How to make a healthy lunch for work for $5, $10 or $15

Is it time to lift your lunch game? Maybe you're guilty of a few too many fast food lunches, or you’re bored of the options near your workplace. There's still no excuse to be eating unhealthy lunches at work these days. Make no mistake—we’re all allowed the odd slip-up—but with a little preparation, we can all eat healthy on the cheap!

We've been to the supermarket for a little research, and returned with advice at three different price points:

$5 lunch ideas

The best way to eat on a budget is to cook in bulk. Set aside an hour on a Sunday afternoon (or whenever suits) and cook a big meal which you can pack into reusable containers. Think: casseroles, curries, bolognese, chilli con arne, etc... All you need is a microwave, and you can enjoy a home-cooked lunch every day!

Here are some more ideas:

  • Buy seasonal fruit and veggies and save—the Seasonal Food Guide makes it easy
  • Invest in Tupperware to store food in (it's better for the environment than disposable packaging)
  • Look for specials on meat at your local deli
  • Combine a tin of tuna with a pack of microwavable rice—bonus points for brown rice
  • Stuck with a fridge full of random veggies? Make a frittata and throw them all in
  • Reheat leftovers from last night’s dinner. You're effectively turning two meals into one
  • Use the sandwich toaster if your work has one. Nothing beats a melted cheese sambo!
  • On the move? Try a banh mi (Vietnamese pork roll). They're not super healthy (avoid adding extra salt and sauce) but they are packed with veggies and almost always less than $5
  • Pick up cheap packed sandwiches from your local supermarket, and grab a piece of fruit while you're there.

Try: Simple beef casserole

$10 lunch ideas

With $10 you have a little more breathing room! You can prepare a more elaborate lunch to bring from home, or buy the lunch special at a local restaurant. Ask for a bottle of table water rather than buying a soft drink or sugar-filled juice.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Are you an early bird? Prepare yourself a fresh salad before you leave for work in the morning, then enjoy it for lunch
  • Take it easy on the dressing—too much and your salad is no healthier than a burger!
  • Throw some nuts in your salad for a protein boost, and add sun-dried or cherry tomatoes for flavour
  • Buy a barbeque chicken from the supermarket. They're usually $10 or so and they can fill a lot of sandwiches
  • Take a look a the frozen food section—berries and veggies are surprisingly good value
  • Lucky enough to have a fridge at work? Buy sandwich and salad ingredients from the supermarket and prepare fresh lunches in the kitchenette. Do the same with fruit—you'll always have something healthy to snack on, and never have to worry about banana getting squished in your bag!

Try: Pineapple, sweet chicken and chilli curry (make a big pot!)

$15 lunch ideas

You can afford to splash out at this price range! If you're venturing to a café or restaurant choose soups, salads, and always opt for food made fresh. Most menus these days have a healthy option.

Here are some ideas:

  • Eat fish! Most of us don't get enough seafood, but if you can find it fresh, then grilled fish is a great lunch option rich in protein and omega 3
  • Buy a proper loaf of bread from your local bakery, and make sandwiches. Think whole grain, sourdough and rye
  • Choose higher-quality meats from your butcher—ask them for a recommendation
  • Want a lighter lunch? Make a smoothie, and flavour it with cacao powder and frozen berries
  • Asian restaurants almost always are a good decision if you're eating out—just avoid fried food and you're on the right track. Think sushi, sashimi, pho, and any vegetarian option

Try: Lamb and orange tagine

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