Looking for lunch ideas to bring to work? A great way to save money is to bring your lunch and avoid eating out. You may not even realize how much you’re spending on lunch–just one lunch out (even fast food) probably runs you between $5 and $10.
If you are eating out for lunch every day, you are throwing away $100-$200 a month just on lunch. Think about how many groceries you could get with that money.
The same old sandwiches can get boring and drive you to want to go out for lunch. Or maybe you just aren’t a sandwich fan (me!). Looking for other options. Here are some non-sandwich ideas to spice up your lunch:
Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas for Work
Depending on your work and time schedule, some of these options might be easier for you to do than others. However, all are great choices for an easy lunch. We’ll break our ideas down into two categories: meals that do require heating and meals that don’t. Ready?
Lunch Ideas That Do Require Heating
Most office places have some type of microwave or other food-heating source in place. If yours does, here are some lunch ideas for you.
1.TV Dinners and Microwave Meals
You can’t find an easier option for lunch. Just pull a meal out of the freezer and go. A few minutes in the microwave at work and you’re good to go! With these types of meals you can get pretty much whatever you want. From pasta to meat and potatoes to ethnic meals, you’re covered.
You’ll pay more than some options because of the convenience factor but still save a few bucks over eating out.
Bring last night’s dinner in for a repeat performance. Using leftovers as your work lunch can save you money and time. In fact, we make some meals larger on purpose, knowing we will eat the leftovers for lunch.
A box of pasta and a jar of tomato sauce will not only be dinner for five, but also 2-3 lunches during the week. An awesome deal for spending less than $3. Another example of a meal I make extra of is meatless chili mac. It costs under $5 to make but will really stretch.
As you make your dinners, plan to make more so that you can bring some to work the next day.
Lunch Ideas That Don’t Require Heating
Sometimes you don’t have a microwave available to heat/reheat food. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have to stick with a sandwich. Here are some lunch ideas you can take advantage of that won’t need a microwave.
These are along the same line as a sandwich, but using a wrap can make the same old meat and cheese feel different. There are so many options for wraps. Here are a few ideas you can use or modify:
- Club wraps with ham, turkey, bacon, cheese and veggies
- Veggie wraps with any combination of your favorite veggies and some dressing
- Spicy meatball wraps
- Tuna or chicken salad wraps
- Burrito wraps with taco meat, beans and cheese
The list goes on and on. A lot of variety here that will keep you loving your homemade lunches.
4. Pasta salad
As with wraps, pasta salads can offer a lot of variety. Pasta salad is easy to make and you can add in extras to make it your own. You can certainly make it from scratch with pasta and your own dressing, but I keep it easy by starting with a boxed pasta salad.
Spice it up with your favorite veggies, cheese cubes, or meat for your own twist. Or throw in some diced veggies like tomato, cucumber, broccoli, etc. Adding extra ingredients will make your pasta salad stretch further too!
5. Soup and Stews
Use a thermos and bring your favorite soup or stew. You have to pour hot water (I use water heated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes) in it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Once the food jar is heated, then you heat your soup, stew, etc in the microwave at home. The food jar will keep your lunch warm for several hours.
If you don’t heat the thermos food jar up before hand you will have gross cold soup for lunch (I learned the hard way)!
With soups and stews there are so many options:
- Chicken noodle
- Beef stew
- Turkey rice
- Bean and ham
- Split pea
- Clam chowder
Make your own at home or buy some canned stuff – whatever is easiest for you.
6. Lettuce Salads
Lettuce salads are simple to customize the way you like them with your favorite veggies. If you want to add protein for a more satisfying meal, you can include chicken, ham, or hard-boiled eggs.
There’s so many unique topping ideas for salads from nuts to tortilla strips to even fruit. Get creative and you can have a different salad every day! I recommend keeping your salad dressing in a small, separate plastic or glass container. Wait to put it on your salad at lunchtime. This will help ensure the salad doesn’t get too soggy.
7. Tortilla Chips and Accompaniments
This is another idea for an easy lunch that doesn’t need to be heated. Grab a plastic container and fill it with some tortilla chips. Then bring one or more sides in a separate container:
- Pico de gallo
- Homemade Mexican dips with sour cream and taco seasoning
Again, lots of possibilities here.
Kebabs can come in all sorts of flavors, and also not have to be cooked or reheated. Here are some ideas.
- Club kebab with ham, turkey, cherry tomato, cucumber and onion
- Veggie kebab with cherry tomato, fresh basil, and mozzarella balls
- Greek kebabs with olives, basil sun-dried tomatoes and ham or turkey
Add in dressings or sprinkle with spices as you see fit. Store in a longer container or cut the kebab sticks in half.
9. Stuffed Veggies
Another great idea for cold lunch is to bring some sort of stuffed veggie. Start with a green, yellow or red pepper. You can also use a bigger tomato such as a Bushel Boy. Cut the tomato or pepper in half from top to bottom.
Scoop out the insides and discard. Fill each half with your favorite ingredients. Some ideas include chicken or turkey salad. You could also make your favorite veggie or pasta salad in a mini version and put that in your veggie halves.
Cover with plastic wrap or store in an appropriate-sized container. Keep upright.
10. Granola or Trail Mix Bowl
Ever think about bringing a granola or trail mix bowl in for lunch? Just put together your favorite ingredients and mix them up. You can buy the pre-made stuff at the grocery store. Or you can make a homemade granola at home. Choose favorite ingredients such as:
- Dry quick oats
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, sunflower nuts, etc.
- Dried fruits such as cherries, raisins, apples, apricots, etc.
If you look online you can find dozens of recipes that are easy to make and store.
11. Rice or Quinoa Salads
Want something a little more hearty for lunch. Try making a salad with rice or Quinoa as a base. Again, lots of different options here. You could do something Oriental themed with a peanut sauce, shredded cabbage and carrot, and some diced green onions.
Or you could choose a Mexican flavor by adding taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, chopped cilantro and chopped green onion. Get creative. Look online for ideas. Throw in some accompanying meat like taco meat or sesame chicken for some added protein.
12. Sushi Rolls
Do you like Sushi? Why not make some homemade Sushi rolls and bring them for lunch? There are recipes online for various different Sushi ideas such as:
- Smoked salmon Sushi
- Cucumber and avocado Sushi
- Spicy tuna Sushi
- Avocado and shrimp Sushi
And many others. Just do an internet search for “sushi recipes” and you’ll get plenty of ideas.
Save Money by Bringing Your Lunch
If you’re tired of the same old sandwiches for lunch, try some of these ideas and see how much you can save by avoiding going out for lunch. It may take some time to develop a list of ideas that work for you. However, if you’re willing to put in the work I think you’ll find this a great way to save money.
In addition, you could always spice up your old sandwich ideas too. Try some different breads or cheeses. Use an Italian Focaccia bread or a honey wheat bread. Try some Pepper Jack cheese or Smoked Gouda. Use guacamole as a dressing instead of mayo. Who knows, with a little variety you might just fall in love with sandwiches for lunch again too.
Do you bring your lunch to work? If not, how come? If so, what are some of your favorite lunch ideas? And how much money do you think you have saved? Feel free to let us know in the comments section.