediterranean bowl with couscous or quinoa, falafel, cucumber salad, hummus, and tzatziki sauce with optional feta cheese.

19) Chickpea salad with roasted chickpeas, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.

chickpea salad - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Chickpea Salad

The Importance of Using Versatile Ingredients

Cooking can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a hassle, especially if you’re using ingredients that are difficult to work with. That’s why it’s important to have a few versatile ingredients on hand that can be used in a variety of different dishes.

Not only will this make your life easier, but it will also save you money in the long run since you won’t be constantly buying new things that can only be used in one or two recipes.

You’ll also be able to quickly whip up easy lunch recipes in no time.

Here are some suggestions:

20) Canned beans: these are great for adding protein and texture to salads, grain bowls, soups, and more.

21) Quinoa: a nutritious whole grain that can be used as a base for grain bowls or as a substitute for rice in various dishes.

quinoa - easy cheap lunch ideas.

22) Tofu: a versatile source of plant-based protein that can be marinated, grilled, sautéed, or used in stir-fries.

23)Frozen vegetables: they are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be easily added to soups, stir-fries, omelets, and more.

24) Eggs: a pantry staple that can be scrambled, fried, boiled, poached, or used in baking.

eggs- cheap easy lunch ideas

Leftovers Reinvented

Another way to save money and reduce food waste is by getting creative with leftovers.

How to Transform Dinner Leftovers Into Tasty and Inexpensive Lunches

Transforming dinner leftovers into delicious and budget-friendly lunches is a great way to make the most out of your meals.

25) For example, a leftover chicken breast can be chopped up and turned into a flavorful chicken salad sandwich the next day.

26) Similarly, leftover roasted vegetables can be tossed together with a grain like quinoa or couscous to make a hearty and healthy lunch bowl.

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Leftover taco meat can be transformed into a tasty wrap with some lettuce, shredded cheese, and salsa.

Transforming leftovers into lunch not only saves money, but it’s a great way to reduce food waste and make mealtimes more exciting.

Make-Ahead Lunches

Another great way to save money and time during the week is by making lunches ahead of time.

Lunches That Can be Prepared in Advance for the Week

Are you tired of scrambling to put together lunch every day? Take a load off and try meal prepping!

It can seem daunting at first, but with a bit of planning, you can have a week’s worth of delicious lunches ready in no time.

27) One option is to prepare mason jar salads with your favorite veggies, protein, and dressing. They’re easy to customize and can be made in big batches.

mason jar salad - easy cheap lunch ideas
Mason Jar Salad

28) Another option is to make a big pot of chili on Sunday and portion it out for the week. These options are not only convenient, but they’re also healthy and satisfying.

Here are some more ideas:

29) Mason jar noodles: layer noodles, veggies, and protein in a mason jar. Add broth or dressing when ready to eat.

30) Cold pasta salads: mix cooked pasta with your favorite veggies, protein, and dressing for a filling and refreshing lunch.

31) Wraps or sandwiches: make a batch of your favorite wraps or sandwiches at the beginning of the week and store them in the fridge for quick and easy lunches.

32) Bento boxes: these are perfect for picky eaters or those who prefer a variety of options. Fill each compartment with different foods like crackers, cheese, fruits, veggies, and protein.

bento box lunch with cucumbers and carrots, salad and pieces of cantelope - easy cheap lunch ideas
Bento Box Lunch

33) Burrito bowls: cook up a big pot of rice and beans at the beginning of the week. Add toppings like salsa, avocado, cheese, and protein for a flavorful and filling meal.

The Time-Saving Aspect of Make-Ahead Lunches

Meal prepping not only saves you from the daily lunch scramble, but it also saves you time in the long run. By spending a bit of extra time planning and preparing your meals ahead of time, you can free up precious minutes during busy weekdays.

This means more time for yourself or other important tasks throughout the week. Plus, with all your lunches ready to go, you won’t have to worry about stopping for fast food or spending money on expensive takeout.

Meal prepping can save you time, money, and stress, making it a win-win situation.

Budget-Friendly Soup and Stew

Soups and stews are hearty and delicious and are easy cheap lunch ideas. They’re also budget-friendly, easy lunch options that can make many meals the whole week long.

Simple Soup and Stew Recipes

Winter is the perfect time to cozy up with a warm bowl of hearty soup or stew. But if you’re on a budget, it can be challenging to find recipes that won’t drain your bank account.

Luckily, there are plenty of simple and delicious soup and stew recipes that won’t leave you feeling guilty about your spending. A slow cooker or instant pot can make the process even more effortless to make a quick lunch.

34) For example, a classic chicken noodle soup can be made with inexpensive ingredients like chicken thighs, carrots, celery, and egg noodles.

a pot of chicken noodle soup - easy cheap lunch ideas
Chicken Noodle Soup

35) Or, try your hand at a classic vegetable stew made with potatoes, carrots, onions, and green beans.

These recipes are not only budget-friendly but also easy to make, so you can enjoy a warm and satisfying meal to fit your grocery budget.

Cost-Effectiveness of Batch-Cooking Soups

Another great way to save money when it comes to soups and stews is through batch-cooking. By making a large pot of soup or stew, you can have multiple meals for the week without spending extra on ingredients.

Soups, in particular, are a popular choice for batch cooking due to their ability to freeze well and retain flavor over time.

But what about cost-effectiveness?

Well, the answer is simple – batch-cooking soups can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. By buying ingredients in bulk, you can take advantage of discounts and avoid waste by using leftover vegetables and meats.

Plus, homemade soups are often healthier than store-bought versions, which means you’ll be saving money on expensive convenience foods.

Soup ideas:

36) Bean Soup: Canned beans are an affordable protein source, making them perfect for soups. Try making a hearty bean soup with carrots, celery, onions, and your favorite spices.

37) Lentil Soup: Lentils are another excellent source of protein and can be purchased in bulk for a low cost. Combine them with vegetables, broth, and herbs for a nutritious and budget-friendly meal.

Lentil Soup from Dana's Table - easy cheap lunch ideas
Lentil Soup

You can find The Best Ever Lentil Soup at Dana’s Table

38) Chicken Noodle Soup: As mentioned before, chicken thighs are an inexpensive option for making soup. Add in noodles, carrots, and celery for a classic, comforting meal.

39 ) Vegetable Soup: Utilize any leftover vegetables in your fridge to make a delicious and nutritious vegetable soup. Add in some beans or lentils for extra protein and fiber. For beef vegetable soup, add beef.

40) Potato Soup: Potatoes are an affordable staple that can be turned into a variety of soups, from creamy potato soup to chunky vegetable and potato stew.

bowl of potato soup - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Potato Soup

You can find Creamy Potato Soup at Natasha’s Kitchen

Quick and Easy Snack Plates

In addition to soups and stews, another budget-friendly option for meals is snack plates.

Share Ideas for Assembling Snack Plates With Affordable Items

Snacking is an essential part of our daily routine, and having a snack plate ready to go can be a lifesaver when hunger strikes. Luckily, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to create a delicious and satisfying snack plate.

41) Why not start with a base of pita chips or multigrain crackers, and add a few slices of cucumber or carrots for some crunch? Toss in a few grapes or an apple for a burst of sweetness, and sprinkle some nuts on top for added protein and healthy fats.

Multi-grain crackers - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Multigrain Crackers

42) If you’re feeling a little fancy, try adding some hummus or salsa for dipping.

With just a few affordable ingredients, you’ll have a snack plate that’s not only delicious but also satisfying and healthy.

Here are some more suggestions:

43) Hard boiled eggs with a sprinkle of salt and pepper

44) Sliced cheese or deli meat wrapped around pretzel sticks

45) Whole wheat crackers with canned tuna or chicken salad

chicken salad on crackers and decorated with celery and peppers - easy cheap lunch ideas.
Crackers With Chicken Salad

46) A handful of trail mix or dried fruit

47) Roasted chickpeas or edamame for a savory crunch.

Still More Ideas

Here are additional easy cheap lunch ideas:

48) Cottage Cheese with fruit

49) Greek Yogurt with honey and granola

50) A can of drained tuna mixed with mayo and relish on crackers

51) Sandwiches made from canned beans (mashed) or hummus, cheese, and lettuce on bread. (I liked my hummus on tortillas with black olives).

veggie sandwiches with hummus - cheap easy lunch ideas
Veggie Sandwich with Hummus

You can find the recipe for Veggie Sandwiches with Hummus at She Likes Food

These are just a few ideas to get you started. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating affordable and delicious snack plates and lunches.

Conclusion of Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas

Eating on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or health. You can easily make healthy lunches that everyone will enjoy.

Summarizing the Key Points of Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas

To sum things up, my easy cheap lunch ideas are a great way to save money and still enjoy delicious food. Also, with my helpful tips and recipes, you can make budget-friendly lunches with minimal effort.

Keep some pantry staples handy, as well as quick pre-made items like sandwich bread or tortillas, for those days when you’re in a hurry which cuts down on meal prepping. Make your sandwiches and salads ahead of time if need be, or simply create a snack plate of fun items if you don’t want another salad.

Leftovers are always welcome for lunch as well, just reheat and enjoy!

Plus, there’s nothing quite like homemade soup or stew – whip up a big batch on the weekend to enjoy all week to enjoy a quick meal with no prepping.

If you liked this blog post, please share on Pinterest:

chicken salad on crackers, bento box lunch, pasta salad and mason jar salad with the title, "51+ Easy and Cheap Lunch Ideas".

Encouragement to Start Incorporating Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas Into Your Routine

As you can see, there are plenty of easy and affordable lunch options to choose from that won’t cause too much stress.

With my suggestions on easy cheap lunch ideas, breaking away from the same boring routine and incorporating cost-effective alternatives has never been simpler.

Try out some of these delicious recipes for yourself and start saving today!


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      1. Awesome post. One of the main benefits of preparing one’s lunch is that it saves a lot of money and most times it is healthier. Thanks for sharing these healthy lunch ideas.

      2. This article is really great. Lots of information to help save money and feed your family. I used to keep my nieces and nephews along with my own kids and food costs were crazy, that’s when I started getting into this kind of stuff. So, I really enjoyed this article.

      3. I love the wide variety of options you give! I’ve been in a bit of a rut and not enjoying anything I’ve made for lunch so I’m excited to have lots of new ideas! I definitely want to try making an egg salad wrap.

      4. It is really great and detailed article! I love these lunch ideas, and I’m going to have an egg salad sandwich tomorrow.

      5. Excellent ideas for affordable lunches in this article. I swear I’d be rich if I spent more time planning my lunches and less time eating out!

      6. Wonderful budget friendly lunch ideas! I particularly loved the sandwiches and wraps section. They are so easy to prepare.

      7. I love all the lunch ideas. Homemade is so much better. In addition we know what is in our food! I am craving an egg salad sandwich now!

      8. Leftovers reinvented is something I like to do too. I had leftover potatoes from dinner and added scrambles eggs to them the next morning. It’s two meals with less effort.

      9. So I have a funny story about easy cheap lunches. In college, my roommate and I were saving money to go to backpack in Europe. We started eating tuna sandwiches for lunch and dinner! It was very cheap, and I actually lost so much weight that my mother didn’t recognize me when I came home (school was out-of-state). I do not recommend it as a diet!

        I sure could have used these ideas then! I do hate spending money on food today because it’s not something that lasts very long around here! Today me thanks you also!

      10. Thanks for the pantry stocking tips. That is the most difficult thing for me. I see something I want to make and never have the ingredients on hand.

      11. Your easy and cheap lunch ideas are a lifesaver! I love how you’ve made sticking to a budget so delicious and hassle-free—perfect for busy days!

      12. Thanks for all the great ideas. I have recently changed my diet from almost all take out to making my own meals, so your info was useful.

      13. I love the sheer variety of meals here! Who says you can’t have options when you’re trying to be frugal?!

      14. These easy cheap lunch ideas are a great way to save money while still enjoying delicious and healthy meals. Keeping pantry staples and pre-made items on hand can help cut down on meal prep time. Making sandwiches, salads, or snack plates ahead of time can be a real time-saver. Leftovers are also a great option for a quick and easy lunch. Overall, these tips and recipes make it easy to have budget-friendly lunches with minimal effort.

      15. These are great ideas for food on a budget. Transforming leftovers to a nice meal is one of our practices nowadays. Help save money a lot.

      16. These are great ideas! I take my lunch to work about 90 percent of the time, but I usually rely on frozen meals, yogurt, etc- things I can quickly throw into a lunch bag before I walk out the door. Your suggestions are better and don’t take that long to make.

      17. I love all of these budget friendly lunch ideas. I’m all for making sandwiches and salads for lunch. Anything easy and quick is always good

      18. I’m always looking for ideas for lunch. it’s so expensive to eat out. Thanks for the great selection.

      19. This food ideas are easy and affordable. I’m sure a lot of people will get back to this to try all of this and see for themselves how good and worthy it is.

      20. These are great ideas! Sometimes, a quick but delicious lunch is needed, and these are all perfect options.

      21. I would eat most of the lunch ideas you share. They are all healthy and wholesome. Every reader who wants to live a healthy life will appreciate these dishes.

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