Brown Bag Lunches Under $2

From pasta to soups to sandwiches, these uber-affordable lunches are perfect for packing to-go and will keep you satisfied until dinnertime. Even better news? You'll save about $8,000 a year by packing one of these each workday instead of snagging a $10 takeout sandwich or salad.

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  • 1 of 18

    Mac and Cheese Spaghetti

    Budget lunch price: $1.40 per serving

    Host your own pasta party at noon and fuel up for the rest of your busy day with this cheesy pasta and peas recipe. A homemade cheese sauce allows you to control the quality of ingredients (real cheddar and American cheese, butter, and mustard) while still helping you fall way below the budget limit.

    Tip: Pack the toasted Parmesan bread crumbs in a separate small container or zip-top bag. Sprinkle them on top after reheating the spaghetti.

  • 2 of 18

    Bacon-Cheddar Chipotle Chicken Panini

    Budget lunch price: $1.98 per serving

    Your coworkers or classmates will melt with jealousy when they see you unwrap this upgraded BLT. Leftover or purchased chicken, spicy ranch, and plenty of gooey cheddar cheese make this panini taste way richer than its less-than-two-buck price tag.

  • buffalo chicken quesadillas cut into four triangles on parchment paper 3 of 18

    Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas

    Budget lunch price: $1.57 per serving

    Wings can be downright disastrous for your wardrobe (all that sauce and blue cheese dressing!). These cheesy chicken quesadillas offer all the same flavors in a cleaner, tortilla-wrapped package. Simply toast up at home, pack each wedge between a layer of plastic wrap, and reheat in the microwave when your stomach starts to growl.

  • Savory Tomato-Mozzarella Tart 4 of 18

    Savory Tomato-Mozzarella Tart

    Budget lunch price: $0.66 per serving

    Eggs aren't just for breakfast anymore. Fresh basil and green onions, jarred sun-dried tomatoes, and gooey mozzarella cheese pepper this quiche with ample color and flavor. Go ahead, pack two slices! You'll still have enough extra change and calories in your budget to add a side of fruit.

  • 5 of 18

    Chicken-Broccoli Cups

    Budget lunch price: $1.45 per serving

    There's no reheating required for this easy make-ahead meal. The broccoli, carrot, and chicken salad is delicious chilled and tastes even better after marinating in the yogurt-ranch sauce overnight.

  • 6 of 18

    Chickpea and Freekeh Salad

    Budget lunch price: $1.88 per serving

    Freekeh, an ancient Middle Eastern grain that's an abundant source of fiber, iron, and magnesium, and with canned beans are the low-cost stars of this lettuce-free, make-ahead salad. Fresh herbs, spicy salami, and salty cubes of feta cheese pack each spoonful of this best-served-chilled recipe with Mediterranean flavors.

  • 7 of 18

    Ham and Egg Sandwiches

    Budget lunch price: $1.72 per serving

    For when you're craving something a bit more exciting (and filling) than ham and Swiss, try this ham, havarti, and hard-boiled egg baguette. Make the most of your extra 28 cents and stir together a double batch of the dill yogurt sauce. Tote alongside your sub so you can have a slam dunk sandwich lunch.

  • 8 of 18

    Jerk Pork Wraps with Lime Mayo

    Budget lunch price: $1.75 per serving

    Before you tuck in for bed, pop a pork shoulder and some seasonings in your slow cooker. Come morning, you'll wake up to an intoxicating aroma and remarkably tender fajita filling that tastes like it came from a pricey build-your-own-burrito restaurant.

    Tip: Pack the tortilla, mango salsa, veggies, and pork in individual containers, then reheat the pork and assemble your wrap when you're ready to dig in.

  • 9 of 18

    Ginger-Sesame Oats with Mushrooms and Charred Green Onions

    Budget lunch price: $1.89 per serving

    To transform low-cost breakfast oats into lunch territory, give them a savory spin! Cook steel-cut oats in chicken broth, then top with Asian ingredients like sesame-scented mushrooms, green onions, ginger, and soy.

  • 10 of 18

    Slow Cooker Falafel

    Budget lunch price: $1.63 per serving

    One egg, one can of beans, and a few jars from your spice cabinet are the affordable MVPs that make this takeout-fakeout recipe fall way under budget. Even better news? You don't need to fret about deep-frying since they crisp up right in your slow cooker.

  • 11 of 18

    Crunchy PB and A Wrap

    Budget lunch price: $0.65 per serving

    In a hurry? Turn to this four-ingredient, five-minute wrap that will please kids and adults alike. With crunch from granola and creamy, salty peanut butter holding everything together, this ridiculously affordable lunch allows for a lot of wallet wiggle room to add sides like a banana and a cheese stick.

  • 12 of 18

    Make-Ahead Smoked Turkey and Grilled Onion Panini

    Budget lunch price: $1.58 per serving

    Build these spiffed-up turkey and cheese sandwiches up to three months in advance, then freeze until you're ready to press and pack for lunch. From there, it takes just four minutes of cooking time to reach gooey provolone perfection inside these economical eats.

  • 13 of 18

    Teriyaki Chicken Noodle Soup

    Budget lunch price: $1.92 per serving

    Like ramen but hate all the preservatives that come in those little seasoning packets? Then try this jar of goodness that's made with all ingredients you can pronounce (beef stock, teriyaki sauce, fresh ginger, garlic), including shredded chicken, all for less than two bucks.

  • 14 of 18

    Garbanzo-Bean Veggie Pitas with Creamy Avocado Dressing

    Budget lunch price: $1.44 per serving

    You won't say "bean there, done that!" about this chickpea salad that starts with tender, slow-cooked dried garbanzos. A simple avocado, yogurt, and herb sauce makes it different from any pita you'll purchase from a street cart or restaurant (as do all the fresh, vibrant veggies!).

  • 15 of 18

    Ham and Sweet Potato Mini Flatbreads

    Budget lunch price: $1.54 per serving

    Enjoy the flavors of an epic holiday dinner any day of year with these flatbreads topped with smashed sweet potatoes, sliced ham, melty mozzarella, and cranberry sauce.

    Tip: We call for starting with whole sweet potatoes, microwaving, and mashing with orange juice. If you're willing to invest a bit more to save time, snag a package of mashed sweet potatoes from the refrigerated produce section during your next grocery run.

  • 16 of 18

    Black Bean Chipotle Burgers

    Budget lunch price: $0.82 per serving

    Say “see ya!” to the hockey pucklike frozen veggie burgers, and mash up your own homemade meatless patties instead. Calling for pantry staples like canned beans, corn, salsa, and rice, you can absolutely afford to make it a double—and likely won’t need to make an extra stop at the store to make it possible.

  • 17 of 18

    Sweet Potato Hash

    Budget lunch price: $1.12 per serving

    Potatoes never break the bank, but they can get soggy if cooked and stored certain ways. When you saute up a hash made with potato cubes (rather than shreds), spuds are perfect for packing and reheating. Try it out yourself with this 25-minute Mexican meal—and add some grilled chicken or steak for extra hunger-fighting protein.

    Tip: Bring the whole avocado with you to slice and add to the dish immediately before serving. Alternatively, grab a single-serving cup of premade guacamole from the supermarket to use instead.

  • Next Slideshow Healthy Lunch Ideas: Brown Bag Recipes

    Healthy Lunch Ideas: Brown Bag Recipes

    Brighten up your brown-bag lunch with healthy lunch recipes. With fresh salads, easy sandwiches, and simple snacks, our collection of healthy lunch ideas will save you from unhealthy choices at the drive-through or vending machine. With a close eye on calories, we made sure each and every idea is full of protein and nutrients to get you through the afternoon.
    Begin Slideshow »
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