5 Healthy and Delicious Lunch Ideas...for You! (Because You're Worth It.)

Photo by Marti Sans / Stocksy United / 1225175
Photo by Marti Sans / Stocksy United

Written by Erin Chase, 5DollarDinners.com

When you’re a full-time working mom, you have two jobs: the one where you’re paid in cash, and the one where you’re rewarded with sticky kisses and delighted giggles.

Between those two responsibilities, there isn’t a lot of time for much else…and so sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) prepping your workday lunch falls by the wayside. Hello, expensive take-out food! (Or worse, a pack of peanut-butter crackers from the vending machine.)

It may seem impossible, but there are ways for you to eat healthy, budget-friendly lunches at work without having to wake up at 4 a.m. to get it all ready. Check out our five quick and easy ideas below:

1. Build Your Own Salad.

No matter who you are, salads are always a great option because there’s no right or wrong way to make a salad—build your own to suit your tastes (and take advantage of your grocery store’s produce sale items). Not to mention, these are super quick to make, especially if you prep the ingredients the night before and just toss them all together the next morning. 

We like mixing it up every now and then by experimenting with new ingredients. Our top winners include tomato, onion, and chick pea salad; avocado, mango, and goat cheese salad; and apple, cranberry, and pecan salad.  You have a wide range of options to add in—have fun exploring them!

Savings Tip: Are you a salad fiend? If you eat salad more than three times per week, try buying a larger shell of lettuce or salad mix from a warehouse store, where prices are typically lower than at a grocery store.

2. Make-at-Work Sandwiches.

Running late in the morning? This one is super quick: Throw two slices of bread and a mustard or mayo packet into a plastic storage bag, and toss some sandwich meat and cheese into a different baggie—all done! At lunch, assemble your sandwich in 30 seconds flat and enjoy. Even better, keeping the bread separate from the meat and cheese means your sandwich won’t be soggy. Score!

Nutrition-Boosting Swaps: Use whole-wheat bread for added nutrients. Low-calorie spreads like spicy mustard or honey mustard sauce also up the health factor, but you may have to transport the whole bottle to and from work. 

Photo by Harald Walker / Stocksy United / 1352906
Photo by Harald Walker / Stocksy United

3. Pasta or Quinoa Salads.

On Sunday evening when you’re making dinner, add an extra pot to the stove and cook up some pasta or quinoa. Then whip up a quick pasta or quinoa salad that you can enjoy all week long for lunch! Some tasty recipe ideas include Four Bean Quinoa, or “Toss It In” Pasta Salad, or Mediterranean Quinoa. True, you’ll have some extra work to do on the weekend, but it might just buy you some extra time to sleep in throughout the week. Who doesn’t want that?

Make-Ahead Add-Ons: Prefill some snack- or sandwich-size storage bags with sweet-potato chips, pretzels, or already sliced fruits and veggies, and stash them in a drawer near your lunch-packing area. Grab and go, easy as that!

4. Pack-n-Run Lunch.

On a weekend when you have some extra time, cook up some healthy treats and freeze them. When you know you’re going to want some the next day for lunch, just pull out of the freezer and refrigerate overnight! Our personal favorites include Whole-Wheat Banana-Strawberry Muffins or Breakfast Tacos.

Make It a Meal: Keep whole pieces of fruit like bananas, apples, grapes, or mandarin oranges at the ready for a nutritious boost, or have some hard-boiled eggs waiting in the fridge for a quick-packing protein boost. 

Photo by Harald Walker / Stocksy United / 819336
Photo by Harald Walker / Stocksy United

5. Hot Lunch Leftovers.

When it’s time to cook up a soup, chili, or casserole, double the amount of ingredients so you have extra portions for lunch later in the week. Make it easy on yourself by packaging it up into meal-size plastic containers instead of one big one—that way, you can just grab a container and run on out the door into your busy day. Tired of the same ol’ recipes? Check out these awesome ideas for Slow Cooker ChiliButternut Squash Soup, or Pumpkin Pasta Casserole.

The Finishing Touches: Grab a hunk of bread from the loaf, drop in a few crackers and some fruit, and bam—a healthy, nutritious lunch is ready when you are, with only the aid of a microwave needed!
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