Cheap lunch ideas

February 28, 2024
Cheap lunch ideas

Lunch can be overlooked as a mealtime, and often means a last-minute trip to the shops for a pricey meal deal. But the chances are, you already have the makings of a brilliant lunch at home which promises flavour and can be ready in less than half an hour.

Try one of our winning homemade lunches made solely of cheap kitchen basics, such as eggs, bread, beans and pasta, or use low-cost cooking methods, such as the air-fryer. Turn a handful of everyday storecupboard ingredients into harissa broccoli & flatbreads, pile smoky chickpeas on top of toast, or turn your hand to a filling frittata layered with ham, mushroom and spinach.

We cover simple lunch recipes with eggs, storecupboard salads and even air-fryer ideas. Plus, the ingredient list is kept short, with many using five ingredients or less. A shop-bought lunch has never looked less appealing.

For more lunch ideas, see our round-up of healthy lunch recipes, healthy vegetarian lunch recipes and low-calorie lunch recipes.

For more cheap ideas, see our cheap breakfast ideas. Check out our main budget hub for all your cost-cutting needs, where we guide you through the likes of budget desserts, budget comfort food and meals you can make with canned veg.

Cheap lunch ideas

1. Red pepper & potato omelette

Omelettes are a cheap lunchtime staple, and we rate how customisable they can be. Throw in whatever veg you’ve got already to hand – here we’ve added sliced red peppers and potatoes and a finely sliced onion could also bulk this out. You can eat this red pepper and potato omelette warm or cold, so it’s an all-year round winner.

You could also try our chilli cheese omelette, or this herb omelette with fried tomatoes.

2. Harissa broccoli & flatbreads

Try this winning one-pan lunch, ready in half an hour and using just five ingredients. If you’re a fan of heat, finish with harissa or your favourite hot sauce. The accompanying no-knead flatbreads couldn’t be simpler, but you could use up bread you have to hand.

Find more rotational lunches in our top 50 easy lunch ideas.

3. Air-fryer mushrooms on toast

Call in the trusty air-fryer to rustle up a cheap lunch of mushrooms on toast. It’s ready in just 20 minutes, with a fragrant combination of garlic, thyme and parsley complimenting the meaty mushrooms, finished with a drizzle of oil. If you like, you can rub the toast with a garlic clove for extra flavour.

Use your air-fryer to make more simple meals.

4. Ham, mushroom & spinach frittata

Reboot your lunch repertoire with a filling frittata that’s low in calories and guaranteed to keep you going until dinner. Ham, cheese and mushroom is a reliable flavour combination, plus you can save half in the fridge overnight if you’re cooking for one.

Try more of our frittata recipes for lunchtime inspiration.

5. Smoky chickpeas on toast

Spend just 12 minutes on this budget-friendly and high-protein lunch. Heat up chickpeas with onion, chipotle paste, passata, honey and vinegar and load onto lightly oiled toast. Top with a fried egg for extra protein.

Find more high-protein lunches.

6. Tomato & pasta soup

Our budget-friendly tomato soup is ready in just 30 minutes: simply combine pasta – we used orzo but feel free to use whatever’s in the cupboard – with veg, pulses and veggie stock, ladle into bowls and top with a pesto drizzle. Serve with chunks of crusty bread to make it more filling. This makes a thrifty and low-fat lunch.

Find more pasta soup recipes for lunchtime nourishment.

7. Pancakes

Use this easy crêpe mix to rustle up some savoury pancakes for lunch. Made using just three ingredients, (eggs, flour, milk), pancakes are a budget winner which many forget about. Customise them to make them as healthy as you like, using up odd bits of veg lurking in the fridge. Make sure to put any leftover to use batter with this spinach & ricotta pancake bake.

See our best savoury pancake ideas.

8. Mixed bean & wild rice salad

Salads needn’t be expensive and filled with limp green leaves. Reach into your storecupboard for pulses and sweetcorn to form the base for this colourful salad. It’s pepped up with an easy dressing that’s as sweet as it is hot, mixing lime juice with honey and chilli.

Discover more rice salad recipes for simple ways to bolster salads.

9. Pizza omelette

This pizza-omelette hybrid is a cheap lunch winner and is a great dish to cook with the kids. Simply beat your eggs with oregano, tip into a frying pan and cook until the eggs are practically set. Place under the grill until set and puffed up. Spread tomato sauce over, scatter with cheese and olives, then grill again until the cheese is melted. We like ours cut into wedges and served with a green salad. The best part about it is it’s ready in 15 minutes, so it’s a really easily achievable lunch.

Find more basic omelette recipes for easy lunches.

10. Turbo beans & cheese on toast

Making your own beans on toast is far healthier, and it tastes more satisfying than any shop-bought variety. Elevate yours by using your favourite beans, plus tomatoes, garlic and chilli – it’s even better topped with a scattering of grated cheese.

For more ideas with beans, see our butter bean recipes and black bean recipes.

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