Tag: Lunch

Cheap Lunch Recipes – Ideas for Budget Lunches Under $5

I went through a phase earlier this year during which I ate a toasted English muffin for lunch every single day, for three weeks. I started out with a bang. Think, flashy towers of toasted muffin halves, swathed in mayo and sambal, cradling fried eggs. Grilled cheeses with a whole gang of melty constituents and caramelized alliums. And then, as time went on, things took a turn. One Wednesday, the toaster wasn’t working, and all I could rustle up was a handful of wilted arugula and olive oil. A few days later, I found myself tucking into a muffin-half swirled with a single teaspoon of peanut butter, from a jar a colleague had intended to discard.

By about day 19, even my polite seatmates could no longer avert their gazes.

“I have some leftover rice pilaf!” blurted Eric. “It’s in the fridge. You should really, um, switch it up.”

In an effort to prove I could take a hint—and, honestly, because I started to find cornmeal crumbs in all of my pants pockets—I decided then and there it was time to make a change. With the help of my colleagues, I compiled the following list of $5 or less lunches to get me through a full work week (plus, one bonus).

A quick note about how our math works: We base prices on local markets or online delivery services, like FreshDirect and Amazon Fresh. When it comes to pantry staples (think: salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar…), we assume you already have those on hand.


Not all desk salads are created equal. This one calls in deeply roasted squash, toasted almonds, and cheddar for a punchy, savory-sweet lunch that tastes even better the next day.

The math:

  • About $1.00 of squash ($3.99 for a whole one)
  • $2.36 of kale ($2.36 for one bunch)
  • 44 cents’ worth of almonds ($6.99 for 16 ounces)
  • 81 cents’ worth of cheddar ($5.64 for 7 ounces)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

The total: $5.16 for two servings: $2.58 for one serving

This Spanish Tortilla is one of my all-time favorite recipes on Food52—it’s perfect hot or cold, on its own or with a healthy dollop of garlic aioli. (Or, you know, a side salad.)

The math:

  • $2.58 worth of potatoes (2 pounds at $1.29 per pound)
  • $1.19 worth of onion ($1.19 for one)
  • $2.33 worth of eggs ($3.49 for a dozen)
  • About $1.50 of Parmesan ($4.75 for a quarter-pound)
  • 40 cents’ worth of butter ($3.79 for 8 ounces)

The total: $8 for six servings; $1.33 for one serving

Meet the sandwich that’ll make you want to cancel your lunch plans for the rest of the week, so you can keep bringing in more iterations of this one.

The math:

  • $2.58 worth of canned chickpeas (2 cans at $1.29 each)
  • 20 cents’ worth of celery (from 1 bunch, at $2.99)
  • 20 cents’ worth of shallot (for one small shallot)
  • $1 worth of mayo ($4.99 for a 15 ounce jar)
  • 30 cents’ worth of curry powder ($3.99 per jar)
  • 30 cents’ worth of turmeric ($3.99 per jar)
  • 50 cents’ worth of parsley (99 cents for a small bunch)
  • $2.32 worth of sliced bread ($6.99 per loaf at the sandwich creator’s neighborhood market)

Total cost: $7.40 for four servings; $1.85 for one serving

Broccoli salad is a dream of a make-ahead lunch, considering broccoli holds up well in the fridge—this version has sliced apple and chopped walnuts, but feel free to swap whatever you’ve got on hand.

The math:

  • $3.99 worth of basil ($3.99 for a bunch)
  • 23 cents’ worth of garlic ($4.99 for a pound)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)
  • $4 worth of walnuts ($7.99 for 8 ounces)
  • About $1.75 of broccoli ($3.49 for roughly two heads)
  • $1.78 worth of apple ($1.78 for one)

The total: $12.30 for three servings; $4.10 for one serving

After “cheesy fritters,” what more do you need to hear? (Run, don’t walk.)

The math:

  • $1.09 worth of quinoa ($5.99 for 16 ounces)
  • $2.38 worth of goat cheese ($2.99 for 4 ounces)
  • $3.49 worth of arugula ($3.49 for large container)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

The total: $7.51 for two servings; $3.76 for one serving

If you’ve made it this far in the under-$5 lunch lineup, congratulations: It’s Saturday! Celebrate with cheesy, garlicky sausage pasta.

The math:

  • $1.09 worth of spaghetti ($1.09 per pound)
  • $5.62 worth of sausage ($5.62 per pound)
  • About 30 cents’ worth of garlic ($0.51 for a head)
  • 49 cents’ worth of red chili flakes ($2.94 for a bottle)
  • $3.92 worth of Parmesan ($7.84 for about 5 ounces)
  • 75 cents’ worth of parsley ($1.49 for a bunch)

The total: $12.17 for four servings; $3.04 for one serving

What’s your go-to, wallet-friendly lunch? Let us know in the comments!

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3/4 of Americans Don’t Eat Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner—Here’s Why

Most nights when my roommate comes home, usually around 8 p.m., she doesn’t cook. Instead, she flips on Project Runway and nibbles on what she calls “adult Lunchables”: cheese, crackers, fresh cherry tomatoes, hummus. Sometimes after really long days, it’s actual Lunchables (which, let’s be real, are delicious). Maybe it helps that she’s a fitness inspiration who just completed an Olympic triathlon last weekend. I only bring this up because it turns out that her tendency to eat “snack meals” is actually the norm for others, as well.

According to a recent survey of 2,000 subjects by OnePoll and FarmRich (admittedly, a frozen snack company), nearly 86 percent of Americans don’t eat three square meals a day. Instead, 49 percent of respondents said they skip lunch in favor of three smaller snacks throughout the day.

Reusable Silicone Storage Bags

Reusable Silicone Storage Bags


Russel Wright American Modern Dinnerware & Serveware

Russel Wright American Modern Dinnerware & Serveware


Many of the foods that subjects reported snacking on mirror my roommate’s habits: cheese, crackers, chips, nuts, deli meat slices, fresh fruit and vegetables. Respondents also shared a preference for frozen snacks, like nuggets and sliders, which can be prepared in the microwave. Which makes sense, because 49 percent of respondents said they turn to “snack dinners” due to the lack of time they have to plan, prepare, and sit down to a meal.

There’s a lot of debate over how many times we should actually be eating in a day. And it’s unclear whether or not the trend toward snacking is necessarily good or bad. But one thing that struck me, as I read the report, was that a lack of time in one’s day doesn’t necessarily mean microwavable processed food and doesn’t need to be the deterrent for eating something homemade.

So in case you’re like me and need to hit the ground running, I’ve gathered up six dishes that only demand 15 minutes of you time. That still leaves plenty of time to watch Project Runway.

Do you eat “meal snacks”? What’s a meal you’d never give up (breakfast, lunch, or dinner)? Shout in the comments below!

Food News, Dinner, Faster

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How to Lunch Like an Italian (Even If You’re Not)

It’s Italy Week! All week long, we’re celebrating everything Italian and Italy-inspired: recipes, stories, and travel tips.

In Italy, breakfast is usually small, just enough to jumpstart the day—and your appetite. Dinner is short and sweet and sends you to bed not swollen but satisfied. Lunch, however, takes on an almost spiritual importance. In the Italian culinary psyche, the midday meal is like the ego, the id, and the superego all rolled into one. It dictates your mood, your hunger, your schedule. In my family, lunch was so important my grandmother used to wake up before sunrise to start preparing pasta and sauce so that it was ready to eat by 1 p.m. By the time the sun swelled highest in the sky, we crowded back in the house to escape the heat and seek comfort in her plump, ricotta-filled ravioli.

 It Took Me 20 Years to Pin Down Grandma's Gnocchi

It Took Me 20 Years to Pin Down Grandma’s Gnocchi
by cdilaura

We Could Watch These Italian Nonnas Make Pasta All Day

We Could Watch These Italian Nonnas Make Pasta All Day
by Valerio Farris

Obviously, no one (not even me) is asking for that level of dedication. It’s admittedly a lot of food: a teeming plate of pasta, a secondo (meat or fish), vegetables (usually local, seasonal, and so delicious), all punctuated by freshly cut fruit and a hot, slightly sugared shot of espresso (no milk!).

We lead busy lives—like leave home before sunrise and return after sunset busy—so expecting anyone to lunch like a Ligurian is probably out of the question. Even though our American work schedules don’t encourage a two to three hour early afternoon work break, that doesn’t mean that we can’t all take a midday moment to savor a nice meal, to bask in the comfort of a satisfied stomach, and indulge a conversation as it lopes its way across a table. All without leaving the office. Here are just a few suggestions:

Lean into leftovers.

Italians love to repurpose foods. Why throw out a perfectly good meal? Lunch, particularly when eaten on the go, is prime time to give last night’s dinner new life. For example, a pasta with red sauce becomes silkier than ever when reheated with a splash of milk (a trick I learned from my aunt). And steak or rotisserie chicken chopped and tossed with fresh seasonal vegetables is a feast on its own.

Porter To-Go Bowls

Porter To-Go Bowls


13 Low-Cost Lunches to Pack for Work

13 Low-Cost Lunches to Pack for Work
by Katie Macdonald

Tango with Tupperware.

If you’re committed to the structure of a primo (pasta dish), secondo (meat dish), and contorni (vegetable-centric sides) then its a good time to invest in some sturdy, organized container. Think something like a tiffin that’ll keep your courses separate and easily accessible. Easy to clean is always a plus, too!

Don’t be afraid of the sandwich.

Or, as Italians call them, the panino. Sandwiches, though on the simpler side, are a perfectly acceptable lunch alternative. The Italian secret is maximizing the best ingredients. Think: oily, artisan focaccia, freshly sliced prosciutto, sliced, salty, sumptuous mozzarella. The sandwich becomes elegant when its components are treated as such.

Fruit’s a friend.

In Italy, fruit is almost always used to signal the end of a meal.The sweet bookend leaves you feeling full but not stuffed Try packing a fresh peach or some grapes for your last bite—a pear’s always a good idea, too. Think seasonal, easily transportable fruit that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth without being too saccharine.

The Art of Making Coffee the Italian Way

The Art of Making Coffee the Italian Way
by Emiko

Stelton Espresso Maker

Stelton Espresso Maker


End with an espresso.

There’s a hard and fast Italian rule that after 11 p.m., no one should drink milk with their coffee. It may sound downright un-American, but there’s some sense to it: Milky, frothy drinks are too filling and nap-provoking for later in the day. Instead, Italians opt for a quick shot of earthy, black espresso. This helps cut through the midday meal and give you enough energy to curb that early afternoon slump. If black coffee isn’t your thing, go for a macchiato—an espresso with just a dash of steamed milk.

You may be miles from Milan, but still, the ease and elegance of an Italian meal doesn’t have to be so far away.

What are your favorite lunch packing tips? Let us know in the comments.

Italy Week

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