4 Lunch Recipes to Save Money and Valuable Time

September 29, 2014 by Cat

lunch recipes

Who else out there is not a morning person?  I’m making an effort to change that, but I have my doubts about the success of this endeavor.  Some traits are just ingrained into the very fiber of a person’s being. (Ha! See that’s funny because I’m talking about food today.)  I’ll use every last second I have getting ready in the morning no matter how early I get up.  I’m always really grateful to my past self when I don’t have to make lunch on those busy mornings because I pre-packed it.  I wrote before about eating healthy when busy because fueling my life with good quality foods is really important to me.  Stretching my finances is also something I work really hard at, and I think this topic can be approached from both angles.

I’m talking about making big batches of food that can serve as lunches throughout the week.  Sometimes I do this by making a dish of something on Sundays just for that purpose.  Other times I plan larger dinners to feed four or six people so that the leftovers can be packed for lunch.  Either approach can work great, but take the time to portion out what you would eat for each day.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to reach into the fridge, throw a container into a lunch box with a utensil, and run out the door.

This makes financial sense for a few reasons.  If you’re taking a lunch you aren’t eating out.  Unless you know a place that has spectacularly inexpensive lunch deals, making it yourself is almost always cheaper, not to mention healthier.  If you drive then you’re also using gas money to go out and grab lunch.  Sometimes lunches out are accompanied by a little shopping or errand running.  Staying in or near the office to eat eliminates the chances to spend money on extra things over your lunch break.  Unless you’re shopping online, in which case I can’t stop you.

There are a couple parameters to consider before starting your money saving quest of making lunches.

Pick things you’ll actually eat.

This is probably a given, but if you’re trying to develop this habit, choose meals that are appetizing to you.  If you aren’t excited to eat it, you might jump at the opportunity to leave your lunch behind when someone in the office offers to pick up fast food.  This is especially important if you don’t care for eating the same thing each day.  Making extras at each dinner should provide more variety for weekday lunches if this happens to you.

Use versatile ingredients.

When picking recipes or deciding what to make for lunches, look for dishes that have ingredients you’ll use again for meals.  You won’t save much money if you buy specialty items that are hard to use in other ways.  A few different grains, a few different condiments, your favorite veggies and protein can be mixed and matched into many dishes for lunch or dinner.  Here are some of my favorite lunch recipes:

How do you save money on weekday lunches?  Do you take something for lunch that always makes your coworkers jealous?


Photo courtesy of saori usuki.

17 thoughts on “4 Lunch Recipes to Save Money and Valuable Time”

  1. The quinoa salad sounds so yummy!!! I love avocado but hate how expensive it can be, but I am sure you could do the salad with our without avocado. I have gotten into tuna with orzo, cucumber and fennel salad that I eat a few days a week. You just combine all of those things with some lemon juice and it’s delightful.

    1. Avocado could be left out, but I love it! I’ve actually gotten avocados on sale and frozen them out of their peel. I won’t say frozen and thawed is exactly the same as fresh, but it’s an option. Frozen avocados work well for smoothies and things where you’re going to mash them up anyway. That tuna and orzo salad sounds fantastic!

  2. Erin @ Journey to Saving

    We do struggle with eating the same thing day in and day out. My boyfriend takes a sandwich almost every day, but he never eats out, so I’m thankful for that. At my last job, I lived so close I actually went home on my hour break! I had no excuses that way. =) Tuna, omelets, and leftovers were my favorites.

    1. My husband would eat a sandwich for two meals a day everyday if he could. I’m not a fan of that much processed meat and cheese in his diet. I do these big grain salads for that exact reason, plus I really like them. Tuna (with sweet pickles for me) and leftovers are always good, but I hadn’t thought of omelets. Thanks for sharing!

  3. When I was commuting to the office I would bring my own lunch and snacks which were mainly leftovers of the previous night’s meal. Sometimes I cook a couple of different meals on Sundays so that helps to have a couple of selections of lunches during the work week. I tend to eat small meals through the day, a grazer if you will.

    1. Snacks from home are good, too, especially if you’re prone to munching throughout the day. Vending machine runs can add up!

  4. Katharine @ Katharine Writes

    Packing what you’ll actually eat is such an important tip. For several years, my husband would pack himself a sandwich every day… and then leave it on his desk and go out to each. It wasn’t until I suggested that he take leftovers instead that he finally stopped doing that. Apparently, he just associated sandwiches with lunch, even though he didn’t like them, and never thought to take anything else!

    1. Oh how funny (and sort of frustrating)! I remember getting burnt out on sandwiches and then cheese and crackers when I took lunch to school. I’ve got to have something a little more exciting.

  5. I try to bring leftovers as much as possible, but I also make big batches of chili and burritos or quesadillas to bring for quick lunches. I always feel a sense of defeat when I find myself down in the cafeteria buying my lunch!

  6. Actually that pumpkin chili sounds awesome! We’re still eating a big batch of squash soup which is awesome because I love it and there’s no cream in it.

    1. Please try the pumpkin chili! I absolutely love it! Soup is another great one that gets better as the week goes on and makes a great lunch.

  7. Great ideas. I always take my lunch. When I go out with coworkers, I have a coffee or tea and visit with them, but still eat my own food. I just feel so much better throughout the day when I’ve eaten what I know my body needs, rather than whatever I can find that “kinda sorta” works on the menu. Saving money is just a side effect 🙂

    1. That’s a great point. No one wants to miss out on socialization because they’re trying to save money. There are definitely ways to accommodate both.

  8. Julie @ Dreaming Ginger

    Thank you for a great post! Those recipes sound delicious!! I am going to have to try out each and every one of them 🙂

  9. Pingback: Are you late? So late? For a very important date? - Budget and the Bees

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