Taking your lunch to work doesn’t have to mean a daily diet of boring frozen entrees.

4 minute read

Around 72% of Americans grab lunch at a quick-service restaurant, according to market and consumer data provider Statista. It’s easy to spend $10 a pop, even at many fast-food restaurants. You don’t have to be a math whiz to calculate how much money you spend every week going out to lunch.

What if you took part of that money you spend going out to lunch and bought some inexpensive grocery items so you could take lunch to work instead? Making your own lunch doesn’t have to be boring, and you can easily save at least a couple hundred dollars a month.

Below are 11 easy-prep foods to take to work to save money on lunch.

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1. Chop up a salad

A head of lettuce doesn’t cost much, and neither do salad ingredients such as carrots, cucumber, tomatoes and cheese when you stretch them over a week of lunchtime salads.

If the price is right, portion out some lightweight cut-up veggies like grated carrots, red cabbage and chopped onions from the grocery store salad bar to save time on veggie prep.

Find out: 9 Ways to Save Money on Groceries During the Coronavirus Crisis

2. Cook a bunch of noodles

Cook a bunch of noodles

You can’t go much cheaper than noodles, so why pay the noodle restaurant down the street $10-$15 for ramen or linguine tossed with a few veggies and skimpy meat portions? Make your own instead. There’s no shortage of delicious, easy noodle recipes out there, so get started with an online search for lunchtime pasta candidates.

Find out: 6 Tips to Reduce Food Waste and Cut Your Grocery Bill

3. Boil some eggs

Anyone can boil an egg, so why not boil several for the week ahead? You can cut up an egg for your daily salad or grab one as a snack for a little afternoon protein.

Find out: How to Save Money on Food

4. Stir up a tasty soup

Stir up a tasty soup
A pot of soup or chili goes a long way, especially when you make a big batch and freeze some for future weeks. Even if you’re not a fan of the kitchen, it’s easy to throw together a healthy, delicious soup from online recipes.

Canned soup is still cheaper than going out to eat, so if you’re not a cook, buy soup on sale at the grocery store. Don’t pay extra for microwaveable soup in a cup, either. Buy a can, and pour the contents into your own container.

5. Mix up chicken, tuna or egg salad

Mix up chicken tuna or egg salad

You can’t get much easier than this go-to lunch dish. Best of all, you can add variety by taking a sandwich one day and enjoy one of these salad dishes on tomato slices or another vegetable on a different day.

6. Part out a rotisserie chicken

Barely a week goes by when some grocery store doesn’t have rotisserie chickens on sale. For $5 to $8 or so, you can make many dinner and lunch dishes with the pre-cooked bird, including chicken salad, tacos, chicken sandwiches and soup. Add chicken to a favorite pasta dish or cut up to add to a salad.

7. Pasta salad

Pasta salad

Another easy prep, pasta salads can do triple duty as side dishes, entrées or snacks. Buy pasta and other ingredients on sale to save even more.

8. Make your own sandwiches

Make your own sandwiches

Why limit yourself to fancy deli sandwiches when you can make your own, designed to suit your unique preferences? You can slap together all kinds of sandwiches, from meat to veggie, and don’t limit yourself to bread. Try pita, tortilla, biscuits, bagels and croissant sandwiches, too.

9. Pick fruit or veggies for a side

Pick fruit or veggies for a side

A watermelon during summer months can go a long way, especially when you prep for the workweek by cutting it up ahead of time. Even easier, pack an apple, orange or banana. Fruit is way better for your body than curly fries or onion rings, too.

10. Pack cheap sweets

Don’t waste coin on $2 candy bars from the vending machine. Bring your own dessert instead. Buy an easy-to-make brownie mix or bake your own cookies. Or buy sweet-tooth items at the grocery store, where you’ll still come out ahead by purchasing a box or bag of candy bars instead of paying vending machine prices.

11. Bring your own beverage

Bring your own beverage

Here’s another vending expense that’s smart to avoid. If you enjoy a soft drink or bottled water with lunch, buy a case on sale and bring your own beverage to stash in the breakroom fridge.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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