Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.
Logistically lunch is the most difficult meal of the day. You’re eating it at work and packing it the night before or in the morning. It’s cold or microwaved. Nothing tastes fresh. Sauces drip into your bag. It takes planning. You end up giving up and buying lunch out just eating snacks from the vending machine. It’s exhausting.
Plus, those vending machine snacks and extra meals out add up financially. They’re not only less healthy than a meal from home, but they can really dent your monthly budget. So how does one create affordable, delicious meals for work?
Luckily, you have your resident food budget expert on the case! I’ve put together my best list of healthy ideas for you. Consider this the ultimate guide to avoiding a sad desk lunch.
What do I pack for lunch?
Salads or Bowls.
Start with a green or a grain, pile on seasonal produce and herbs, and top it with a protein. It can be very simple, and you can usually make the ingredients last you a few days!
Salad ideas: Chinese Chicken Kale Salad + Fattoush Salad + Vegetarian Blueberry Cobb Salad + Avocado Toast Salad +Chickpea Corn Fiesta Salad
Bowl ideas: Grilled Summer Buddha Bowl + Meatless Teriyaki Chicken Bowl + Crispy Tofu and Squash Autumn Bowl + Spicy Curried Cauliflower and Millet Bowl
Sandwiches or Wraps.
I find wraps and sandwiches to be the most portable of all the lunch food options. Plus you can stuff almost anything inside of carbs – greens, produce, beans, protein, etc.
Sandwich and Wrap ideas: Smoky Cauliflower & Black Bean Hummus Burritos + 5 Minute Chickpea Salad Wraps + Sweet Thai Chili Lettuce Wraps + Easy Green Goddess Chicken Wraps
Soup, Stew or Curry.
I love these two options because they can easily be reheated without losing texture or flavor. They make great leftovers, and are usually very filling!
Soup, stew and curry ideas: Mild Chickpea Coconut Curry + Lentil and Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili + Carrot Noodle Vegetarian Ramen + Salmon and Potato Curry + Creamy Cashew Cardamom Butternut Squash Soup + Super Greens Soup with Fennel
How do I make sure it’s easy and delicious?
- Add an easy protein option. Topping your meal with a protein that takes no time will allow you to feel full for much longer. My favorite options are rotisserie chicken, chickpeas, hardboiled eggs, and nuts. These take the least amount of prep-work, and pair nicely with most meals.
- Always have a sauce. Having a sauce to go along with your meal is an important way to make sure your lunch has flavor. It can also help make sure the meal doesn’t dry out. I like to make my sauces at home and keep them in the fridge to use for a few weeks. This way I know they’re healthy and delicious!
Sauce ideas: Never-Fail Salad Dressing + Healthy Honey Mustard + Sweet Onion Dressing + Cilantro Lime Jalapeno Hemp Dressing + Easy and Healthy Teriyaki Sauce + Creamy “Peanut” Sauce
What about snacks?
- Marinate raw veggies. Toss carrots, jicima, broccoli, radishes, or any crunchy vegetable of your choice with lime juice and sprinkle chili powder, paprika, and sea salt on top. It makes a delicious, healthy treat in no time!
- Make some trail mix. Customize on your own, by buying ingredients from bulk bins. Or buy a pre-mixed trail mix. I like this option, because you’ll get a good amount of protein, it’s very portable, and keeps you away from the vending machine when hunger strikes.
- Eat fruit. Fruit salad, dried fruit, an apple with peanut butter – the options are endless! Fruit can curb that sweet craving when you’re tired and hungry and just want to leave the office. I suggest always having some around.
It is possible to pack a budget-friendly lunch that leaves you feeling satisfied. Hopefully this little guide helps to banish the sad desk lunch forever. Long live the happy and healthy work lunch!
Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!