Work lunches can be a real killer when it comes to managing food on a budget.
When you’re buying lunch every day, that quickly adds up to take a real chunk out of the money you could be saving. That said, it’s hard to find the time to make a packed lunch every night, on top of cooking and cleaning up dinner.
Taking some extra time at the start of the week to prepare lunches for a few days, or even the whole working week, can make a real difference to your time and savings.
Meal prepping for the week
Meal prep’s key concept is simple: Make your meals all at once, so you spend less time cooking throughout the week.
You can prepare your work lunches on Sunday afternoon, and go confidently into the week knowing you have lunch sorted for every day. Or, if you prefer food to be fresher, just prepare three lunches on Sunday and spend a little time on Wednesday night making two more. You can even use dinner leftovers!
Here’s why you should try meal prepping your work lunches:
- You’ll save money. Those work lunches add up fast! By planning to prepare your own lunches, you can keep more money in your bank account for that shiny new gadget you’re eyeing up.
- It’s easier to resist unhealthy meals. No more turning to takeaway because you don’t feel like cooking. Structured meal prepping keeps you on track with your balanced diet.
- You can control your portion sizes. If you’re avoiding overeating, preparing your lunches in advances means you can measure your portion sizes more carefully.
- You’ll spend less time cooking. A little extra time on the weekend spent preparing your lunches means that your weeknights remain free to unwind after a hard day.
- Food waste will be easier to manage. Meal prepping encourages you to use everything you buy by ensuring it’s cooked before it spoils.
20 healthy work lunch meal prep recipes
What makes a good lunch to take to work?
We reckon it takes a few things: First, it has to be a lunch you’re excited to eat. When you’re surrounded by tasty fast food options near work, you want to be sure the lunch you’ve packed is going to be even more enticing.
Secondly, it has to make you feel good. That means balanced, with lots of healthy proteins and nutritious vegetables.
Thirdly, it shouldn’t be complicated or expensive. Your lunch needs to be easy to make and use ingredients you can get easily and within budget.
And finally, it has to be practical. A work lunch should be something you’re happy eating cold, or can easily heat up at work. It should also be something easy and tidy to eat, so you’re not at risk of making a mess in the break room.
Below, we’ve listed lots of tasty, healthy and affordable lunch recipes, as well as some tips to help you store and serve them at work.
1. Corn fritters
Loaded with veges and full of protein from the eggs, these fritters are great to include as part of a lunchbox, or serve up as a main lunchtime meal.
Cook up a batch of corn fritters on Sunday night and store them in the fridge either wrapped in cling film or in an airtight container. These are best eaten in the first half of the week, but you can always whip up a second batch on Wednesday night.
Throw together a salad each evening to have with the fritters. Simply keep a bag of your favourite salad greens in the fridge, along with your favourite salad vegetables pre-chopped for easy salad construction throughout the week.
Keep lunch fresh by swapping out the corn for other vegetables, or a mix of your favourites. Try peas, grated courgette, small broccoli florets or spinach and feta. Or add some spices, like paprika and cumin, or even some chilli flakes if you like it spicy.
Read the recipe for corn fritters here.
2. Beef and bean spaghetti bolognese
This quick and easy bolognese is a great one to take to last the week. One batch should give you two days worth of lunches if you’re cooking for two, or the recipe can easily be doubled to go further.
Simply cook the bolognese according to the recipe, as well as enough spaghetti to cover the number of lunches you’re making. Then, plate up individual servings into separate containers. Store in the fridge, or freezer if you plan to keep it for more than four days.
This is best eaten hot, so be sure your workplace has a microwave you can use to reheat your lunch.
Read the beef and bean spaghetti bolognese recipe here.
3. Cottage pie
Hearty beef mince, loaded with vegetables and topped with creamy mash. You can’t go wrong, really.
This cottage pie is a super simple recipe that scales up easily, so you can make a massive batch to feed extra mouths. It’s also a great way to use up any leftover vegetables from other recipes, as you can really add any vegetables you like to the mince filling.
For meal prepping, follow the recipe instructions all the way through. Then, let the pie rest for ten minutes before portioning out your servings into separate containers. Let them cook completely then pop them in the fridge or freezer.
If you’re freezing your cottage pie, try using full fat milk or cream in the mashed potato. The extra fat helps the potatoes stay creamy ever after they’re frozen.
4. Mini pizzas
Using muffin splits as mini pizzas bases, you can make lots of these tasty numbers at once.
Mini pizzas are another great way to use up leftovers. If you find yourself with extra chopped veggies after prepping other meals for the week, throw them on some muffin splits with cheese and sauce.
To meal prep these mini pizzas for work lunches, follow the first four steps of the recipe, then let the pizzas cool completely. Arrange the pizzas in a container, putting baking paper between the layers if you have to stack them, and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can grab the pizzas out individually as you need them through the week.
To reheat at work, allow them to defrost overnight before you plan to eat them. Then, microwave them and top with barbecue sauce to serve. For best results, try reheating them in a toaster oven, if there’s one available at work.
Read the mini pizzas recipe here.
5. Easy fried rice
This is an awesome way to use up leftover rice if you’ve got a big batch in your fridge. You can also add all sorts of vegetables to your fried rice to make it stretch further and pump up the nutrition.
On Sunday night, whip up a batch of this fried rice and you should have lunches for two to last you until Wednesday. Store your individual portions in your fridge for up to three days, or in the freezer until you need them. Simply microwave to reheat.
Check out this easy fried rice recipe here.
6. Chicken and burghul salad
Grain-based salads like this chicken and burghul delight are a fantastic option as they tend to last a bit better in the fridge than green salads might.
You can make this salad in advance by preparing the burgul, chicken and dressing. Divide the burghul mixture between your lunch containers, and top with the chicken. Hold the dressing and divide it into small dressing tubs to be added just before eating.
The chicken and bulgur wheat components should last well in the fridge for up to three days. However, the dressing should remain fresh for two weeks, provided it stays in the fridge.
Read our chicken and burghul salad recipe here.
7. Salmon rice paper rolls
These simple salmon rice paper rolls are packed full of fresh, clean flavour. Not only are they easy to make, they’re easy to store and serve at work too.
Make as many rice paper rolls as you need to last three days of work lunches, and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Put a damp paper towel over the rolls to keep them from drying out.
These are best eaten cold, so there’s no need to worry about reheating anything at work.
Read the recipe for salmon rice paper rolls here.
8. Chicken burritos
Burritos are a great one to grab and go during a busy work week. Our chicken burrito recipe is a cheap and easy way to make a healthy, tasty feed for workday lunches. You can also swap out the filling instructions for any of your favourite burrito filling spice mixes.
You can store this in two ways. One option is to make the filling and any other filling extras like guacamole and store them in separate portions in the fridge, while keeping the tortillas separate so they don’t go soggy. Then, heat the filling in the microwave and build the burrito at work.
Otherwise, you can actually build the burritos in advance. Make sure the filling isn’t too wet by draining off any excess liquid. Portion it out onto your tortillas, add any extra fillings and then fold. Let them cool, then wrap each one individually in cling wrap and pop them in the fridge. You can reheat these in the microwave, or crisp up the tortilla in a sandwich press.
Read the chicken burritos recipe here.
9. Beef and vegetable stew
Stews and casseroles are awesome for meal prepping, because you can cook up big batches all at once. This stew is also loaded with veggies, so you can be sure you’re getting your 5+ a day.
Preparing this stew for workday lunches is easy. Just follow the recipe all the way through, and then divide it up into your individual portions, allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Then microwave through at work, and serve with a slice of toast.
Check out the beef and vegetable stew recipe right here.
10. Hearty vegetable soup
Warm up on those chilly winter workdays with this soul-warming soup. Use any of your favourite winter root veggies to fill this simple, affordable soup with earthy goodness.
Soup is a wonderful option if you’re on-the-go a lot at work and don’t always have access to a microwave. You can reheat your soup in the morning, pour it into a thermos and keep it warm through to lunch time.
Simply cook your soup according to the recipe and portion it out into single serving containers, or decant into one container and separate portions out as you need them during the week. Store for up to four days, or freeze until needed.
Try our hearty vegetable soup recipe here.
These meatballs are a super simple way to prepare a lot of food for the week. You can scale the recipe up very easily by doubling the quantities. We’ve also let you choose what kind of mince you use. This works wonderfully with pork, beef, lamb and even chicken mince. You can also try using a mix of mince.
You can make these according to the recipe, then portion them out, cool to room temperature and chill. Or, you can pan sear the meatballs and freeze them without sauce. Then, grab meatballs from the freezer to defrost overnight as you need them, then microwave with pasta sauce.
Read our meatballs recipe here.
12. Teriyaki chicken donburi on rice
Sticky, sweet, salty and a little bit of umami. Teriyaki sauce is an easy way to add lots of deliciousness to any meal, within budget.
Prepare this for the week by following the recipe through and dividing the servings appropriately. Keep in the fridge for up to three days.
For a fresh summer alternative that you can also enjoy cold, cook the chicken according to the recipe, but don’t cook the vegetables. Serve with chicken with rice and a fresh green salad.
Read the teriyaki chicken donburi on rice recipe here.
13. Chicken breast fillet with Italian tomato salad
During summer, a fresh Italian style salad helps to beat the heat and stay fit.
To make this for your workday lunches. Cook chicken breast, slice and store in one container in the fridge. Then prepare the salad, minus the pine nuts, and store in another container in the fridge. Keep pine nuts in a sealed container in a dark, dry cupboard to keep them from going soggy. Assemble your salad in the morning before work, and simply eat cold.
Read the chicken breast with Italian tomato salad recipe here.
14. Creamy chicken and vegetable pie
This creamy chicken and vegetable pie is a great way to pack veggies into your diet, and make extra lunches for you and your kids.
After your pie is cooked, let it cool down for up to two hours, until the filling has set. Letting it cool before cutting it up means the filling won’t run out when you serve it. Cut the cooled pie into servings and store in airtight containers in the fridge.
Read our creamy chicken and vegetable pie recipe here.
15. Pumpkin and chicken curry
Another wonderful batch cooking option, this curry can easily be stretched over the first half of the week.
Simply cook the curry according to the recipe, then divide the curry and rice across your individual portion containers. Let the meals cool to room temperature for up to two hours, then chill in the fridge for up to three days.
Read the recipe for pumpkin and chicken curry right here.
16. One-pot Italian bake
This Italian pasta bake is super easy to cook, and it all takes place in one pot, so the cleanup is minimal. One-pot recipes like this are a great idea when you’re prepping a lot of different meals all at once, because they make it easier to have more on the go.
What’s even better, is that this recipe alone should serve 10. That’s enough meals to get you and a partner through five solid workdays, if you don’t mind eating the same thing every day. Or, freeze a few servings to have over the next few weeks among other recipes you’d like to try.
Cook according to the recipe, but allow to cool for up to two hours before dividing into your individual serving containers, then chill. This should keep in the fridge up to three days, so pop a few servings in the freezer to last you past Wednesday.
Check out this one-pot Italian bake recipe here.
17. Tuna bake
This is a great batch cooking recipe, using lots of simple, affordable ingredients. You can also mix it up by swapping out the tuna for canned chicken, salmon, surimi or other protein.
Simply follow the recipe, then allow the bake to cool before cutting it up into your single servings. Chill for up to three days in the fridge, or freezer for longer. Reheat in the microwave or enjoy cold.
18. Cheese, leek & chorizo frittata bake
Frittatas are a fun way to use up leftovers and they’re loaded with protein and healthy fat thanks to the eggs. Try mixing up this frittata bake with any of your favourite vegetables, meats and cheeses.
You can prep this for the week by following the recipe, allowing to cool then cutting into individual servings to chill for up to four days.
Or, divide the batter into muffin tins before cooking to bake lots of pre-portioned frittatas, and chill.
Read the cheese, leek & chorizo frittata bake recipe here.
19. Roast vege tart
Similar to the frittata, this roast vege tart has plenty of healthy protein and veggies.
Cook in a large tart tin, or in muffin trays lined with pastry for small single-portion tarts. Keep in the fridge for up to four days. To get crispy pastry, reheat in a toaster oven at work.
Read our roast vege tart recipe here
20. Tuna and pasta salad.
This quick and easy pasta salad is affordable to put together and easy to customise to your liking.
Simply use any vegetables you like, fresh, canned or frozen. After cooking, divide the salad across your containers and store them in the fridge for up to three days. Enjoy it cold.
Read the recipe for tuna and pasta salad here.
For more inspiration in the kitchen, browse our full range of recipes.