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10 Easy Packed Lunch Ideas for Work or School!

Who loves putting together a packed lunch everyday? 

Six months ago this was not me. I frequently turned up to work with simply a coffee in hand or a couple of pieces of fruit thrown into my bag.

Fast forward a couple of months and I am newly wed with a husband that cannot just skip lunch or survive on an apple for 8 hours straight. On top of that, we are saving for a house, a new car and overseas travel – Covid willing – and we just cannot afford to be buying lunches everyday. 

Needless to say, I needed a new strategy. 

Here are my struggles 

  •  I don’t want to be spending hours slaving around in the kitchen every evening – this is not the place you will find cute little breakfast muffins with 24 ingredients!
  • It has to be healthy – not too much sugar, healthy carbohydrates and all round a balanced diet

Whether you are packing lunch for yourself, a husband, your kids or the whole family, you need some low-prep, easy and affordable lunch ideas to draw on daily!

Here are my top ten cheap, healthy and easy lunch box ideas!

When viewing these photos, bear in mind, I used the cleanest and freshest looking lunch box in the cupboard. In real life, my husband would get a much bigger lunch box, with more food and more snacks. For more lunch box snack ideas you can look at our list on our free printable!

  1. The Cheeseboard box

The Cheeseboard lunch box is one of my faves! It’s so quick and easy to quickly throw together before we go to bed. I always have a couple of packets of crackers in the cupboard, cheese is a staple in our house and I always try to make sure I have some sort of salami meat in the fridge. 

For my husband I will prepare an assortment of cracker toppings in his lunch box. When it comes to lunch time, he makes his own crackers. For a child, it may be a little different. You know your own child, if making their own crackers is a little too much for them, you can easily premake them the night before. 

Remember creativity is key – you DO NOT need to have all of the same ingredients as I do. Use what you have in the fridge. If you need ideas of what to buy each week, you can print off a weekly shopping list for free here. 

To make the cracker and cheese box, you will need at least one from each category:

Crackers Wholegrain crackers, rice crackers, water crackers
Spread Cream cheese, humus, whole-grain mustard, avocado, pesto
Cheese Colby, Edam, Brie, Camerbert
Meat Salami, ham, bacon, smoked salmon, canned tuna, shredded chicken, pate
Plant based topping Tomatoes, cucumber, gherkin, olives, capsicum, alfalfa sprouts
Extra Snacks Carrot sticks and peanut butter, nuts, fruit, popcorn, berries, yoghurt, grapes, boiled eggs

This week, I made a Cheeseboard lunch box for my husband. Because it is summer here in New Zealand, we have an abundance of tomatoes and cucumbers!

Don’t forget to put a butter knife in for the spread!

  1. Roll-ups

Lunch box roll ups or as some call them ‘sandwich sushi’ are a fun and easy way to make sandwiches a little different. Like the Cheeseboard lunch box, you can use whatever you have in the fridge. What’s more, you can have savoury or sweet Roll-ups! I don’t make Roll-ups very often but when I do, I can’t help but snack on the cut offs because they taste so good!

The key to a good Roll-up is a good spread and not too many fillings. My spread of choice is usually cream cheese! 

Roll-up filling ideas

Basic Roll-up Cream cheese, salami, baby spinach
Salmon Roll-up Cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber, chopped dill 
Pizza Roll-up Tomato paste, sliced salami, grated cheese, baby spinach
Egg Roll-up Mayo, egg, ham, chopped chives
Banana Roll-up Nutella, banana, strawberry
Nut butter Roll-up Peanut butter, apple, celery

  1. Egg salad

Egg salad, so tasty but very simple to make! I love to pair an egg salad lunch box with some buttered bread, carrot sticks and seasonal fruit. 

To make an egg salad, all you need are:

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • ⅛ cup of Mayo
  • 1 tsp of chopped dill
  • 1 tsp of chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp of dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Simply, peel and chop up the hard boiled eggs. Mix in the mayo, herbs and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Often, I will put a handful of baby spinach in the salad to bulk it up and for extra iron! If you want an even easier recipe – skip the dill, chives and mustard – still tastes super good!

  1. Veggie sticks and dip

Now, I am not one to eat raw broccoli. Neither is my husband. However, raw broccoli smothered in a good dip…now that is a different story! 

My favourite dips to pair with veggie sticks

  • Onion Dip
  • Yoghurt Dip
  • Humus 
  • Guacamole
  • Ranch

  1. Leftovers

Ok this one is a good one that I do not do often enough. Leftovers. So many of my friends do this for themselves, their husbands and children – make extra dinner and pop in a lunch box for the next day, so easy! 

One issue with this can be that your work or school may not have facilities for heating up lunches which can make a few cold dinners not so tasty. 

Here are some dinner ideas that make a great packed lunch the next day:

  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Sausages
  • Salads
  • Pasta
  • Quiche
  • Meatballs

  1. Pasta salad

Pasta salad is one lunch that I do not make use of enough! Hot or cold? No problem, pasta is always the answer. 

Because I am not super keen on fluffing around in the kitchen, I try and keep it simple – pasta, some sort of sauce/ pesto, chopped veggies, cold meat and cheese. So much cheese! I know I said these would be healthy lunches…and I wasn’t lying – cheese is healthy! At least, that is what I tell myself everyday. Mix all those up and you have the best pasta salad! 

Don’t feel like it has to be the same every time, use what you have, you’ll be surprised what tastes good! When we don’t have any salami or cold chicken in the fridge, I like to boil some eggs and use mayo as the dressing – essentially creating a leveled up egg salad!

  1. Bean salad

Now we are getting healthy! When I was a kid, we would have salad at every meal. Most days it was the carrots, lettuce, tomato, cucumber with a cider vinegar vinaigrette deal. However, there were those days when we would run out of fresh veggies or Mum was tired and needed an easy way to whip up a salad. Her go to? Bean salad. 

All you need is a can of mixed beans, some extra veggies and a tangy dressing. 

Because I predominantly make this when we are in desperate need of a grocery shop I usually skip the fresh vegetables. My go to, is a can of mixed beans, a can of corn, several chopped gherkins, half of an onion (thinly sliced), parsley from the garden, grated cheese and a homemade honey mustard dressing. You could also add capers, chickpeas, cucumber, celery etc. Like I have said so many times, look at what you have and get a little bit creative!

  1. Fritters 

You can make fritters out of anything. Corn fritters, potato fritters, zucchini fritters, leftover fritters, quinoa fritters, cauliflowers fritters, even spaghetti fritters! Pair these with a good dip and you are good to go! Lunch is done. 

Although they can be a tad time consuming, fritters are a great option if the pantry and fridge are looking a bit bare. 

Our veggie garden is popping out zucchinis like mad at the moment, so I have taken the opportunity to make use of these monsters and make some delicious cheese and zucchini fritters for my husband’s lunch this week. 

  1. Mini Pizzas

Making mini pizzas is so much fun! 

Personally, I like to use pita pockets as my pizza base, but you could use bread, bagels, buns, crackers, scones, english muffins, pastry or actual pizza dough. 

  1. Omelette

Omelette does not have to just be a breakfast food. It is such a quick, easy and healthy lunch to whip up in 5 minutes. You use whatever veggies or leftovers you have in your fridge and don’t forget to add a whole lot of cheese on top

Extra snacks 

And finally – don’t forget the extra snacks! Here is a list of easy and healthy snacks to bulk up your lunch box!

  • Yoghurt and frozen berries/ fruit/ cereal
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Fruit
  • Homemade baking
  • Carrot sticks and peanut butter
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Boiled eggs
  • Gherkins
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Edamame Soybeans
  • Pasta (drizzled with olive oil and herbs)
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Fresh berries
  • Snap peas
  • Dried fruit

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