Cheap Lunch Box Ideas That Don’t Involve Sandwiches

by Allison W. on 2011-02-2512

There is nothing wrong with a good sandwich. But if you are like me, you probably get a little bored with them from time to time. Opening your lunchbox to find the same old flat looking sandwiches sitting in there every day can get a bit tiresome after a while.

So let’s fire things up a bit and think of some different cheap meal ideas. I have used every one of these and in doing so, I’m able to find a variety of fillings or accompaniments to use every time I make them.

What Are Some Cheap Lunch Box Ideas?

  • Pasta dishes –- one of my favorites is tuna, cucumber and pasta mixed in with a dollop of mayo. It’s pretty delicious (IMO) and you can make it in a big enough batch to last more than one day as well.
  • Wraps –- this is a bit different from a sandwich while still giving me that satisfying feeling that I love getting from eating bread (wooo carbs!). Chicken, bacon and mayo are a firm favorite with me (yes I love a bit of mayo), or strips of ham or beef plus some salad. Once you start using wraps, you will find that you get a lot more ideas for fillings to try out. Keep some meat from your Sunday joint to use as well –- I do this quite a lot.
  • Rice dishes -– I love cold rice. Provided it is cooked properly so it is still quite soft when you eat it cold, you can’t beat it. I usually buy the sachets of flavored rice and use half a pack mixed in with other things as well. For example, I might add prawns or chicken to it, along with some salad vegetables like spring onions and sliced cucumber. Here are a few different ways to cook rice that you might enjoy.
  • Salad –- this really doesn’t have to be boring. I make home made coleslaw to put in with it, along with some home made potato salad as well. This bulks out a salad and when you add some kind of meat or fish to it too, you can end up with a nice dish that is really tasty.
cheap lunch box ideas
Yay for Bento Food Art!

I have found that there is another big advantage to going beyond the sandwich. Now tell me if this is something you do (just out of habit, perhaps?), but whenever I have a sandwich, I invariably end up having a bag of chips (or crisps for you Britons….) with it as well. Sure it’s a common combination for a modest meal (chips and a burger, for example), but well, you’re probably better off with healthier food choices.

Ultimately, I find that I don’t need to have chips if I have one of the above non-sandwich based suggestions. Wraps can go well with chips but I usually end up having cucumber or carrot sticks with it instead, or a side of home made coleslaw. So it makes the rest of your lunch rather healthier as well, even though you may not set out with that in mind.

I often have pasta or rice because they are cheap to use as well. If I’m able to buy some salad vegetables at the beginning of the week, they can last all week and provide cheap lunches for that entire period. With some left over meat or fish thrown in the mix, it’s pretty easy to use up leftovers to make sure you have a tasty lunch to enjoy.

Try some of these ideas yourself. I’ll bet you’ll end up having sandwiches far less often!

Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela February 26, 2011 at 7:10 am

I love sandwiches myself. But they’re much less satisfying when I’m keeping a vegetarian diet than when I’m eating meat.

I also like to eat cheese and crackers (does that count as a sandwich?) for a hit of protein. And I also like vinaigrette salads made with vegetables and beans. The protein makes it very filling and it doesn’t weigh me down as much as pasta.

BTW, can you tell me who would make me a beautiful bento box lunch? That was adorable.

Mrs. Accountability February 26, 2011 at 8:43 am

On the days I have to go in to the office, I always bring leftovers. When I wasn’t on a restricted diet I would sometimes eat the lunch prepared for our clients, or I would eat yogurt. But now, it’s always leftovers. I love leftovers though, so that doesn’t bother me. I usually have some kind of meat and a vegetable with plenty of butter. Butter makes everything taste better.

Green Leaf Goods February 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I can’t tell you how tired of the “3 piece lunch” I am! Sandwich, drink, snack. Perhaps I’ll take your advice and try something new.

Jen February 27, 2011 at 5:22 am

I bought a laptop lunch box and this has helped me lots with my creativity as there are many bento groups (I joined one in Flickr) and also because you start to see how diverse things can be that you can fit in (leftovers one day, crudites with hummus the next, fruit salad, veg salad (or both combined), rice, pasta… you name it and there’s space for it!).

I said goodbye to sandwiches ages ago!

krantcents February 27, 2011 at 9:04 am

T have been taking my lunch for years. Generally, I take dinner leftovers that range from pasta, salads, wraps, and a variety of meals. It is healthier and more interesting than a sandwich.

Luke March 1, 2011 at 4:46 am

I really love sandwiches especially when I’m starving and I don’t have anything to eat but a sandwich. But now I can tell my kids that they will eat sandwiches no more for their lunch. I believe that they will leap for joy when they hear that.

valleycat1 March 1, 2011 at 9:47 am

About a year ago I replaced the bag o chips with an apple & a small sharp knife since I like them sliced instead of whole (found one with its own sheath). Each week I buy at least 5 apples – easy to grab & go, & an apple goes with just about anything else I bring. I love sandwiches (& chips) but also bring leftovers fairly frequently – although I draw the line at cold rice (shudder)! During the winter I trend toward soups, chili, stews – easy to reheat in the office micro, or heat them at home & bring in a good thermos.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I am actually not much of a sandwich eater myself, given that I am somewhat gluten sensitive! Thankfully, there is a Whole Foods near where I live. It’s also a cultural thing, to prefer box lunches or rice dishes for lunch. So anything I can do creatively that does not involve wheat or bread is a good thing. While I do still appreciate bread, it so happens that I still prefer wheat and traditional grain breads over gluten free breads and products (which also costs a bit more).

Sonya March 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm

For my lunch on Sunday I make a big pot of soup a different variety each week, a salad, a bottle of water or some kind of fruit juice, and I’m good if i need a pick me up later in the afternoon I’ll have some trail mix, or some fruit.

KP March 1, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Thanks for sharing your creative ideas for lunch! I usually try to maximize leftovers and prepare easy to make items.

Eating healthy definitely pays in more ways than one. :)

PatD March 5, 2011 at 11:54 am

Would you share your recipe for homemade coleslaw? Commercial brands are usually awful. (My grandmother had a great recipe but I last helped make it about 50 years ago and can’t remember how she made the dressing.)

average joe March 6, 2011 at 3:40 pm

No sandwiches here either. About once a week I cook a pot of aduki (red) beans with some vegetables (and if I am in the mood, I make it spicy). I can usually make four to six meals from it. Two go in the fridge for the next two day lunch meals; the rest I freeze.
When it is time to leave for work in the morning, I ladle out a meal’s worth from the container in the fridge, add some cooked rice, and may some other leftovers, into my go-to-work container.

Good, nutritious, cheap. What could be bad?

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