So we talked about how to make breakfast quick, cheap and easy. Now it’s lunch’s turn. This meal is SO important because it’s probably the one we are the most in danger of losing in our day. Because I need to eat often and a lot, I’ve settled on something that doesn’t need to be heated and that I can easily carry with me while I make copies, prep my afternoon, or help a student. It’s literally going to take a major catastrophe to keep me from being able to enjoy my lunch, and since it’s such a healthy, filling meal, it always leaves me ready to take on the afternoon.
Here are the criteria that helped me settle on this choice for lunch every day:
- It has to be healthy.
- It needed to be vegetarian. (My goal is to eat meat only once per day or less for environmental reasons. Dinner is usually my meat meal.)
- I have to be able to prep the whole week of lunches on Sunday, and it needs to be quick. (The faster I can do weekend chores, the better!)
- It has to fill me up.
- It needs to be affordable.
Now, if you’re waiting to see how I make eggplant parmesan with homemade marinara sauce fit the above criteria, you’re going to be disappointed. My diet is definitely utilitarian and definitely not fancy. But that said, it gets the job done and I don’t have to spend my life or my savings cooking healthy meals. So let’s get to it!
Every day I eat a giant salad made from the following ingredients:
- Organic Power Greens: $.63 per serving
- Bell Pepper: $.40 per serving
- Cucumber: $.12 per serving
- Organic Pumpkin Seeds (1/4 cup): $.50 per serving
- Salad Dressing (1 tbsp.): $.19 per serving
- Cottage Cheese (1 cup): $.83 per serving
Grand total: Boatloads of vitamins, antioxidants, protein and flavor for $2.67 per lunch. That’s literally cheaper than our school lunch and way more nutritious. I pack each day in a reusable container, dressing and all, and put them in the fridge on Sunday. It takes me under 12 minutes to make a week’s worth of lunches, clean up included. Then each morning I just grab my pre-packed salad and cottage cheese containers and head out the door.
Sometimes I’ll trade out the cottage cheese for organic Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of organic strawberry jam. That (very strangely) works out to a total of $.83 per serving–the exact same cost as the cottage cheese. Sometimes Costco has an organic salad topper that has sunflower seeds, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds and I’ll buy that instead to change things up a bit.
There are some things I wish were different about this plan–mainly that it were all organic and used less plastic packaging. The veggies come from Costco, and you’ve likely seen how overboard they go on the plastic-wrapped produce. I use local produce when I can (great deals at our farmer’s market), but it’s pretty much Costco during the cold months. Also, I wish it were brownies and ice cream instead of salad and cottage cheese. But that being said, this combo does all I need it to do while adhering to my values as best I can.
I’d love to hear your lunch solutions! What do you love and how do you make it work in your week and your food budget? Comment here or head on over to our Facebook group. And don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post. Know a teacher friend who is barely surviving on pretzels and Diet Coke for lunch? I’d love it if you shared this article with them! Thanks so much for reading.