7 Healthy $2 Lunches For Every Day Of The Week

Bonus: They're super easy to throw together.

January 11, 2018
Healthy cheap lunches
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.

When you’re trying to stick to a budget, you might be tempted to sideline nutritious whole ingredients like fresh veggies, fruits, and healthy proteins. They might go bad before you can use them, or perhaps ingredients that are considered healthy (we're looking at you, avocados) come with a price markup. Plus, they're certainly less convenient than frozen or pre-packaged options. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to eat healthy on the cheap if you choose wisely.

Week of healthy cheap lunches
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.

The secret? Using beans, eggs, and nut butters as a protein source instead of meat to help keep meals cost-friendly and satisfying, suggests Jackie Newgent, R.D., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. Here are seven nutritionist-approved lunches she recommends that all check out at under $2. The best part? They're easy to throw together in a flash, making them ideal for your busy schedule.

*Note: Prices are estimates and may vary depending on location.

Monday: Bean Burrito Salad

“This simple plant-based meal offers a delicious way to boost your intake of beans,” says Newgent. Beans are a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and potassium.

Microwave a frozen Whole Foods Bean & Cheese Burrito ($1.50) and slice it into four or five pieces. Arrange it on two cups chopped Romaine lettuce ($0.30). Dress with three tablespoons salsa ($0.20), which does double duty as a dressing for both the burrito and the lettuce. For an extra dash of flavor, finish with fresh cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.

Related: 9 Foods You Should Never Eat For Lunch

Tuesday: Asian Ginger Brown Rice & Egg Bowl

“Whole eggs provide high-quality protein along with choline for brain health and lutein for eye health. Plus you’ll get a variety of phytonutrients from the brown rice and mandarin orange,” says Newgent.

Prepare warm ginger rice by simmering one-third cup dry brown jasmine rice ($0.25) with two-thirds cup water and three-quarters teaspoon fresh grated ginger root ($0.10). Top with two fried or soft-boiled cage-free eggs ($0.60) for 14 solid grams of protein. Garnish with one thinly-sliced scallion (about $0.10). If you want, drizzle with tamari and hot red pepper to taste. Enjoy with a mandarin, peeled and sectioned ($0.70 when you buy it by the bag).

 

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Peanut Butter & California Prune Panini
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.
Wednesday: Peanut Butter & California Prune Panini

“This lunch is good for the gut. A single serving of four to five prunes helps support good digestive health. Plus the yogurt gives you gut-friendly probiotics,” says Newgent (who is a spokesperson for the California Prune Board).

Spread two tablespoons natural peanut butter ($0.20) between two slices of whole grain bread ($0.80) and arrange four or five thinly-sliced prunes on top ($0.25 from the bulk bin). Grill in a panini press on medium-high for about four minutes. Enjoy with three-quarters of a cup plain Greek yogurt (less than $1 when you buy a large container) for 17 grams of high-quality protein.

Related: 7 Foods I Prep Each Week To Make Sure I Eat As Healthy As Possible

Grilled Hummus Quesadilla
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.
Thursday: Grilled Hummus Quesadilla

“Instead of way too much rich cheese, the filling of this “quesadilla” has a just-right amount of hummus, which provides heart-healthier nutrients while still providing all of the ooziness you expect,” says Newgent.

Spread half a cup of homemade hummus ($0.80) on one whole-wheat tortilla ($0.20). Top with one chopped tomato ($0.70) and one thinly-sliced scallion ($0.10) and the juice from half a lemon ($0.20). Fold in half, then cook on your stovetop for about two to three minutes on each side.

Try these 3 recipes for homemade hummus:

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Bean Chili
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.
Friday: Baked Sweet Potato With Black Bean Chili

“This super-easy recipe is a satisfying, nutrient-dense lunch offering good-for-you protein! You’ll get a significant amount of beta-carotene from the sweet potato and folate from the beans,” says Newgent.

Pierce a medium sweet potato ($0.60) several times with a fork, place on a microwave-safe plate and zap on high for four to five minutes, checking that it’s done by poking again with a fork (it should enter easily). Cut it in half, then top with three-quarters of a cup warmed Amy’s Organic Black Bean Chili ($1.40). Top with a pinch of cinnamon and garnish with sliced scallions and a scoop of Greek yogurt, if you’d like.

 
 
Egg Salad Wraps
Photograph courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D.
Saturday: Egg Salad Wraps

Here’s another powerhouse egg recipe Newgent loves: In two taco-sized, whole-wheat tortillas, wrap a basic egg salad of two boiled large eggs ($0.60), two tablespoons mayo ($0.10), a pinch of salt, onion powder, and cayenne with one-quarter cup each packed fresh baby arugula ($0.80). Cut each wrap into several pieces and serve sushi-style with a small bunch of grapes ($0.50) on the side.

Related: 14 Vegetarian Foods That Have More Iron Than Meat

Sunday: Cold Peanut Noodles with Slaw

“You’ll get a double whammy of nutritiousness in this bowl of noodles, including healthful fiber from the linguine and slaw mix along with healthful fats from the peanut sauce. Make that a triple whammy if you add quality protein,” says Newgent.

Prepare two ounces dry whole-wheat linguine ($0.12), toss with ice cubes to cool, and drain well. Toss noodles with one quarter cup bottled Asian peanut sauce ($0.20) and one cup cole slaw mix ($0.25). If you’d like, sprinkle with several fresh cilantro leaves and a squeeze of sriracha sauce. If you’ve got leftover protein (like grilled chicken) from dinner, toss that in too—we’ll count that as a freebie since it prevents food waste.

The article 7 Healthy $2 Lunches For Every Day Of The Week originally appeared on Women’s Health.