I have always struggled with lunch.
Breakfast? Savory, sweet, whatever you’re serving, I’m in. Dinner? You can be sure I’m having seconds. But lunch has always been my least favorite meal. I think it’s because once I hit a stride — a long day of classes or cubicle-sitting — I don’t like to interrupt it. It may also be that my typical diet of carbs and cheese tends to make me crash if I eat that way in the middle of the day. This means that your typical sandwich for lunch doesn’t cut it for me.
Over the years I’ve struggled with spending too much money at lunchtime, and eating too much and ruining my afternoon productivity. Now I can finally say that I have some lunch staples that are cheap, healthy, and don’t sap my energy level. Below you’ll find some examples, plus some good sides to add on to any lunch.
You might notice that my examples are all vegetarian and mostly vegan — this is just because I gravitate toward lighter fare for lunch. I love cheese and I do eat meat, but when I’m cooking for myself I end up eating a lot of vegan meals purely because they are easy and make me feel good.
Lazy and cheap:
Bagel and cream cheese. Hold up! I thought you said carbs and cheese were bad? Well… yeah. This is not a shining example of a healthy lunch, but I do not want to give the impression that I bring a healthy, homemade lunch to work every day, because that is just not true. Personally, I’m happy with myself if I bring a lunch at all. Even if it’s not the healthiest, I’m happy to save money and to have my life together enough that I can do some advanced planning the night before. So, if I am feeling really lazy and cheap, I will bring a lunch that requires no cooking at all, just a little foresight at the grocery store.
Cheap and simple:
Beans and rice. This meal is full of protein and has endless possibilities. Here is an easy example that I might make on any given night. But you could easily spice it up with avocado, pico de gallo, a little lime juice, whatever you want. Simple, filling, and definitely cheap.
Healthy and flavorful:
Quinoa tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad typically made with bulgar or couscous, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice. I like to use quinoa instead of bulgar or couscous because of the added protein. I am also not crazy about mint so I usually skip that. The tomatoes, onions, and lemon make this dish really flavorful. I also love to add diced cucumbers, green onions, and cilantro. Here is a great recipe.
Hearty and healthy:
Quinoa with asparagus and mushrooms. Really, this could be called quinoa and veggies, because you could easily throw together quinoa and whatever veggies you have on hand. For example, you might add kale, spinach, onions, or peppers. I love quinoa with asparagus and mushrooms because it’s filling, easy to prepare, and because asparagus and mushrooms are two of my favorites. This dish is very versatile and hardly requires a recipe at all, but here is a nice one to get you started.
On the side:
Fruit – berries, banana, plum, pear, satsuma orange, grapes
Hummus (to go with the veggies or chips)
That’s it! I’m not a lunch expert yet, but I’m doing my best. What are your lunchtime staples?
Thanks for reading!