25 Cold Lunch Ideas Your Budget Will Love

cold lunch ideas

Truth: You live a busy life and don't have time to cook. But did you know that with some quick cold lunch ideas, as small as that may seem, you can still save time but also a ton of money? We’re all guilty of hitting the drive-thru or grabbing take-out a little too frequently. However, eating out too often can easily bust your budget. Packing your lunch or eating lunch at home can save you hundreds of dollars every month.

Let’s say you average $10 a day five days a week eating out for lunch. That adds up to $200 a month, which equals $2,400 in just a year! That’s a massive amount of money that could be used to bulk up your emergency fund or pay off your credit card debt instead.

The good news is you don’t have to spend a ton of time cooking food for a tasty lunch. There are a ton of yummy cold lunch ideas that are easy to make and budget-friendly too. Most of our top 25 cold lunch ideas take less than 30-minutes to make, which is perfect for on the go ladies! Whether you are looking for cold lunch ideas for work or simply something tasty to keep you from eating out every day, these savory lunches are sure to please!

25 Delicious cold lunch ideas

I'm sharing 25 cold lunches that are easy to make, budget-friendly, and, most importantly appetizing. Why not try them all? Let's get into these yummy lunches! (Full recipes for each one are also linked below!)

1. Chicken salad sandwich

There’s just something savory about a classic chicken salad sandwich. You can make this sandwich in about ten minutes, thanks to the budget-friendly rotisserie chickens! This recipe is pretty simple, and you probably have most of the ingredients already.

The ingredients are:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon juice
  • Celery
  • Minced parsley
  • Onion powder
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Bread

This classic chicken salad sandwich is one of the tastiest and cheap lunch ideas you can make.

2. Ultimate club sandwich

This ultimate club sandwich is one of the best cold lunch ideas for work. You can whip up this scrumptious sandwich in under 25-minutes. You can save money by purchasing deli-meat and cheeses on sale or using coupon websites.

The ingredients are:

  • Deli ham & turkey
  • Sliced cheddar cheese
  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Garlic clove
  • Dried parsley
  • Mayonnaise
  • (Melted butter)

You can also swap out the avocado for tomato for a less expensive option. This ultimate club sandwich is delicious and simple to make.

3. Egg salad sandwich

One of the easiest cold lunch ideas you can make is an egg salad sandwich. This zesty, easy egg salad recipe can be made in 25-minutes. Buying eggs in bulk is a frugal way to save money. When properly stored, eggs can last 3-5 weeks.

Egg salad sandwich

The ingredients are:

  • Eggs
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Red Onion
  • Salt & Pepper

If you’re searching for healthy lunch ideas, you can swap out the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt!

4. Turkey caesar sandwich

If you’re looking for cheap lunch ideas but want to add some pizazz to the menu, try this turkey caesar sandwich. This tangy sandwich only takes 15-minutes to make, which is why it’s one of our favorite cold lunch ideas for work. You more than likely have most of these ingredients in your kitchen, and remember to buy deli-meat and things that don’t expire as fast in bulk to save money.

The ingredients are:

  • Sliced turkey
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lemon juice
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt & pepper
  • Bread (multi-grain for a healthier option)

This turkey caesar sandwich is one of the best budget-friendly cold lunch ideas that is easy to make and it tastes good too.

5. BLT sandwich

You may be thinking that a BLT isn’t a cold lunch, but by precooking your bacon, it makes this one of the easiest cold lunch ideas for work. This classic BLT sandwich can be made in just 15-minutes. Bacon is something else you can buy in bulk and freeze to cut costs on food.

The ingredients are:

  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise
  • Bread

Add a slice of avocado for a fresh twist to this classic sandwich.

6. Zesty Italian wrap

Never seem to have time to pack lunch? This delicious Zesty Italian wrap can be prepped in just five minutes! Having a variety of meats can give you more options for cold lunch ideas and keep costs low.

The ingredients are:

  • Flour tortilla
  • Sliced provolone cheese
  • Sliced salami
  • Pepperoni
  • Sliced ham
  • Lettuce
  • Banana peppers
  • Zesty Italian dressing

This easy to make wrap is one of the best cold lunch ideas for work.

7. Crunchy dill tuna salad wrap

This tangy, crunchy dill tuna salad wrap is a delightful crispy lunch that’s easy on the wallet. You can create this yummy wrap in just 10-minutes! Tuna is the perfect item to buy in bulk because it can be stored for up to five years. Don’t forget to stock up on pickles, too, because they can last up to three months.

The ingredients are:

  • Tuna
  • Celery
  • Dill
  • Pickles
  • Scallions
  • Lemon juice
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pepper
  • Pita or tortillas

This wrap is one of the easiest cold lunch ideas for work that’s budget-friendly too.

8. Turkey ranch club wrap

Who says there aren't any good-tasting healthy lunch ideas? This mouthwatering turkey ranch club wrap has only 307 calories making it the go-to choice for a quick and easy lunch. Again turkey deli-meat can make this budget-friendly too.

The ingredients are:

  • Smoked turkey
  • Flatout wrap (multigrain)
  • Sliced sharp American cheese
  • Bacon
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Ranch yogurt dressing

This wrap is a great choice for anyone looking for healthy lunch ideas.

9. Avocado turkey hummus wrap

If you’re looking for something crisp, light, and healthy, then this avocado turkey hummus wrap is for you. The best part is you can make this wrap in just 5-minutes. Like deli-meat, purchase a variety of cheeses with coupons and store-savings cards to have a variety of choices for your lunches.

The ingredients are:

  • Turkey breast sliced
  • Muenster or provolone cheese
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Wheat tortilla or wrap

This wrap is quick to make and flavorful.

10. Hummus and veggie wrap

Sometimes you just need a break from meat and want something light, fresh, and delicious. Well, this hummus and veggie wrap is packed with flavor and is a cinch to make. To prevent wasting food, store your vegetables away from the fruit in your fridge to keep them from ripening too fast!

Hummus wrap

The ingredients are:

  • Mixed salad greens
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Shredded carrots
  • Sweet onion
  • Hummus
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Wheat tortilla

This wrap is a simple yet savory lunch that is healthy too.

11. Strawberry avocado spinach salad

No matter what time of year it is, this crispy sweet, and savory strawberry avocado salad will give you a Summer vibe that your taste buds will love. There is a recipe for a succulent poppy seed dressing, too, but you can always grab a bottle to save even more time prepping. The time it takes to create this salad, AND the dressing, is still only about 15-minutes.

The ingredients are:

  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Strawberries
  • Sliced almonds
  • Red onion
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Avocado oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Honey
  • Poppy seeds
  • Dry mustard
  • Sea salt & cracked pepper

This refreshing salad is simple yet full of flavor for a fabulous lunch.

12. Greek chickpea salad

This Greek chickpea salad is one of the best healthy lunch ideas yet! Chickpeas are high in protein and loaded with minerals, fiber, and vitamins. Although this recipe calls for many ingredients, it still takes less than twenty minutes to make. Like other canned goods, you can purchase chickpeas in bulk to save money and have them on hand for quick yummy meals.

  •  Canned chickpeas
  • Olives
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion
  • Fresh dill
  • Dried oregano
  • Feta cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper

This delightful salad is nutritious, easy to make, and tasty.

13. Chopped Italian salad

Chopped salads are delicious and packed with flavor. This chopped Italian salad is an excellent lunch choice that you can throw together in 15-minutes. To save money on salads, you can buy heads of lettuce and cut them yourself. Anything that is pre-cut is going to cost you more money.

The ingredients are:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Green bell pepper
  • Kalamata olives
  • Green olives
  • Provolone cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Ham

Salads can be healthy, cheap lunch ideas that are flavorful and quick to make.

14. Avocado black bean salad

Try this tasty avocado black bean salad if you’re craving something healthy with a kick. The cayenne pepper in this savory salad will spice up your palette for sure. Not only can you make this salad in just 15-minutes, but it only has 295 calories making it a perfect healthy lunch.

The ingredients are:

  • Canned black beans
  • Avocado
  • Bell pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Red onion
  • Lime
  • Olive oil
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt

When it comes to cheap lunch ideas, anything with beans is a winner. They are relatively inexpensive, and you can buy them in bulk to save even more money.

15. Vegan apple broccoli salad

If you’re searching for something sweet and tangy, then this vegan apple broccoli salad will hit the spot. This succulent salad combines vegetables, fruits, and seeds for a nutritious lunch that can be made in 20-minutes. Investing in a food processor can save you money from purchasing pre-cut fruits and vegetables.

The ingredients are:

  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Red onion
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Raisins
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Maple syrup
  • Salt & Pepper

This salad is budget-friendly and a delish option for a healthy lunch.

16. Vegan pasta salad

Packed with fresh veggies and coated with yummy Italian dressing makes this vegan pasta salad simply delightful. It barely busts the 30-minute mark on prep time, and it can be made in advance to eat throughout the week.

The ingredients are:

  • Tri-Color pasta
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Red bell peppers
  • Green bell peppers
  • Red onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Italian dressing

Vegan or not, this pasta salad is a delicious lunch for anyone.

17. Asian bow tie pasta

You don’t have to hit a restaurant to have a savory Asian dish. Give this yummy Asian bow tie pasta salad a try! This versatile pasta salad takes only 15-minutes to make. You can swap out ingredients to change up the flavor too!

The ingredients are:

  • Farfalle pasta
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Sesame seeds
  • Honey
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Crushed red chili pepper flakes

This Asian pasta salad is a refreshing and filling meal.

18. Pesto pasta salad

Pesto pasta salad is divine. This pesto salad bursts with flavor and only takes 20-minutes to make. You can add chicken or sausage if you want to make it more robust, but it’s good just the way it is.

Pesto pasta salad

The ingredients are:

  • Rotini pasta
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Mozzarella balls
  • Black olives
  • Basil pesto
  • Fresh basil & parsley

The best thing about pasta salads is they are inexpensive and can be made in advance, so you don’t have to worry about making lunch every day.

19. Easy Italian pasta salad

You can have this yummy easy Italian pasta salad ready in 30-minutes. This pasta salad is anything but boring. This salad is made with spicy pepperoni, fresh veggies, and creamy mozzarella. Remember to cut your grocery budget by using store savings cards, coupons, and sales to stock up on pasta and other dry goods to save money!

The ingredients are:

  • Rotini pasta
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Green bell pepper
  • Black olives
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Italian dressing

This savory pasta salad will spice up your lunch menu for the week.

20. Greek pasta salad

Light, refreshing, flavorful, this Greek pasta salad is a must-try! You can be eating this delightful salad in under 20-minutes—one of our favorite healthy lunch ideas that is easy to make.

The ingredients are:

  • Bowtie pasta
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Green bell pepper
  • Kalamata olives
  • Red onion
  • Feta cheese
  • Greek dressing

Make this yummy pasta salad to lighten up your lunch menu.

21. Caprese pasta salad

Looking for something light and breezy, then try this heavenly Caprese pasta salad! This pasta salad is made easily in just 20-minutes with a handful of ingredients. Although it’s a simple recipe, it packs flavor and does not disappoint!

The ingredients are:

  • Rotini pasta
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Pesto
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Basil leaves
  • Balsamic reduction
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked pepper

This pasta salad is simple and savory, which makes it a perfect choice for lunch.

22. Vegan burrito bowl

There’s nothing better than a meal that is healthy but actually tastes good too. Try this vegan burrito bowl for a crisp, flavorful lunch that only takes 30-minutes to prepare. This can be prepped in advance and eaten as a cold lunch.

Burrito bowl

The ingredients are:

  • Black beans
  • Rice
  • Lettuce
  • Corn
  • Onion
  • Lime
  • Guacamole
  • Pico de gallo
  • Spices blend of chili powder, garlic, cumin, paprika, chipotle powder, and black pepper
  • Cilantro

Although this bowl is a little more in-depth to make, it is a budget-friendly meal that can be part of your meal prepping plan for your lunches.

23. Asian Spring Roll Bowl

If you’re getting into meal prep, this Asian spring roll bowl takes 15-minutes to make and can be a perfect cold lunch. This is like Spring in a bowl because it’s so refreshing and light.

The ingredients are:

  • Rice noodles or quinoa
  • Chopped kale
  • Shredded carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Purple cabbage
  • Radishes
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Green onions
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • Ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Lime juice

This Asian bowl will have you looking forward to your lunch break!

24. Mediterranean power bowl

Anything Mediterranean seems to be delicious, and this Mediterranean power bowl proves that true. This healthy bowl takes just 10-minutes to make. Packed with flavor from fresh ingredients, you are sure to make this a weekly pick for your lunches.

The ingredients are:

  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Chopped parsley
  • Spring onions
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Chickpeas
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Hummus
  • Quinoa
  • Black pepper

Lunch bowls are great cheap lunch ideas that are packed with flavor and nutrition.

25. 15-minute buddha bowl

Buddha bowls are the optimum choice for healthy lunch ideas. You can have a delicious lunch in just 15-minutes. This bowl combines green, grains, proteins, healthy carbs, and healthy fats in one simple meal.

The ingredients are:

  • Leafy greens-spinach, kale, or lettuce
  • Quinoa or brown rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Blueberries
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Avocado
  • Red onion
  • Carrots
  • Greek yogurt
  • Orange juice
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt & Pepper

This buddha bowl is bursting with flavor and takes no time to make!

Quick side ideas for your lunches

Now that you have a yummy variety of cold lunch ideas, you need some quick sides to complete your meal. These sides can make your lunch more filling, and you can save time when you prep your sides or buy them pre-packaged. Check out these easy to grab side ideas:

  • Celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Sliced veggies
  • String cheese
  • Potato chips
  • Pre-packaged crackers
  • Sliced fruit, grapes, or berries
  • Cottage cheese
  • Mixed nuts
  • Beef jerky

Prepare your sides by putting them in zip-lock baggies so they stay fresh, and you can grab them and go!

Meal prepping your lunches

Everyone runs late once in a while, and that can squash your plan of packing your lunch for the day. Meal prepping ensures that you have your lunches ready to go, so all you have to do is grab it on your way out the door! Just pick a day that you prep your meals all at once to save time later. Check out how to create a meal plan your budget will love to get you started.

One great way to create a meal plan your cold lunch ideas is to use meal categories. For instance:

Cold lunch sandwiches & wraps

Some of the best cheap lunch ideas are sandwiches and wraps. They are tasty and quick to make, which can keep you from being tempted to eat out.

Savory salads

Salads are some of the best options for nutritious and healthy lunch ideas. Grab a few different dressings to have on hand so you can have a variety of salads to choose from. These savory salads are perfect for a healthy lifestyle menu.

Quick & easy cold pasta salads

Pasta salads are exquisite for cold lunch ideas for work. The great thing about pasta is you can prep it in advance for on the go lunches later. Buying pasta in bulk can save time and money. Pasta can have a shelf-life of up to two years.

Yummy lunch bowls

Lunch bowls are loaded with healthy yummy ingredients, and these bowls are also easy to make.

Enjoy budget-friendly lunches that are tasty

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t have tasty meals. You can have a variety of lunches that are easy to make that aren’t expensive. Remember to prep your lunches in advance to save time during the week and prevent you from eating out. Get started saving money by enrolling in our FREE 30-day meal planning challenge!

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