How to Make a Week of Healthful Work Lunches for Under $20

By Ashley Eneriz

| Photographs By Rawpixel

If you have a growing waistline and shrinking bank account, one simple way to fix these two problems is by simply prepping your own workday lunch meals for the week.

When you work a traditional job, there isn’t always time to eat healthfully or even to pack your lunch in the morning. You’re busy balancing life and a career. But these tips will help you stay healthy at the office for under $20 a week.

1. Pick your prep day

Find a weekend when you have one to three hours to spare. Take this time to make a shopping list, do your shopping and prep the meals. Your prep session will go a lot faster if you start in a clean kitchen with an empty dishwasher.

Then choose your tools and get out all your ingredients. A rice cooker, cooking sheets and two nonstick large pans will be all you need.

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2. Know how much to buy

Typically, for a week’s worth of lunches, one bag of frozen chicken breasts/tenders will be enough protein. If you plan on doing ground turkey or lean ground beef, buy two pounds’ worth. For fish, buy a fillet for each day you wish to eat fish.

Brown rice and quinoa are very inexpensive, and one bag or box of each will last you for two to three weeks. You can sometimes find pre-made brown rice in the freezer section, but with a rice cooker, it is more cost-effective to buy it uncooked.

You’ll want your meals to be packed with vegetables to help keep you full and give you all of the health benefits you need. If you plan on making salads, buy raw lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers for a quick salad. You can also buy pre-chopped vegetables. They will be more expensive but save you some prep time.

Frozen vegetables can save you both time and money. Some favorites to buy in the freezer aisle include broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus and bell pepper mixes.

3. Pre-cook the protein

As soon as you get home from your shopping trip, turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicken breasts and fish just need a sprinkle of oil and herbs. You can bake them at the same time, but the fish will be done within 15 minutes or whenever flaky.

For ground meat, simply cook it in your largest non-stick pan with a lid. If you bought very lean meat, a tablespoon of coconut oil will keep it from sticking, while still keeping the meal healthful. Cook the ground meat on low with a splash of broth and the lid on. This allows it to cook without much supervision from you.

4. Assemble the containers

Once all of your food is cooked, it is time to assemble your lunches. Just simply have all of your containers set out on the counter. Start with your grain and place ½ cup in each container. Then put a mixture of vegetables in each container. Finally, put three to four ounces of protein in each container.

You can change up your meals slightly by mixing up which vegetables go with which protein. You can also add a little bit of cheese, salsa, or another sauce on top for more flavor.

All of the meals will stay good in the refrigerator, but you can also store them in the freezer, too. If you store them in the freezer, just transfer them to the fridge the night before so they have time to thaw out.

Once you get a few weeks of meal prep under your belt, you’ll be able to make your lunches in batches very quickly. You can even use the same method for your breakfasts and lunches, too.

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