How to Prepare a Cheap and Healthy Lunch

sliced grilled sandwich cucumbers tomatoes on cutton board

13 Tips for Inexpensive and Healthy Lunches

The colder months can lead to eating more and exercising less, so now is a great time to assess your meal preparation and eating habits. Nutritious, budget-friendly meals are easier to make than you think. To prove it, we’ve compiled some easy tips on how to save money and time by preparing a cheap lunch for school or work.

Start with Easy & Healthy Switches:

  • Use whole grain or whole wheat bread instead of refined white or wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • Use lean sandwich meats, like turkey breast, instead of deli meat like salami that can be high in sodium and fats.
  • Eat more beans and peas as they are an excellent, inexpensive source of protein and fiber.
  • Add sliced veggies as toppings or sides wherever possible.
  • Try avocado or hummus as your spread instead of butter or mayonnaise.
  • Aim for a ‘balanced’ lunch which includes low-fat protein and carbohydrates to stay full and energized throughout the afternoon.

Four Cheap Lunch Time Ideas:

  1. Step up your sandwich game – Sandwiches can be nutritious and packed with flavor. For example, instead of bologna and mustard try a new flavor combination like ham, spinach, and roasted red peppers.
  2. Make it a bowl – Preparing bowls might sound trendy, and it can be a fun way to customize your lunch. By combining cooked and fresh ingredients, you can create new flavor combinations without too much effort.
  3. Get Thermos friendly – Low-sodium soups, chili’s, and stews can all be hearty and healthy lunchtime options that can be prepared and stored in large batches.
  4. Diversify your salads – Try layering your salad in a mason jar for easy transport and consumption, or, skip the leafy greens and opt for pasta or bean-based salads that are cost-effective and delicious.

Ways to Save:

  • Plan your weekly lunches around promotions, discounts, and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
    • Don’t underestimate your local grocery store flyer and be sure to download a coupon app for stores where you regularly shop.
  • Make extra at dinner time and enjoy your leftovers.
    • Be sure to practice food safety –  refrigerate your food within 2 hours of it becoming room temperature. When reheating food, make sure it is at least 165°F before consumption.
  • Set time aside for meal prep.
    • Don’t buy prepackaged foods; they are popular because they’re fast, but they’re also expensive. Set some time aside for lunch prep in the morning or at night.

Healthy lunches don’t have to involve hours of work and lots of money. Using these tips and preparing in advance can help you pack delicious, healthy and inexpensive lunches all year long. For more economical ways to get healthy, check out our Fit & Frugal guide.

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