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Home » Food & Drink, Save Money, Summer of Saving

Cheap Meals: What are your Favorite Cheap Lunch Recipes?

Last updated by on December 31, 2014

You just had a filling, healthy, and cheap breakfast. Relax, you’re good until at least 1 pm or so. No snacks needed.

But then 12:30 rolls around, and you start thinking, “Hey, it’s time to flex my cooking muscle. What healthy, nutritious, affordable lunch am I going to cook up today that will get me through to the dinner hour (and a cheap dinner) without snacking on a bunch of bee-killing, diabetes-inducing Monsanto Franken-corn or gut busting starch products?”

Well, you’ve found just the right post to emphatically produce an answer to that very question.

I’m going to share a few of my favorite cheap lunch recipes, and then YOU, the wonderful readers of this blog, are going to do the same.

So lets get started, shall we?

G.E.’s Asparagus Quinotto

Can you call something without rice “risotto”? I don’t think so. So I invented my own version, based off of the risotto concept. Instead of low protein white rice, I’ve simply replaced it with protein-packed, low-glycemic, nutritious quinoa. Let’s call it G.E.’s Asparagus Quinotto.

Asparagus is only good in season, so if you can’t find good asparagus, then you could replace with snap peas.

A big key in this dish is the balsamic vinegar. It would be decent, but not great without. So keep adding until it tastes just right. You’ll know when you get there.

The recipe below serves two (large portion servings).

cheap lunch recipeIngredients:

  • 1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, washed, ends removed, and trimmed into 1 and 1/2 inch-long pieces ($1.50)
  • 1/2 cup Costco dry organic quinoa ($0.63)
  • 1/2 cup Costco walnuts ($0.18)
  • 1/2 cup baby peas, fresh or frozen ($0.40)
  • 1 veggie bouillon cube ($0.30)
  • 1 cup chopped mushroom ($0.66)
  • 1 organic carrot, chopped ($0.13)
  • 1 Tbsp Kirkland (Costco) extra virgin olive oil ($0.09)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice ($0.04)
  • white wine vinegar to taste ($0.08)
  • balsamic vinegar to taste ($0.09)
  • 1/2 TSP black pepper ($0.05)

Total cost of dish: $4.16

Total cost per serving: $2.08

Preparation Instructions (total cook/prep time 15 min.):

  1. Start the quinoa. Add 1 cup water to 1/2 cup quinoa, and add in bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover and simmer. Set timer for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, start chopping and sauteing the veggies/mushrooms with olive oil in a separate saucepan.
  3. When quinoa looks mostly cooked, dump in all veggies, and some butter or olive oil, if you’d like. After timer from #1 hits 15 minutes, everything should be fully cooked.
  4. Add walnuts, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Stir. Serve hot.
  5. Eat!

G.E.’s Taco Salad

The following cheap lunch recipe is one of my favorites because is quite fulfilling, as far as salads go, without any meat/fish (it’s vegan). There are a lot of different ways you can modify this recipe, based on your personal tastes. I’ve recently dropped the chili powder, to give it a cleaner finish. You’ll notice that most of the ingredients here are organic. And this recipe makes 2 large portions (I don’t mess around with my portion sizes!). A super healthy, mostly organic, fulfilling salad for under $2. Enjoy!

cheap lunchIngredients:

  • 1 can black beans (S&W from Costco) ($0.69)
  • 2 cups organic romaine lettuce, chopped ($0.40)
  • 1/2 large organic green or red pepper, chopped ($0.50)
  • 1 organic roma tomato, chopped ($0.54)
  • 1/4 can Trader Joe’s olives ($0.37)
  • 1/3 cup Trader Joe’s frozen organic corn ($0.17)
  • 1/2 organic cucumber, chopped: ($0.75)
  • 2 Tbsp organic cilanto, chopped ($0.10)
  • 2 organic carrots, chopped: ($0.26)
  • 1 Tbsp Kirkland (Costco) extra virgin olive oil ($0.09)
  • 4 TSP Cholula sauce ($0.05)
  • 1 TSP lime juice ($0.02)
  • salt, chili powder to taste ($0.05)

Total cost: $3.99

Total cost per serving: $1.99

Preparation Instructions (total prep/cook time: 10 minutes):

  1. Wash and chop all vegetables.
  2. De-thaw corn by placing in microwave for 30 sec.
  3. Drain, rinse beans.
  4. Throw all ingredients in a big bowl. Mix and shake.
  5. Eat!

Your Favorite Cheap Lunch Recipes?

The goal of the entire Summer of Saving series is to have everyone contribute to create a resource for others.

So please share your favorite cheap lunch recipes, ingredient lists, cost of ingredients, and how to make the meal so that we can all benefit and share in your awesomeness!

Related Posts:

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Sara S. says:

    For a great resource on cheap/quick meals, I really like the blog She recently published a print version of her eBook 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes, which I’ve now purchased six copies of (one for me, five for gifts).

    For example, one of my absolute faves from it is a chickpea parmesan salad:

    1 can of chickpeas ($0.86)
    1 lemon ($0.33)
    1 tbsp parmesan ($0.15)
    salt/pepper ($0.02)
    1 tbsp olive oil ($0.12)
    salad greens (optional) ($1.50)
    Serves 2
    Total cost: $2.98
    Cost per serving: $1.49

    mix the juice of the lemon, the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Put chickpeas on top of salad greens (optional), sprinkle on parmesan, add salad dressing.

    My favorite thing about these is that if I didn’t have time to put my lunch together the night before (and really didn’t have anything cooked and ready), it’s pretty easy to throw stuff together in the morning.

  • Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says:

    These are great lunch ideas. I have the same lunch pretty much everyday and it’s really cheap, but not super healthy. I have a PB&J sandwich with a yogurt or applesauce, some chips and a mountain dew to top it off. Like I said, not healthy, but very cheap. Most of my lunches cost $1.50 or less.

  • Mike F says:

    Easy Hummus:

    Canned chick peas+lemon juice (+ zest if you don’t want to waste it)+peeled garlic clove into a food processor with the blade attachment. Turn on food processor, drizzle enough oil (I like olive) to get it blending decently, then add a couple splashes of water to get it blending well. Salt and any other flavors (parsley, chipotle pepper, cayenne, more garlic whatever you feel) to taste. Costs ~66% less than store bought and I like being able to control the consistency. Dip Veggies or add to a sandwich.

    1 lemon- 33 cents
    2 16 oz cans chick peas- 89 cents each
    ~3 oz olive oil- $1
    Garlic clove- ~12 cents
    Salt- Basically free

    Total: $3.23 for ~24 oz (by volume) finished product. Far cheaper than Sabra or similar and I can control the amount and type of oil I add (for the oil averse, use more water and less oil).

    Takes about 4 minutes of prep, 2 of which are dealing with lemon seeds

  • Kim says:

    I love a PB&J sandwich, or peanut butter & banana, or peanut butter & apple… any kind of peanut butter sandwich with some form of fruit is really nice for lunch, with a big glass of milk. It’s cheap, quick, portable and makes you feel like a kid again.

  • Anonymous says:

    For my lunch I bring salad and frozen entrée (smart choice, kashi etc). and yoplait

    For salad, I use lettuce , avacado and a salad dressing. ~ $1.50

    I end up spending around $2.80 per Entrée

    Yoplait (Safeway) costs me around 95 cents each.

    Slightly pricey than other menus here but still under $6

  • Seth says:

    G.E., Just letting you know my wife and I did the Asparagus Quinotto last Monday, and it literally took us 4 days to finally eat it all. Great value! Thanks for the recipe!


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