Okay, it’s time for you to join the Meal Prep train… especially if you’re looking for ways to save a little money each month. You can go full on meal-prep, or you can start each with lunches. Check out these five easy meal prep lunches that will save you serious money.
But first: The Math!
Take a moment and check you bank statements to really understand how much money you’re spending on lunches every day. If you don’t pack lunch for work or for your daily routine at all, lunch expenses add up! Fast food doesn’t generally provide healthy options, and going out for lunch can cost $10-$20 each time! Even if you make a conservative estimate of spending $10 on lunch 5 days a week, that quickly equals $200 per month or $2400 each year! If you could cut costs just a little bit, imagine the cash you could start to save.
Convinced? Check these recipes, that use ingredients that shouldn’t cost more than a couple bucks per meal. If you have time, keep your receipt after grocery shopping, add up the cost of your lunch items, and divide by the number of servings to understand how much each meal costs. I did this, and my lunch prices went from $10 to $1.50 each!
Choose two of the lunch options below, shop for the ingredients needed, then take 1 hour on Sunday to cook, pack, and prepare 5 lunches for the week ahead. This will save you so much time during the week, and serious cash!
– Canned corn, beans (chickpeas, pinto, black beans), tomatoes (find low-sodium options, but these should cost less than $1 per can!)
– Protein option (to save extra money, go with canned beans for protein instead of expensive meat)
– Veggies like lettuce, fresh tomatoes, onions, avocado, kale, spinach, carrot slices, peppers (pack these in a separate container from your protein)
Pack two containers: one with cold ingredients (fresh veggies, cheese, salsa) and one with ingredients to heat up (protein, beans). At work, simply heat up your ‘hot’ container, then mix the two containers together for a filling Taco Bowl!
Pasta dishes are SO easy to make in bulk and to reheat. Plus, they’re generally quick and easy for Sunday meal prep! Choose Whole Grain pastas for extra nutrients to keep you full and satisfied. Consider packing fruit along with your pasta so you don’t over-carb at your desk!
– Pasta with sauce (requires just pasta and a jar of tomato, alfredo, vodka, or pesto sauce!)
– Veggie Pasta with Sauce (sauté spinach, kale, corn, beans, peppers…basically any veggie you like! Mix it into your boiled pasta and cover with sauce)
– Light Pasta (boil broccoli with your pasta and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice)
Again, pack these in a container and heat it up at work. This is way easy to cook an entire week’s worth of lunches!
Think about your basic sandwiches that will last for a few days, or that will be quick and easy in the morning before you head out. If you are planning to build your sandwich the morning of, try to pack any “side” items in advance so they’re easy and quick to grab! Again, choose whole-grain bread for extra benefits!
– Peanut Butter & Jelly or Honey
– Deli Meat (turkey, ham, chicken) and Veggies (consider swapping mayo for mustard!)
– Roll-ups (use a whole-wheat wrap or pita and stuff with veggies!)
All sandwiches aren’t basic! Consider these high-protein options that may require an extra step or two, but will be totally worth it!
– Avocado Spread Sandwich (mash a fresh avocado with minced onions, a squeeze of lime juice, and garlic to make the most delicious sandwich, wrap, or pita around! stuff with lettuce or veggies for extra yums!)
– Chickpea and Veggie Pita (saute canned chickpeas in olive oil and your favorite spaces (think cumin, paprika) and stuff them with veggies into a pita)
– Grains (rice, quinoa, pasta)
– Sauteed or roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, squash, edamame, broccoli, green beans and more! Cook them until tender in a pan or lay on a baking sheet in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes)
– Flavors! (toss in spices and kale to your grains, or perk up your bowl in hot sauce or Sriracha)