Save on Pinterest

40 Cheap Lunch Ideas

On a budget? These cheap lunch ideas are easy on your wallet, but don't miss out on flavor. Whip 'em up on Sunday to enjoy all week long!

1 / 40

Contest-Winning Hearty Hamburger Soup

At family get-togethers, our children always request this spirit-warming ground beef soup along with a fresh loaf of homemade bread and tall glasses of milk. This hamburger soup has robust flavor, plenty of fresh-tasting vegetables and is easy to make. —Barbara Brown, Janesville, Wisconsin

Go To Recipe

How do you save money on groceries? Share your tips with us!

2 / 40
Garlic Spaghetti Exps Ft21 10671 F 1203 1

Garlic Spaghetti

I make this family-favorite garlic spaghetti at least a couple of times a month. It's wonderful with a salad and fresh Italian bread. —Jackie Messina, Chardon, Ohio
3 / 40
Exps74982 Sd163614d12 08 2b Based On

Air-Fryer Black Bean Chimichangas

These chimichangas get a little love from the air fryer, so they’re much healthier than their deep-fried counterparts. Black beans provide protein, and the recipe is a smart way to use up leftover rice. —Kimberly Hammond, Kingwood, Texas
4 / 40
Greek Spinach Bake Exps Ft21 30489 F 0608 1 16

Spanakopita Casserole

This traditional Spanakopita Casserole features spinach and feta cheese. You can serve it as a side dish or meatless main dish. My dad and I used to fight over the last piece. —Sharon Olney, Galt, California
5 / 40
Grilled Chickpea Salad Sandwich Exps Rc20 254820 B09 15 6b 12

Grilled Chickpea Salad Sandwich

When my mother comes to visit, she enjoys a good old-fashioned chicken salad sandwich. As a vegetarian, I make chickpea salad sandwiches all the time and finally had the guts to make one for her. After some hesitation, she tasted it and was instantly hooked! —Dannika Stevenson, Akron, Ohio
6 / 40
Cheesy Black Bean Nachos

Cheesy Black Bean Nachos

We're trying to go meatless once a week, and this dish helps make those meals fun, quick and super delicious. It's a great way to use up beans and canned tomatoes from your pantry. —Cynthia Nelson, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
7 / 40
Polenta Chili Casserole Exps 13x9bz20 32215 E10 02 1b 5

Polenta Chili Casserole

Our Test Kitchen created this delicious vegetarian bean and polenta bake that combines spicy chili, mixed veggies and homemade polenta. It's a warm and comfy casserole that is sure to please everyone, vegetarian or not.
8 / 40

Hearty Asian Lettuce Salad

This meatless version of your favorite restaurant salad packs 13 grams of protein per serving and is bursting with juicy flavor. It's a brilliant choice for lunch or a busy-day dinner. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
9 / 40
Tailgate Sausages Exps Tohas19 33834 B05 31 2b Copy

Air-Fryer Tailgate Sausages

What I love about these, besides the great taste, is you can make them up ahead of time and keep them refrigerated until you're ready to cook. —Matthew Hass, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin
10 / 40
Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches Exps Tohjj20 190103 B02 06 10b 24

Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

These chickpea salad sandwiches are super flavorful and contain less fat and cholesterol than chicken salad. They make delightful picnic sandwiches. —Deanna McDonald, Muskegon, Michigan
11 / 40
Pepperoni Pasta Salad Exps Ft22 24069 F 0414 1

Pepperoni Pasta Salad

Using zesty Italian salad dressing is an easy way to add a lot of flavor to this pasta salad with pepperoni. Serve it right away or assemble it ahead of time. Mix and match using your favorite pasta shapes, veggies and cheese. —Shannon Lommen, Kaysville, Utah

Discover our best cheap dinner recipes.

12 / 40
Best Ever Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Exps Cf2bz20 93316 B11 22 5b 4

Best Ever Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

You can also use your imagination to come up with other grilled cheese sandwich ideas, such as chives, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese or Italian seasoning, and even a spoonful of salsa. —Edie DeSpain, Logan, Utah

Whether you’re looking for soups, salads or simple mains, these are our best cheap, healthy meals.

13 / 40
Mexican Stuffed Peppers Exps 5irbz22 48810 Dr 03 03 2b

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This nutritious yet economical summer meal makes the most of my home-grown peppers. I like to top it with sour cream and serve with tortilla chips and salsa, but it’s wonderful on its own, too. —Kimberly Coleman, Columbia, South Carolina
14 / 40
Super Quick Chicken Fried Rice Exps Ft22 117849 F 0315 1

Easy Chicken Fried Rice

After my first child was born, I needed meals that were satisfying and fast. This easy chicken fried rice is now part of our regular dinner rotation. —Alicia Gower, Auburn, New York

Really buckling down on your budget? Try these meals for under $10.

15 / 40

Black Bean Burritos

My neighbor and I discovered these delicious low-fat burritos a few years ago. On nights my husband or I have a meeting, we can have a satisfying supper on the table in minutes. —Angela Studebaker, Goshen, Indiana
16 / 40
Quick Chicken Caesar Salad Exps Fttmz21 12217 E03 05 4b 3

Quick Chicken Caesar Salad

After tasting this easy chicken Caesar salad recipe at a friend’s going-away party, I made sure to request the recipe. Now I fix it for my husband just about every week. It’s great with a potato or pasta side dish and chunks of crusty bread. —Kim Blanda, Neptune, New Jersey

For more, consider these tasty cold lunch ideas.

17 / 40

Muffin-Cup Cheddar Beef Pies

My kids love these beef rolls so much. I always make extra since they heat up so quickly. I give the kids their choice of dipping sauces—spaghetti sauce or ranch dressing are the top picks. —Kimberly Farmer, Wichita, Kansas

Try these cheap breakfast ideas that use simple staples.

18 / 40
Cheesy Bow Tie Chicken Exps122743 Sd143205d01 31 6bc Rms 2

Cheesy Bow Tie Chicken

Here's a super-simple dish that tastes like it's straight from a nice Italian restaurant. Spinach-artichoke dip is usually available in supermarket delis. It comes frozen, too. Just make sure to thaw it according to the package directions before dinnertime. —Sally Sibthorpe, Shelby Township, Michigan
19 / 40
Old Fashioned Egg Salad Exps Ft20 1035 F 0305 1 2

Old-Fashioned Egg Salad

Here's a pared-down version of a classic egg salad recipe. You can also add a little cream cheese for an extra-creamy spread. —Linda Braun, American Egg Board, Park Ridge, Illinois
20 / 40
Spinach Pizza Quesadillas Exps Thca22 162134 Dr 12 07 2b 9

Spinach Pizza Quesadillas

This simple five-ingredient dinner is special to me because my daughter and I created it together. You can make variations with other veggies you might have at home. It’s a smart way to get kids to eat healthier. —Tanna Mancini, Gulfport, Florida
21 / 40
Exps188377 Th153342d02 19 4b 2

Parmesan Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken

On lazy summer weekends, we like chicken and yellow squash tossed with bow tie pasta. Add extra fresh grated Parmesan for a Sunday touch. —Sarah Smiley, Bangor, Maine
22 / 40
Contest Winning Roasted Tomato Soup Exps132607 Th2236620a06 01 2bc Rms 15

Contest-Winning Roasted Tomato Soup

Just before the first frost of the season, we gather up all of the tomatoes from my mom’s garden to create this flavor-packed soup. Although it sounds like a lot of garlic, when it’s roasted, the garlic becomes mellow and almost sweet. We serve this soup with toasted bread spread with pesto. —Kaitlyn Lerdahl, Madison, Wisconsin
23 / 40

Lentil Burritos

I'm constantly trying to incorporate healthy but tasty meals into our menu. Kids and adults alike love these mildly spiced burritos that combine filling lentils with crisp zucchini. —Pam Masters, Wickenburg, Arizona
24 / 40
Taco Puffs Exps Ft21 8601 F 0714 1 Based On

Air-Fryer Taco Puffs

I like to make these puffs ahead of time and keep the in the refrigerator until I’m ready to pop them in the air fryer. A helpful hint: Plain refrigerated biscuits seal together better than buttermilk types. —Jan Schmid, Hibbing, Minnesota
25 / 40

Lemon Chicken and Rice

On our busy ranch, we often need meals we can put on the table in a hurry. This all-in-one chicken dish - with its delicate lemon flavor - fits the bill and it's inexpensive to boot. —Kat Thompson, Prineville, Oregon
26 / 40
Deli Turkey Lettuce Wraps Exps Sdam19 147427 C12 07 6b 4

Deli Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I used to make these during my training days when I worked at a restaurant in Hawaii. They’re low-fat, low-carb, high-protein, quick and delicious—a great choice before or after a workout. —Duncan Omarzu, Astoria, New York
27 / 40
Pork Ramen Stir Fry Exps152485 Sd132778b04 12 4bc Rms 4

Pork & Ramen Stir-Fry

I normally serve a traditional stir-fry, but I wanted to change it up with this ramen noodle recipe. Ramen noodles are a quick sub for the rice, and we really like the crisp-tender bite from fresh broccoli and a package of coleslaw mix. —Barbara Pletzke, Herndon, Virginia
28 / 40
Tuna Melt Sandwiches Exps Ft21 12101 F 0414 1 8

Tuna Melt Sandwiches

When our children were young, I often fixed this warm tuna melt sandwich recipe. They go well with chips and a salad for a quick lunch. —Carole Anhalt, Manitowoc, Wisconsin
29 / 40

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Orzo

Broccoli and rice casserole tops my family's comfort food list, but when we need something fast, this is the stuff. Chicken and veggie orzo cooked on the stovetop speeds everything up. —Mary Shivers, Ada, Oklahoma
30 / 40
Bacon Cheeseburger Roll Ups Exps Ft21 45594 F 0709 1

Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls

My husband and I both love these cheeseburger rolls. I often serve them with broccoli and cheese. They must be good because this recipe won a first-place prize at the Iowa State Fair! —Jessica Cain, Des Moines, Iowa
31 / 40
Hummus Veggie Wrap Up Exps Cwas18 106657 B04 05  4b 3

Hummus & Veggie Wrap-Up

I had a vegan wrap that was similar to this once when I stopped at a diner while on a long and arduous walk. I enjoyed it so much that I modified it to my own taste and now have it for lunch on a regular basis. Everyone at work wants to know how to make it. —Michael Steffens, Indianapolis, Indiana
32 / 40

Slow-Cooked Lentil Stew

This vegetarian stew is perfect when you want to take a break from meat. Adding the cream at the end gives it a smoother texture. —Michelle Collins, Suffolk Virginia
33 / 40
Easy Butternut Squash Soup Exps Ft20 250452 F 0128 1 66

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

When the weather turns cold, get cozy with a bowl of this butternut squash soup. This recipe is super easy. The cream adds richness, but if you’re looking to cut calories, it can be omitted. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
34 / 40
Cheesy Egg Quesadillas Exps Sddj18 199869 D08 09 5b 1

Cheesy Egg Quesadillas

Here's my fun spin on breakfast for dinner—or breakfast! These egg quesadillas are so easy to make, full of protein and plain delicious any time of day. —Barbara Blommer, Woodland Park, Colorado
35 / 40
Chicken Pesto With Pasta Exps30125 5ing2856595d03 13 5b Rms 2

Chicken Pesto with Pasta

Prepared sauce accents this warm chicken pesto pasta. Keep pesto in the freezer for the next time you have leftover chicken. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
36 / 40
Peanut Butter Pickle And Potato Chip Sandwich Exps Ft22 239329 F 0415 1 6

Peanut Butter Pickle Sandwich

Crunchy, tangy, salty and sweet, this open-faced peanut butter pickle sandwich hits all your cravings. —James Schend, Taste of Home Deputy Editor
37 / 40
Exps190265 Cw163680b09 01 6b 1

Lemon Cranberry Quinoa Salad

As the family cook, I appreciate how easy this is to throw together on a busy weeknight. Plus, this salad never gets boring. One of my favorite variations is to substitute diced fresh mango for the cranberries, cilantro for the parsley, and lime for the lemon juice and zest. —Mary Shenk, DeKalb, Illinois
38 / 40

Fajitas in Pitas

For a weekend lunch with company, we grill chicken and peppers to stuff inside pita pockets. The dressing doubles as a grilling sauce and a sandwich spread. —Clara Coulson Minney, Washington Court House, Ohio
39 / 40
Beef Teriyaki Noodles Exps73367 Sd143204c12 10 4bc Rms 2

Beef Teriyaki Noodles

At our house, we love to combine fresh ingredients with a pantry product. This version starts with beef, onions, peppers and mushrooms, since we always have them on hand, but make the dish your own—bring out your inner chef! —Richard Robinson, Park Forest, Illinois
40 / 40
Thai Peanut Chicken And Noodles Exps Sdam18 207059 B12 07 6b 17

Thai Peanut Chicken and Noodles

This versatile chicken recipe is very similar to chicken pad Thai but easier to make and tastes just as good. Rice noodles can be swapped with mung bean noodles or any type of egg noodles. —Kristina Segarra, Yonkers, New York

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.