Cheap and Healthy Work Lunches

healthy work lunchesOnce you have transitioned to a schedule where you no longer can run across the street to a food court, such as when you’re working full time or commuting to campus from an apartment, it becomes important to plan out what you will be eating during the week for lunch. While it’s tempting to grab lunch with your coworkers or to take advantage of any of the food delivery apps that are coming out, buying your lunch every day will add up very quickly.

I’m going to share a couple easy lunches that anyone with either an icepack or access to a refrigerator can bring to work.

Some people would argue that a lunch isn’t really a lunch unless there’s bread and some sort of meat. I would disagree. As long as you’re full, there’s no reason why you can’t eat a combination other than a sandwich. If you aren’t sure what portions to pack to keep yourself full, try eating this on a weekend before bringing it to work.

The Easiest Lunch

The easiest possible thing to take for lunch is… last night’s leftovers. Add a piece of fresh fruit and you’ll have a perfectly good lunch, and save money that you might lose if you don’t eat your leftovers before they go bad. Additionally, I always keep a spare coffee mug at my desk, so if I’ve brought leftover soup I can microwave it safely without ruining my plastic containers.

Packing a Crunch

For this lunch, buy a bag of mini carrots, a bag of pita chips, and a package of hummus. Store the humus and carrots in your work refrigerator or pack them in to individual containers each day. This normally runs me about $7 total and will fill me up for at least 4 days of lunches. Add in a piece of fruit and you have all of your food groups covered.

DIY Platter

In my college dining hall you could buy a little tray of crackers, grapes, and cheese for $4. As an adult, I’ve realized that you can buy a box of crackers, a bag of cheese sticks, and a bag of grapes for close to $7 and have a week’s worth of healthy food to munch on throughout the work day. Again, pack in another piece of solid fruit, like an apple, banana, or a pear, and you’ll have plenty of food to tide you over until dinnertime.

Getting Your Lunch to Work

One of the strangest parts of getting my first full time job was the feeling of returning to elementary school- I couldn’t leave the house without packing up a lunch box.  I even was using the same lunch box from elementary school for a while.

Good lunch bags are insulated and water proof. They should hold the cold in to the bag, and if anything were to spill, it should all stay inside the bag. You’ll also want an ice pack. You can buy an ice pack meant for lunch storage, or you can look for other options that may be cheaper, such as freezable teething blocks in the baby supplies, which may be less likely to break, or to save an old medical icepack and use that to cool your lunch.

When you’re first starting out in an apartment, it can be difficult to accumulate enough storage containers to hold food. While it’s tempting to participate in Tupperware fundraisers or to buy multi-piece sets from target, there are much cheaper ways to obtain a full set of storage containers. All they take is a little patience.

If you enjoy eating sandwiches, many stores now sell lunch meat in reusable plastic containers, like this one. Saving those boxes makes for a perfectly sized container to transport crackers or fruit to work. The same can be said for plastic butter or cream cheese jars. As long as you don’t plan to microwave the containers, they are great for storing leftovers or packaging a work lunch.

If you don’t want to wait to empty a butter container, this set of containers from Ikea has all the necessary sizes for cheap, and this one from Target is also a great alternative.

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Author My First Apartment
Melissa W

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After graduating from college Melissa spent a year working at a non-profit while living at home. This fall she is returning to school to pursue a master's degree, while still attempting to work full time. In order to pursue these goals simultaneously she's moving closer to work in an effort to cut down on the 3-4 hours spent crying through Chicago's rush hour each day.

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