Inexpensive Lunch Ideas that Fit your Budget

If you are like most people today, budgeting and saving money is a constant priority. Unfortunately, when you are busy with work, school and other responsibilities, lunchtime often seems to undo your best intentions about saving money. The fact is, however, that lunch does not have to be a daily drain on your budget. If you plan ahead, you can actually find yourself with a little extra cash in your pocket at the end of the day.


Busy schedules, and even a misplaced desire to save money, lead some to skip breakfast entirely. This strategy will only hurt your budget in the long run, however, since it leaves you so hungry by lunch that you are more likely to overspend. Take the time to eat a nutritious breakfast each morning, and you will find yourself eating – and spending – much more moderately at lunchtime.


You probably already know that packing your own lunch is quite a bit cheaper than buying it while you are out and about. Unfortunately, many people simply do not have the time to spend on making a separate lunch in advance. Instead of stressing about planning and creating an extra meal, combine this job with your normal dinner duties.

Pasta, chili and soup work particularly well, but you can make extra of almost any meal to use as a lunch the next day – or even a bit later in the week, if you do not fancy the idea of eating the same meal twice in two days. Pick up a few dishwasher- and microwave-safe re-sealable containers to make storage and transport easy; when you are ready to eat, take them out of the fridge and pop them in the microwave.

Chicken Salad

Maybe you simply get tired of eating the same meal, even if it has been a couple of days. Not to worry; one night when you plan to have chicken for dinner, make an extra breast or two. After they cool down, use two forks to shred them, then add a little light mayonnaise or ranch dressing, a chopped celery stick, a pinch of salt, pepper and dill seasoning and mix well. With two slices of bread or a roll, you have created a delicious, easy and very affordable sandwich. Add a few carrot sticks or an apple and you have lunch ready to go.


If you have access to a blender at lunchtime, your lunch can be even easier – and even friendlier to your budget. Simply bring a few of your favorite fruits and vegetables with you. When you get hungry, drop them in the blender, add about a cup of water and a handful of ice, and blend to create a fresh, nutritious smoothie. If you want to make the smoothie more substantial and filling, add nuts, whole oats or whey or soy protein powder. The only limit is your imagination, so try different combinations to see which you like best!

Pasta Salad

Perhaps the best feature of this budget-friendly lunch is the fact that it is equally delicious hot or cold, which means that on your especially busy days you do not even need to bother heating it up. Plus, it lasts well, so you can make several days’ worth at a time. Simply cook a pound or two of your favorite pasta, then mix in – well, any additions you like, really! Chopped tomatoes and broccoli; chicken, beef or pork; and grated cheese all work great. Often, you can use leftover meat or vegetables from other meals to make the salad. Mix everything together in a big bowl, then cover it in your refrigerator. Every day, fill a portable container with the amount you will need for lunch.


Yogurt is nutritious, filling and affordable, and it tastes great too. Of course, yogurt by itself can be a little boring. Bring a blend of granola, chopped nuts, coconut and dried fruit to mix into the yogurt to make it tastier and more filling. For another change of pace, try substituting Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or applesauce for ordinary yogurt.

Healthy Snacks

Sometimes you either cannot avoid purchasing a premade lunch, or you just plain do not want to! That does not have to spell the end of your budgeting efforts. Instead of heading to lunch famished and purchasing more than you really need, bring some fruit, veggies or granola bars to work with you to snack on earlier in the day. With the edge taken off your hunger, you will be much more likely to purchase a smaller, more affordable portion without all the expensive extras.


Whether you bring your own lunch or eat out, drink plenty of water, both before and during the meal. Not only will this help you resist the temptation to pay for expensive sodas and other drinks, it will also help curb your appetite, reducing the size of the lunch you must buy. Oddly enough, the human body sometimes mistakes thirst for hunger, at least to some degree.


You might be surprised how many coupons are available for your favorite lunch spots. These coupons are not limited to those found in the Sunday paper. By subscribing to a restaurant’s email newsletter and social media profiles, you will often have coupons as good as or even better than those found in the paper sent right to your inbox.

Cheaper Lunches

Not every lunch out has to be an extended sit-down experience, with a price to match. Depending on what you purchase, fast food establishments can offer a lunch that, while perhaps not as inexpensive as those you prepare yourself, is still quite a bit more affordable than those found in most restaurants. Of course, the problem with most fast food choices has traditionally been their lack of nutrition, but in many cases this is beginning to change. Simply choose one of the fresh sandwiches, salads and grilled option many fast food restaurants now include on their menus for a lunch that is friendly to both your budget and your waistline.

As you can see, there are ways to have a lunch that is both healthy and good for your budget. By following these simple steps, you can work your way to both a healthier body and a healthier financial outlook. At, we’d like to help you do that with a number of money management and money savings ideas.

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