40+ Easy and Inexpensive Work-From-Home Lunch Ideas
Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl
This is a Tex-Mex riff on the Korean rice dish bibimbap, in which various toppings are arranged over a bed of rice. Here, burrito bowl must-haves such as smoky black beans, fresh pico de gallo, and slaw top brown rice.
Pantry Beans and Greens
If it’s a cold-weather, feel-good meal you want, Pantry Beans and Greens is everything you need. This hearty yet healthy dish is both easy on your wallet and incredibly easy to pull together. But don’t be fooled—just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most satisfying meals you’ll eat this winter. (It is.) And the best part is, while this pantry meal is delicious as is, it’s also endlessly customizable. Swap in a different, heartier green if you like; ditch the Parmesan to make it vegan; add bacon or ground meat to bulk up the protein; transform it into a pasta or soup—it’s really up to you. Enjoy the base recipe and then try changing it up with one of the variations written below.
Turkey, Apple, and Brie Sandwich
There is nothing better than a turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving. We love the flavor combination of crisp apple and nutty brie that come together in this sandwich. If you're watching the big game at home, you can prepare this quick and easy sandwich and serve them warm during half-time. Complete the meal with a flavorful, make-ahead potato salad. If you are going to the game, wrap the sandwich individually in parchment paper and add them to your picnic basket for tailgate festivities. Be sure and add other easy-to-transport options, such as graham nut clusters, to keep your friends and family satisfied.
Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken
This colorful orzo and chicken main dish salad is packed with an assortment of chopped fresh vegetables and tossed with a tangy lemon dressing. It's a great use for leftover or rotisserie chicken.
Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches
This recipe, ideal for spring picnic sandwiches, weekday lunch at the office, or a weekend brunch with your book club, can be made in just 20 minutes, thanks to the convenience of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. The chicken salad mixture can be made a day ahead. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. You can use your favorite sandwich rolls instead of mini baguettes, but be sure to add the garlic mayonnaise and toast the bread. If you prefer the ability to control the amount of spices and seasonings on your food, spend a Sunday afternoon roasting a chicken or two (your house will smell wonderful!) This way, you can chop, shred, and store the chicken for use the following week in casseroles, soups, and salads. Plus, you get the added bonus of having the makings of a delicious and savory homemade chicken stock in the pan. The Caesar dressing in this recipe can be used in other recipes, as well. Bottle it up and pour it over a tossed green salad, or drizzle it over baked chicken pieces.
Buffalo Chicken Salad
When you need an instant party, tailgate, or even a basic weekday meal prep winner, this Buffalo Chicken Salad has your back. It couldn’t be easier to mix up, and you’ll love the bright tang that Buffalo sauce, a squeeze of lemon, and crumbles of blue cheese add to creamy chicken salad. We love serving this Buffalo Chicken Salad on slider buns for easy entertaining, but you could just easily serve as lettuce wraps or with sturdy crackers.
Chicken Alfredo Soup
Inspired by the favorite pasta dish, this creamy Chicken Alfredo Soup comes together in no time with the help of a few store-bought shortcuts. Rotisserie chicken, frozen peas, and a jar of Alfredo sauce, which serves as the backbone of this highly comforting pot of soup, keep your hands-on prep to a minimum. This convenience factor, coupled with the fact that it’s is a guaranteed kid-pleasing recipe, makes this soup a perfect go-to for hectic weeknights. While it is undeniably luscious and satisfying, the soup is surprisingly not overly heavy or right. We used Gia Russa brand sauce, but feel free to use your own favorite. Served with a crusty bread, a green salad, and a glass of white wine, this quick and easy soup makes for an outstanding dinner on chilly nights.
Kung Pao Chicken Salad
Creamy chicken salad gets a major punch of personality with this wow-worthy, kung pao makeover. Featuring all of the flavors you know and love about kung pao chicken, the incredible savory-sweet dressing only gets tastier as it sits, so feel free to prep your chicken salad in advance and allow it some time to chill in the refrigerator. Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese brand of mayo that’s slightly sweeter than the standard U.S. supermarket standbys (like Hellman’s or Duke’s) and has a distinct savory richness—and it’s definitely worth seeking out. That, and the spicy chile crisp (don’t worry, it’s not as spicy as it looks in the jar), can be found at most Asian markets or ordered online.
Chicken Gyro Bowls
The spice rub for the meat marries just as well with fish fillets, shrimp, or lean ground lamb or beef. Make a few extra batches of the rub and store it in an airtight container to use all summer long.
Farro, Green Bean, and Kale Salad
Add an extra punch of protein to this delightful vegetarian grain bowl by topping it with a couple of hard-boiled eggs or mixing in a can of drained chickpeas. Feel free to change up the veggies based on what you have in your crisper.
BLT Pasta Salad
If you’re looking for a foolproof side to take to your next barbecue or potluck, you’ve come to the right place. This BLT Pasta Salad is essentially a BLT in a bowl, and who could turn that down? It’s creamy and crunchy, just like the sandwich, and packs a delicious punch, especially with the use of fresh tomatoes and lettuce. If you have access to heirloom cherry tomatoes, feel free to use those instead. You could also use baby arugula instead of lettuce for a peppery zing. You can prepare this ahead of time, but don’t dress until immediately before serving—otherwise, the lettuce will wilt and lose its crisp.
Bucatini Aglio e Olio
Dinner doesn’t get much simpler than this classic, garlicky pasta dish. Especially awesome for those weeks when you just can’t seem to make it to the grocery store, aglio e olio is easy to whip up with just a handful of pantry staples. You can definitely use spaghetti noodles instead of bucatini, but consider picking up a box of bucaini to try next time you go shopping. The noodle's hollow shape offers a texture (not to mention, sauce-gripping abilities) that we just love. We opted to jazz the dish up with the addition of broccoli florets, but if you have a different frozen green veggie kicking around the freezer, like sweet peas, or even a bag of spinach in the crisper, feel free to use what you’ve got instead. Or, hey, leave the veggie out altogether—this dish was designed to be flexible and delicious with whatever you have on hand. That said, if you have a block of Parmesan in the fridge, feel free to grate some over top of the hot pasta before serving.
Red Beans and Rice with Fried Eggs
Red beans and rice is a tried and true standby for good reason—at it’s simplest, the dish is hearty, tasty, comes together fast, and can be whipped up with ease, even during those hectic weeks you can’t seem to make it the grocery store. We amped up this largely pantry staple-based recipe with a runny yolked fried egg and a package of frozen “seasoning blend,” which includes chopped bell pepper, onion, and celery. If you have fresh onions, peppers, etc. on hand and a few extra minutes for chopping, feel free to go that route instead! Microwaveable rice keeps the dinner super speedy to prep, but you can use traditionally cooked rice here just as well.
Greek-Style Chicken Wraps
Look for plain rotisserie chicken in the deli section of your supermarket. Use the lean, mild breast meat for pastas and sandwiches, and the leg and thigh meat for more robust salads, soups, or tacos.
Niçoise Gnocchi Salad
Haven’t made it to the grocery store in a minute? That doesn’t mean you can’t whip up an impressive dish. This lovely, snackable take on a salad Niçoise is composed largely from pantry items, like canned tuna and roasted red peppers, plus a couple of common refrigerator staples—frozen green beans and eggs. We use packaged gnocchi, shelf-stable gnocchi as a creative swap for the fresh potatoes typically found in a salad Niçoise. Dressed up with a super simple vinaigrette this “throw-together” salad could easily pass for a well-planned. In other words, keep this one in your back pocket for the next time you need a last-minute appetizer for entertaining.
Satay Soba Noodle Bowl
It’s amazing how many delicious meals can come from a can of coconut milk, and little nut butter, and a handful of other pantry staples. Here, with a rich and creamy shortcut satay sauce, soba noodles and frozen edamame are transformed into a scrumptious vegetarian main within a matter of minutes. In other words, during extra-chaotic weeks (as in, so chaotic you haven’t made it to the grocery store lately), this speedy supper is here for you. If you want to customize the dish with other fresh ingredients, go for it! This noodle bowl is a great base for creativity. If you just happened to have a block of tofu in the fridge, go ahead and crisp it up in some oil and add layer it on top of the noodles—you won’t be sorry.
Vegetable Soup with Beer Bread
Wanna know what the best thing about this dinner is (besides the fact that it’s highly comforting and delicious)? You likely already have everything you need to make it on hand. An incredibly simple, 4-ingredient savory beer bread is the perfect fluffy and buttery companion to a bowl of vegetable soup. A swirl of store-bought pesto adds touch of bright, fresh flavor, but if you don’t have it on hand, don’t sweat it. You can also top off your bowls of steamy soup with a dollop of sour cream or a handful of fresh herbs—just use what you already have in the kitchen to give the recipe a custom touch.
Coming up with a healthy and creative brown bag lunch for a busy workday can feel like…work. So we came up with a few new options that are so easy you can make them in the morning before work, or you can prep them the night before and grab on your way out the door in the morning. If you’re a fan of chicken salad sandwiches, try this creative new take from the Southern Living Test Kitchen. Instead of the usual mayonnaise-based dressing, we made a simple homemade honey mustard, which adds tanginess without extra fat. Mix chopped cooked chicken (leftover chicken or turkey works well here) with chopped smoked almonds for extra protein and a pleasingly crunchy texture. We recommend serving this sandwich on a soft whole-grain flatbread wrap, but you could also use pita bread, a large croissant or roll, or your favorite sliced sandwich bread. Top your Almond-Chicken Wrap off with a sandwich-cut bread and butter pickle, a little thinly sliced red onion, and some fresh baby spinach leaves. Or try arugula and fresh tomato slices. Or swap out the bread-and-butter pickles for some spicy pickled jalapeno slices. This sandwich will taste great with a variety of toppings. This fresh and filling meal takes no time at all to make and you’ll actually be excited to eat it when your lunch break rolls around. Add some fresh fruit and a drink and you’ll be all fueled up to tackle the rest of your workday. This Almond-Chicken Wrap is the easiest, healthiest, and yummiest addition to your lunch recipe rotation.
Three-Bean Pasta Salad
We combined two potluck classics—pasta salad and three-bean salad—to make one tasty new side dish. Blanched celery is the unexpected star in this side dish; it has a tender-crisp texture and bright green color. Swap out the canned beans for your favorite cooked field peas.
Chicken, White Bean, and Spinach Salad
The beans, chicken, and dressing can all be made a day ahead in your slow-cooker. Assemble this meal in minutes and round out this light summer salad with a loaf of crusty bread. If you have any leftover, it will make a great lunch the following day. Slow cooking requires little fat, so trim the excess from meats and poultry. Preserve the flavor of fresh herbs by adding them to the dish once it comes out of the slow cooker. Removing the slow cooker lid while cooking releases valuable heat, so resist the urge to check on the dish as it cooks.
Wilted Spinach and Fried Egg Wheat Berry Bowl
Start this hearty breakfast bowl with a batch of perfect wheat berries, and then add a tangy twist and some probiotics with kimchi. Round it out with spinach, peanuts, and an egg. Sprinkle with chile flakes for extra heat.
Millet Amaranth Buddha Bowls
Imagine a classic Asian-style rice bowl, but with a risotto-like blend of millet and amaranth as the base.
Bacon, Arugula, and Egg Wraps
Precooked potatoes make these wraps quick and easy to whip up; eggs and whole-wheat tortillas deliver protein and fiber to keep you full all morning.
Fiesta Rice Salad
If you think you're over avocado toast, this topper will change your mind. Make sure to give your tahini a good stir before drizzling. These make for a filling snack, plus they're loaded with protein to help you stay fuller for longer.
Grown-Up Pasta Salad
You know that pasta salad from childhood (you know the one—rotini, canned olives, underripe grape tomatoes, cubed cheese)? It showed up at cookouts, sleepovers and every occasion in between, and it holds a special place in hearts a plenty—or at least it does around our office. So, we made a few swaps to create a fully grown uptake that still hits all the nostalgic notes we crave. Think a more sophisticated nood (we went orecchiette, but you can go with whatever you like!), buttery Castelvatrano olives (i.e. the best olives), juicy-sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes for dynamic color, hunks of savory salami, rich and creamy mozzarella pearls, radishes for fresh crunch, and an easy, from-scratch Italian dressing. Sure, it may require a trip to the grocery store’s olive bar, but trust us, it’s so worth it.
Fried Egg–Avocado Sandwiches
The addition of avocado, a fried egg, and smoky mayonnaise add enough heft to an open-faced BLT sandwich to make it dinner-worthy fare. When an egg takes center stage in a meal, we like to use pasture-raised, organic eggs for the best flavor. (Yes, it's worth splurging on quality eggs.) If you want to serve the sandwiches while the eggs are still hot, the order of operation is key here: Have the sandwiches stacked and ready to go, then cook your eggs. Pair with a salad tossed with a mustardy vinaigrette and a crisp IPA.
Crispy Chicken-and-Broccoli Salad
You will never again have trouble getting your family to eat broccoli once you serve them this main dish salad. A satisfying meal that is simple to make, preparing this quick summer salad recipe allows you more family time and less time in the kitchen prepping and cooking. There are so many tastes and textures going on in this salad - it’s slightly sweet, creamy, tangy, and crunchy – it will please everyone. The addition of fresh grapes and tangy buttermilk makes this recipe feel a little lighter than the classic version of broccoli salad. Add the chicken after the salad has a chance to marinate so it stays crispy. Purchase fried chicken tenders from the deli section of your supermarket or you can pick some up from your favorite fast food chain. This recipe makes an ideal addition to the menu for an outdoor picnic, barbeque, church potluck or even the Thanksgiving table. Do you like to play with your food? Use the fried chicken and broccoli combination as a base and switch up your other fillings. Add cranberries, toasted pecans or almonds, halved cherry tomatoes, diced apples, shallots instead of red onion, or a number of other ingredients. This salad just gets better the longer it sits, which means leftovers are fantastic. Before the family eats it all, package some up for your lunch the next day. You need to let this salad chill before adding the chicken, which makes this a great make-ahead recipe. If you need to take a dish to party, try this recipe; simply wait until you arrive before adding in the chicken.
Pesto Chickpea Salad with Summer Squash
Stop searching, because we’ve got the best 15-minute summer side dish right here. The fresh aroma of basil, the nutty flavors from raw squash and pungent red onion all combine for a taste that perfectly reflects the season. The chickpeas offer a little more substance, making it hearty enough to leave you satisfied, which the light, lemony dressing and Parmesan make your taste buds happy. Bonus points if you can pick your own basil and squash from your garden.
Veggie Eggy Scramble
Katie admits that she and her family "aren't big morning people." They rush through and typically grab what's convenient. We like the idea of getting them to incorporate veggies into the morning meal, and it's not hard or time-consuming to do. Katie can spend a few minutes prepping everything the night before (including beating the egg-cheese mixture) to make the next morning a breeze. When they need this to be grab and go, they can stuff the scramble into a whole-wheat pita.
Cuban Black Bean-and-Yellow Rice Bowls
Don’t think you can get a filling, flavorful meal in just one bowl? We’re here to prove you wrong. Brighten up dinnertime with this colorful, customizable meal. Start with bowls filled with yellow rice, black beans, and plantains, and then let everyone add their favorite toppings. If your family loves avocado, make sure you have enough to go around. You’ll be floored by how much flavor fits into one bowl of this meatless meal. This simple recipe will be on your table in just 50 minutes, and every bite has sweet, spicy, salty, and savory notes. If you’re new to cooking with plantains, we have a tip from the Test Kitchen: Plantains are ready to cook when their peels turn black on the outside, so buy them black or let them ripen before cooking. Many grocery stores sell heat-and-serve frozen plantains too. You’ll love the sweet crunch the plantains give this colorful dish, so gather the family around the table and tell them to dig in.