Keeping your meal costs low means you’ll be handing over less of your money to the grocery store. If you’re in need of some frugal lunches to add to your meal plan, give these ideas a try.
Not only are they inexpensive, they’re also tasty. They can be prepared ahead of time and reheated, making them ideal to bring to the office.
1. Baked Potato
Potatoes are cheap. You can bake several at a time in the oven, meaning you can actually get ahead with meal prep. To bake, scrub each potato. Then prick them several times with a fork to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. To conserve energy, throw in your potatoes when you’re already running the oven. They can go directly on the rack around your casserole dish or cake.
After they’re baked, remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge for a week.
At lunchtime, simply unwrap your potato from the foil. Reheat it in microwave for a minute. Then add some butter, salt and pepper. You can also add:
- A little diced ham
- A spoonful of sour cream
- Leftover taco meat
2. Pasta Salad
Pasta salad tastes great cold, making it ideal for lunch on the road. You’ll want to make it the day before you want to eat it so the ingredients have plenty of time to chill. Here’s a simple recipe for a summer pasta salad. It’s delicious and frugal. It’s also customizable so you can make it taste just how you like it.
Start with a pound of dried pasta. You can use rotini, penne, seashells, macaroni, or any other variety of short noodle.
Cook the noodles according to package directions. When they’re ready, drain them and rinse in cool water. This will speed up the cooling process.
Now it’s time to customize. You’ll want to add your favorite dressing and then stir in your toppings. Italian is the classic dressing for pasta salads, but you can experiment with ranch, French, or anything else that sounds good to you.
Toss in any variety of the following, using what you have on hand to keep your costs low:
- Diced ham
- Sliced pepperoni
- Diced cheese
- Garbanzo beans
- Sliced olives
- Chopped carrots
- Frozen corn kernels
- Chopped tomatoes
Mix and match your toppings and dressings to create your perfect salad.
3. Homemade Soup and Sandwich
Make your favorite soup, and package it in individual sized portions. You can freeze these, and pull them out as needed. They’ll thaw during the morning, and be ready for the microwave at lunch time.
Bring along your favorite sandwich to make it a complete meal. It’s perfect for a chilly fall or winter day.
4. Chicken Salad on Crackers
If you’re eating chicken for dinner one night, save a bit and chop it up for your lunch. Add some mayonnaise to make it a spreadable consistency. Then, dice up some celery and onion to add a punch of flavor. Finish it off with your favorite herbs and spices.
Store your chicken salad in a covered container in the fridge. Bring along a handful of crackers, and enjoy!
5. Taco Salad
Save a little meat from taco night, and create a delicious taco salad for lunch. Simply tear some lettuce, dice a tomato, and add a little shredded cheese. Bring your meat and favorite dressing in separate containers to keep your lettuce from getting soggy.
At lunchtime, heat up your meat and stir everything together.
6. Rice Bowl
Cook some rice the night before, and place enough for your lunch in a bowl with a lid. Add some cooked, shredded chicken on top. Add some sliced green onions, and some frozen peas. Drizzle a bit of soy sauce over the top. Refrigerate overnight. At lunchtime reheat your dish and stir everything together.
For more frugal ideas, check out the SideMoney blog. You’ll learn how to save money and earn gift cards from your smartphone!