Weekday mornings can be hectic—doubly so if you're *not* a morning person. In the a.m. scramble of trying to dress for the weather, speeding through your skincare routine, and putting a passable breakfast together, the "Buy or bring?" lunch question often fades into the background. (Which means "buy" wins by default.)
But those $15 Sweetgreen runs add up, no matter how convenient and delicious they are. So what's a sleep-loving, budget-conscious, working gal to do? Plan ahead, says Leanne Miyasaki, the food blogger and meal-prepping enthusiast behind Simple Healthy Delish.
Her number-one piece of advice for creating affordable, yet craveable make-ahead meals: Curate your ingredients list to the season. "When produce is in season, it's significantly less expensive—and tastier, too," she says.
To make it even easier to follow her lead, Miyasaki created a seasonally-minded shopping list exclusively for Well+Good that can be used to rustle up a whole week's worth of different healthy lunches. (Download it here!) By opting to shop at Trader Joe's, she got the best of both worlds with high-quality and low-priced ingredients. Once you see how much money you're saving—for an epic wellness retreat, perhaps?—you probably won't even miss your go-to Kale Caesar.
Scroll down for a week of healthy lunch recipes—all of which ring in at under $3 each.
Sunday: Prep your ingredients
Before you get started, a note: Be prepared for your Trader Joe's haul to run you more than the $2 or so that each meal below breaks down to. The cost breakdown comes from the serving size of each ingredient used, not the price of the whole ingredient.
You'll also notice that many of the recipes below call for common seasonings. If you don't already have them in your cupboard, be sure to add them to your grocery list.
All clear? Once you've returned home from shopping, set aside about two hours to prepare and cook the ingredients you'll be using for your whole week of lunches. While you will spend a good chunk of time slicing, dicing, roasting, and washing, think of it as precious mid-week minutes saved. So pour a cup of tea—or a practically-good-for-you, anti-inflammatory cocktail—and get cooking!
For the rice and hard-boiled eggs:
1/2 cup rice
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 dab butter
1. Add rice, water, salt, and butter into a rice cooker. Place the eggs in the steamer basket of the rice cooker. Close lid and cook. (No rice cooker? No problem! Both eggs and rice can be cooked on the stovetop in boiling water.)
1. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into slices or wedges for fries.
2. Wash and trim the asparagus. Place sweet potatoes on half a baking sheet and asparagus on the other half.
3. Toss veggies with extra virgin olive oil and salt.
4. Place into 400° oven. Roast the asparagus for 12-15 minutes, depending on size, and the sweet potatoes for 35-40 minutes, until desired crispness.
For the onions and bell peppers:
1 bell pepper
Handful baby spinach
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Dice half the onion and half the bell pepper; slice the other halves.
2. In a skillet on medium-high heat, sautée the diced peppers and onions in olive oil. Add the handful of fresh baby spinach and remove all veggies once spinach is wilted. Set aside on a plate to cool slightly.
3. Sautée sliced peppers and onions in the same pan and remove when slightly caramelized.
1. Divide ground turkey into two portions.
2. Add one portion into a large bowl with half of the slightly cooled, diced veggies. Season (to taste) with salt, pepper, and onion powder.
3. Form into 2-3 patties and cook in the same skillet with olive oil until completely cooked, approximately 6-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
4. Once patties are cooked, remove them from the skillet and add the remaining ground turkey into the skillet. Season (to taste) with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano.
5. Crumble with a spatula and add the remaining diced peppers and onions until all the turkey is slightly golden brown and completely cooked.
1. Butterfly one raw chicken breast, splitting it into two portions.
2. Season (to taste) with salt, pepper, onion powder, and oregano.
3. Cook in the skillet with olive oil until completely cooked, approximately 8-9 minutes per side.
Monday: Grilled Chicken and Roasted Veggies with Rice ($2.89)
Miyasaki's fresh take on chicken and rice is anything but boring. For Monday's lunch, place half of the cooked rice in a food-storage container, with half of the cooked asparagus, one-third of the sliced peppers and onions, one grilled chicken breast, one peeled boiled egg, and 1 Tbsp of hummus. Top with fresh cilantro and lime juice to bring an extra jolt of flavor—and revel in the fact that you're saving money by including a smaller portion of chicken, but still getting ample protein by adding a less-expensive, hard-boiled egg.
Tuesday: Burrito Bowl with Ground Turkey ($2.76)
Ordering out has *nothing* on this DIY burrito bowl. Place the remaining rice in a food-storage container with chopped iceberg lettuce, ground turkey, remaining sliced peppers and onions, and chopped Roma tomato. Top with fresh cilantro, lime juice, and half of an avocado.
Pro tip: When prepping your burrito bowl, Miyasaki recommends separating fresh ingredients (like lettuce and cilantro) from the ingredients that will be heated (like rice and ground turkey), to avoid that unpalatable "leftovers" taste.
Wednesday: Grilled Chicken and Veggie Lavash Wrap ($2.17)
Hummus and lavash add Middle-Eastern flair to your mid-week lunch dish. Spread a tablespoon of hummus on a whole-wheat lavash wrap. Top with sliced chicken breast, the remaining half of the roasted asparagus, half of the remaining sliced peppers and onions, and fresh baby spinach. Roll and wrap in aluminum foil to maintain shape and freshness. Changing things up never looked so tasty!
Thursday: Turkey Burger with Sweet Potato Fries ($1.93)
Assembling your pre-cooked ingredients for Thursday will go by faster than savasana, promise. Just wrap one or two turkey patties with iceberg lettuce—see ya, burger-bun carb crash—and sliced Roma tomato. Serve your sandwich alongside vitamin-rich sweet potato fries for an added hit of energy.
Friday: Avocado-Egg Salad Lavash Wrap ($1.88)
To keep flavor fatigue at bay, Miyasaki abandons the chicken-turkey protein rotation that's been the basis for the week's meals. Instead, she turns to the all-star combo of avocado and egg for a hit of healthy fats and protein.
Just peel and chop 2-3 hard-boiled eggs and mix them with your remaining half avocado (mashed), chopped Roma tomatoes, an ounce of chopped walnuts, and fresh cilantro. Fill the lavash wrap with baby spinach and top with avocado-egg salad. Roll and wrap in aluminum foil to maintain shape and freshness—and head into your weekend celebrating five days of clean eating (and a healthier bank account, too.)
Now that you're ready to rock next week's work lunches, start your day with this warm apple ginger muesli for major morning hygge vibes. Plus, here's how to stock your desk drawer for snacking emergencies.
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