43 Easy Cheap Lunch Ideas For Families

When it comes to planning out every meal of the day, many people find themselves struggling with both financial constraints and mental fatigue. However, there are numerous simple yet affordable lunch options that can help alleviate this stress.

I’ve taken the liberty of compiling fifty-one of my favorite easy-to-make recipes into a concise list. By utilizing these budget-friendly meals, individuals can save time, money, and mental energy, making them perfect for a busy workday, school day, or even a relaxing day at home.

Instant Pot Chicken Caesar Wraps


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When meal-prepping, having an Instant Pot as your go-to appliance can be a game-changer. Not only does it simplify the cooking process, but it also helps you create a variety of meals without breaking the bank or dedicating hours to preparation. Take, for example, these chicken Caesar wraps – a filling and flavorful twist on the classic salad. By using your Instant Pot, you can enjoy a satisfying meal at midday without the hassle of prep work, allowing you to customize it to suit your tastes.

Avocado and Smashed Chickpea Wraps


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If you’re looking for a kid-friendly option to send with your little ones or even take to school yourself, look no further than this delicious avocado and smashed chickpea wrap. Not only is it packed with protein, but its tasty flavor profile makes it suitable for all ages. Plus, its portable design and easy-to-eat texture make it the perfect addition to a lunchbox or on-the-go snack. The combination of earthy, salty flavors from the chickpeas and avocado creates a mouthwatering experience that’s sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.

Baked Bean Muffins


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If you’re a lover of baked beans, you’re in good company – many people share your enthusiasm. But what if I told you there’s a way to enjoy those tasty beans in a whole new format? Say hello to baked bean muffins, where the humble canned vegetable takes center stage. In each batch, an entire can of protein-rich beans is used, making these muffins satisfyingly filling. And let’s not forget about the flavor – with notes of cheese, moisture, and a hint of tomato, they’re simply irresistible!

Mason Jar Thai Chopped Salad


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When it comes to packing a satisfying work lunch, I find that chopped salads are the way to go. Not only do they provide an abundance of natural fiber to support gut health, but they’re also incredibly easy to prepare and customize to suit your personal taste preferences.

One of my favorite recipes is for a Thai-inspired mason jar chopped salad. The compact container makes it simple to assemble the perfect portion, and the flavors are truly delightful. Plus, the mason jar keeps everything tidy, eliminating the need to worry about spills or messes.

If you’re looking for more healthy college lunch ideas, be sure to check out some of my other favorite recipes!

Banana Cinnamon Overnight Oats


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The versatility of overnight oats is one of their greatest appeals – they’re a treat that can be enjoyed at any hour, including lunchtime. The combination of creamy textures and sweet flavors is particularly alluring when paired with the warm spices of banana cinnamon oats. This recipe’s filling nature makes it an ideal solution for those short on time, as you can prepare the mixture in the morning and let it sit until lunch, achieving a similar result to leaving it overnight.

Cajun Chicken Salad


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Give your workday a flavorful boost with this mouthwatering Cajun chicken salad, expertly revamping leftover poultry with its vibrant flavors. The beauty of this recipe lies in its adaptability – enjoy it as a satisfying sandwich filling, nestled in a crisp lettuce cup, or as the crowning glory of a fresh summer greens salad.

Southwestern Chicken and Rice


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Chicken and rice, a classic lunchtime duo, may be straightforward to prepare, but let’s face it – plain variations can quickly lose their appeal. The good news is that adding some Southwestern flair can breathe new life into this familiar combination, transforming it from humdrum to hearty.

Healthy Cheap Lunch Ideas

Many people assume that affordable meals equate to unhealthy, unappetizing takeouts. However, it’s possible to indulge in nutritious and delicious lunches without sacrificing your budget. The following recipes demonstrate that with a little creativity, you don’t have to choose between flavor and fiscal responsibility.

Kimchi Noodle Salad


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This meal prep-friendly recipe delivers a fiery and flavorful lunch option that yields a substantial batch in just 30 minutes. Simply combine kimchi, your favorite vegetables, and enjoy the perfect blend of spice and crunch. For those who crave a little heat, this refreshing cold salad is sure to satisfy, providing an invigorating midday boost especially during the warm summer months.

Chickpea Spinach Salad


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In just seven minutes, you can craft a culinary masterpiece that will win over even the most skeptical salad skeptics. The convenience factor is undeniable – this recipe checks all the boxes when it comes to ease and speed. But what truly sets it apart is the harmonious blend of textures that meld together in perfect harmony with each and every bite. Assemble the salad ahead of time or take the ingredients to work, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a healthy and satisfying meal on-the-go.

Curried Quinoa Apple Salad


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Indulge in the harmonious union of sweet and savory with this delectable curried quinoa and apple salad. Each bite offers a delightful combination of textures, flavors, and nutrients that will elevate your lunch break to new heights. This recipe is equally impressive at casual gatherings, such as potlucks or picnics. The secret to its success lies in the incorporation of crunchy, crispy apples, rather than mealy ones. For an unparalleled experience, opt for Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apples.

Sticky Sesame Chickpeas


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Indulge in the flavors of Asia without the need for chicken with these scrumptious sticky sesame chickpeas. This quick and easy dish offers a sweet and earthy sauce that’s perfect as a midday pick-me-up. The best part? It can be whipped up in just 15 minutes, making it an ideal solution for busy days when cooking time is scarce.

Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich


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For those seeking simplicity, affordability, and wholesomeness in a quick meal, the classic sandwich remains an unbeatable option. This vegetarian sandwich recipe embodies the essence of Mediterranean cuisine, boasting a symphony of fresh flavors that tantalize the palate. With its ease of preparation – requiring mere minutes to assemble – this delightful creation is ideal for busy days when stovetop or microwave access is limited. Moreover, its non-boring nature ensures it will remain one of the most reliable go-to sandwich ideas.

Tangy Veggie Wrap


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Looking for a break from traditional sandwiches? Consider swapping in a simple yet satisfying veggie wrap, packed with protein, texture, and flavor. This meal prep recipe is designed to fuel your afternoon, providing a boost that’ll keep you going until the end of the day. Plus, it’s easy to portion out into two servings, perfect for curbing those mid-afternoon cravings.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad


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I’m a self-proclaimed enthusiast when it comes to whipping up a delicious and satisfying chickpea salad. The best part? It’s incredibly straightforward to prepare, with a flavor profile that’s both refreshing and packed with protein. What’s more, the humble chickpea is a remarkable source of condensed protein, making it an excellent choice for a meal that’ll keep you going throughout the day. Despite their unassuming appearance, chickpeas provide a versatile canvas for adding your favorite ingredients, allowing you to create a customized salad that’s as unique as it is tasty.

Caesar Salad with Homemade Dressing


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Indulge in a timeless Caesar salad for lunch with this straightforward recipe, elevated by a homemade dressing that boasts a richly balanced creaminess and tanginess. The addition of crunchy croutons takes it to the next level, making it impossible to stop at just one serving. And don’t worry if you’re missing some key ingredients – the recipe’s adaptability allows for creative substitutions, ensuring a delicious outcome regardless.

Simple Chickpea Salad


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This simplified chickpea salad is perfect for hot summer days when you need a quick and easy meal solution. The beauty of this recipe lies in its effortless dressing and crunchy chopped veggies. Whether you’re looking for a side dish, a satisfying main course, or a healthy snack to munch on throughout the day, this salad ticks all the boxes.

Quick Cheap Lunch Ideas

When the clock strikes noon and energy levels hit rock bottom, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of hunger and haste. But fear not! These recipes are designed with busy bees like you in mind, requiring a mere 30 minutes from start to finish. Whether you’re planning ahead with meal prep or whipping up a quick lunch on the fly, these speedy dishes will be your saving grace on those chaotic days.

Tortilla Pizza


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The humble tortilla pizza is a game-changer for anyone who loves pizza but doesn’t want to go to extremes in terms of ingredients, preparation time, or fuss. This convenient and adaptable recipe allows you to indulge in your favorite treat without breaking a sweat.

Whether you’re at the office with an accessible oven or back home after a long day, this tortilla pizza is ready to satisfy your cravings in just ten minutes’ time. And the best part? You can customize it to your heart’s content with any combination of toppings you desire.

This simple yet satisfying recipe also makes for an excellent lunch idea for kids – perfect for school lunches or after-school snacks that won’t leave them feeling guilty.

10-Minute Peanut Noodles


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When discussing quick recipes, another satisfying option that won’t consume your precious downtime deserves mention. This particular dish is perfect for both lunch and dinner, ensuring you can refuel without sacrificing valuable rest time.

The nutty, creamy sauce has a uniquely comforting quality, making it an ideal pick-me-up to combat midday fatigue. Whether you prefer it served cold on a warm summer day or freshly prepared and warm on a chilly winter evening, this recipe offers the perfect solution.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich


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While adhering to a vegetarian lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the deliciousness of a classic chicken salad sandwich, there’s an alternative that’s just as flavorful: a chickpea salad sandwich. This dish perfectly captures the essence of its traditional counterpart, minus the meat. The game-changer here is Greek yogurt, which lends a rich, savory creaminess without overdoing it with mayonnaise. As a result, this recipe checks all the boxes – it’s affordable, simple to prepare, and nutritious to boot.

Low-Carb Smoked Turkey and Cucumber Sandwiches


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For those seeking a refreshing and satisfying solution for tea time or a quick low-carb lunch, look no further. This innovative recipe substitutes traditional bread slices with thinly sliced cucumbers, resulting in a delightfully crunchy and revitalizing experience. Perfect for a sweltering summer day when time is of the essence, this recipe combines ease of preparation with a burst of flavor and satisfying texture. As an added bonus, this low-calorie turkey creation makes a great addition to your lunch bag arsenal, providing a variety of options for your daily meal planning.

5-Minute Buffalo Chicken Wrap


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For those who share the world’s collective passion for buffalo chicken, there’s no need to wait for game day to get your fix. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to whip up a delectable and satisfying buffalo chicken wrap in just five minutes – perfect for any time of the day or night. The key is to utilize leftover chicken tenders, which can be conveniently paired with any stray veggies you may have on hand. And if you don’t happen to have leftover tenders lying around, frozen options are also a viable substitute.

Cheese Quesadilla


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When it comes to budget-friendly lunches that are both satisfying and easy to prepare, quesadillas are an excellent choice. With just three essential components – melted cheese, a tortilla, and a tasty dipping sauce – you can create a meal that’s perfect for work or school. If you have access to a grilled sandwich maker, stove, or oven at your workplace, this recipe is ideal for melting the cheese to perfection. Moreover, it makes for an exceptional after-school snack for kids as well.

Asian Garlic Noodles


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The versatility of Asian-inspired noodle dishes makes them ideal for meal-prepping lunch at work. Case in point: this quick and easy stir-fry that’s ready in just twenty minutes. The best part? Its garlic-forward flavors will satisfy even the most devoted fans of the pungent bulb. And with its simple sauce, you have the freedom to serve these noodles warm or cold – or even prepare the components separately, then assemble at your desk for a satisfying and reheatable meal.

BLT Bagel Sandwich


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BLT lovers rejoice! Trading in traditional sourdough or buns for a bagel elevates this classic combination to new heights, adding a touch of sweetness and chewiness to the mix. One of the greatest advantages of using a bagel in place of other breads is its remarkable preservation abilities. Assemble your sandwich hours ahead of time without worrying about the bread becoming soggy or compromised – it’ll retain its texture and flavor beautifully.

Easy Spicy Ramen Noodles


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Transforming humble packet ramen noodles into a bold and spicy meal is just a ten-minute affair, requiring only a few pantry staples. The result is a flavorfully fiery dish that’s sure to satisfy the taste buds of those who crave a little heat in their midday pick-me-up. The Korean gochujang paste brings an intense spiciness to this recipe, making it best suited for those who enjoy a good burn.

Tuna Salad


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With its incredible versatility, tuna salad is an essential addition to any meal repertoire. Whether you’re crafting a hearty salad, building a satisfying sandwich or bagel, or simply craving a quick snack, this recipe is a game-changer. The best part? It’s incredibly affordable and can be whipped up in no time using canned tuna. Not only does it provide a much-needed energy boost, but its rich omega-3 content also makes it an excellent brain food option – perfect for revving up your afternoon slump.

Air Fryer Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich


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Indulge in the comforting familiarity of this iconic grilled cheese and tomato sandwich recipe, sure to revitalize both body and soul on even the most trying days. The unmistakable blend of creamy melted cheese, juicy fresh tomatoes, and crispy bread is a masterclass in solace and sustenance, capable of withstanding whatever challenges your afternoon may bring. And the best part? This satisfying treat can be prepared effortlessly using either an air fryer or stovetop, making it the perfect remedy for those moments when you need a little extra TLC.

Sandwich Pinwheels


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Transforming a classic sandwich into a delightful pinwheel is a creative and practical way to enjoy a meal on-the-go. The secret lies in using chewy flour tortillas as the wrapping material. By tightly encasing your preferred fillings within these pliable tortillas, you’ll create a convenient and portable lunch that’s perfect for any occasion – whether it’s a picnic or a day at work.

Beans on Toast


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Inspired by traditional British cuisine, I’m excited to share a straightforward yet satisfying beans-on-toast recipe with you. This effortless dish requires minimal ingredients and time, making it perfect for those busy days when cooking seems like too much of an endeavor. By utilizing canned beans and basic toast, you’ll be enjoying a stress-free meal in no time. One of the best aspects of this recipe is that it eliminates the need to worry about prep work or elaborate cooking techniques – simply pop your toaster and microwave into action! With just a few simple steps, you can create a delicious and comforting meal that’s sure to become a staple in your daily routine.

Tahini Pasta


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Tahini’s versatility makes it an essential ingredient in my culinary repertoire. Its nutty flavor pairs seamlessly with both sweet and savory elements, rendering it an ideal choice for a wide range of applications. In this instance, tahini proves to be the perfect accompaniment to a humble pasta dish.

To elevate its creaminess, feel free to incorporate Greek yogurt or a medley of mayonnaise, mustard, and other complementary flavors into the mix. Nonetheless, this understated yet satisfying pasta dish is sure to become a staple in your culinary arsenal, never failing to disappoint.

Cheap Cold Lunch Ideas

When it comes to preparing meals for workdays without access to traditional cooking appliances like microwaves, ovens, or stoves, creativity is key. Fortunately, there are plenty of scrumptious and affordable cold lunch options that can satisfy your hunger and tantalize your taste buds. For those looking to break the mold from the usual sandwiches and leftovers, here are some mouth-watering ideas to spice up your daily meals.

Buffalo Chicken Salad


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Elevate the humble chicken salad sandwich by infusing it with the bold, spicy kick of buffalo sauce. This indulgent treat boasts an impressive trifecta of texture, flavor, and creaminess. Its versatility knows no bounds, making it perfect for topping a bed of greens, nestled between the soft folds of a brioche bun, or even served as a satisfying snack on its own.

Vegan Bean Burrito


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A filling meal doesn’t always require meat; what’s essential is a satisfying combination of flavors, textures, and presentation. The humble black bean burrito is a prime example, showcasing the harmony that can be achieved with rice, beans, vegetables, and a blend of Mexican spices. This portable powerhouse is perfect for a quick lunch at work or school, as well as a picnic or potluck.

Mediterranean Salmon Salad


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While fresh salmon is undoubtedly a nutritious and satisfying lunch option, its preparation can be time-consuming or require cooking methods that don’t lend themselves to a quick fix. This is where canned salmon comes in – an often underutilized ingredient that’s surprisingly versatile and flavorful. In particular, it shines when added to refreshing summer salads, bringing with it a burst of briny goodness and tender flakes that elevate the dish to new heights.

Curry Chicken Salad with Grapes


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While curry chicken may seem like an unusual pairing with grapes, the sweet and tangy flavor of the grapes adds a delightful contrast to the bold spices of the curry. The result is a salad that’s both creamy and sweet, with the crunch of pecans providing a satisfying texture. As you take each bite, the sweetness of the grapes and the spiciness of the curry meld together in perfect harmony.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps


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If you’re a fan of chicken, bacon, and ranch salad, you’ll love elevating this flavor combination into portable and filling wraps. There’s something undeniably addictive about these chewy, flavorful wraps – perhaps it’s their ease of preparation or the perfect harmony between crunchy vegetables and savory chicken. Given how quickly they can be assembled, these wraps make for an excellent school lunch option that’s sure to satisfy.

Lemon Tuna Noodle Salad


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Looking for a refreshing twist on traditional tuna salad? This zesty lemon tuna noodle salad is a summertime staple that can be prepared in no time at all. By combining pantry staples like canned tuna and dry pasta, you’ll create a dish that’s not only quick to make but also packed with nutrients. The tangy lemon dressing and sprinkling of spinach add a pop of flavor and color, making this recipe a crowd-pleaser for the whole family.

Gluten-Free Paleo Tahini Chicken Salad


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Tahini’s versatility is another reason I’m enamored with this creamy condiment. One of its most appealing qualities is its ability to elevate the humblest of dishes, like chicken salad. By adding a rich, velvety texture and a nutty flavor, tahini brings depth and complexity to an otherwise simple meal. But it’s not just about the taste – it’s also a great way to tie together disparate ingredients and create a harmonious balance of flavors. So go ahead, toss your favorite veggies with some cooked chicken, and then give it all a good drizzle of tahini. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a satisfying and nutritious lunch that’s ready in no time.

Cucumber Sandwiches


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Indulge in the refreshing elegance of light cucumber sandwiches, ideal for savoring during the warm summer months. With their satisfying crunch and subtle cooling flavor, these dainty treats are sure to impress at your next gathering, whether it’s a casual potluck brunch or an upscale high tea event. Imagine serving them alongside steaming cups of tea and delicate finger foods – your guests will appreciate the sophisticated touch!

Savory Cottage Cheese Burrito Bowl


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When combining cottage cheese with salsa, something extraordinary occurs – a harmonious blend of textures and flavors that will transport your taste buds to a culinary paradise. This delectable burrito bowl is an ode to the perfect union of creaminess and boldness, where the richness of the cheese meets the pungency of the salsa in a match made in heaven. The visual feast that unfolds on the plate is nothing short of breathtaking, as a medley of fresh vegetables burst forth with vibrant colors, making it little wonder why this dish has earned its place as a beloved summertime staple.

Guacamole with Hard Boiled Eggs


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If you’re scrambling to whip up a quick and healthy meal, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. This simple yet satisfying dish is a game-changer when you’re running low on groceries or short on time. The creamy avocado takes center stage, providing a nutritious twist on traditional mayonnaise. Pair it with perfectly boiled eggs and a sprinkle of cracked pepper for a snack that’s as refreshing as it is rejuvenating. It’s the perfect pick-me-up on a languid summer day. And if you’re anything like us, this recipe will become your new go-to for a stress-free lunch break. So, what are some of your favorite easy and healthy recipes? Share them in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

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