How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money

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Want to save money, eat better, and avoid the takeout line? Make a week of lunches! I do this almost every week and it pays off. Here’s how you can, too.

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money | Good Cheap EatsAt the start of each work week, I spend a couple hours in the kitchen, prepping lunches for the days ahead. Believe it or not, these are not school lunches for the kids, but work lunches for us adults.

My husband’s work provides employees with access to a microwave and refrigerator. He has a 30-minute break for lunch. I work at home while homeschooling my kids. My break is even shorter. It helps us both that I make a week of lunches at one time. Not only do we save money, but we eat better, too.

I’ve shared my lunch prep sessions here and there on instagram, and I’ve generalized about weekly meal prep, but I haven’t written a full-blown post about how I make a week of lunches. Due to popular demand, this is that post.

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money

While my methods may vary a bit from week to week, I do have a basic formula. Here’s how it goes.

1. Make a meal plan.

My lunch meal plan is nowhere near as elaborate as our weekly dinner plan might be. I basically ask my husband what sounds interesting to him. He’s okay with eating the same thing twice a week, so I usually choose two lunch menus and double them.

I want our food to be fresh so I only pack four day’s worth of lunches on a Sunday night. Those get us through lunch on Thursday. To push it to Friday goes against my 4-day “leftover” rule.

My husband likes to go out to lunch on Friday with our college son, so it works out. I also have sent bags of frozen burritos with him to stash in the freezer there.

If you want five days of lunches AND to follow my 4-day rule, do the meal prep on Monday morning. Then you’re good for all five days of the week. Alternatively, you can choose items that freeze well, like the aforementioned burritos.

Some of the healthier items that pack well include:

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money | Good Cheap Eats

2. Go shopping.

Obviously, you’ll save money if you pack what’s already at home in the cupboards as opposed to shopping for more food besides what you already own.

That said, I make an extra effort with lunches to make them appealing. While certain leftovers are in high demand around here, not all are. I want lunch for me and for my husband to be a nice little respite in the day.

I typically do one big shop on Sunday morning or afternoon. When I come home, I prep it all for the week’s lunches.

3. Chop, chop, chop.

Since we want to focus on vegetables for lunch time, either as salads or roasted veggies, I do a fair amount of chopping, but not too much; I want quick and easy after all. Sometimes I buy baby zucchini or carrots or broccoli already in florets so I don’t have to do anything.

My basic prep work looks like this:

  • chop vegetables for roasting
  • chop salad greens and toppings
  • prepare homemade salsa and dressings
  • boil eggs
  • cook quinoa or rice
  • cook chicken
  • roast vegetables

A note about salad greens: those boxes and bags of baby greens? Don’t buy them. Cut your own romaine for longest shelf life. Trust me. In cooler weather, you can get by with a box of baby spinach if you buy it at its freshest. Other wise, you may end up with soggy salad.

4. Form a line. An assembly line.

Once all the main components are prepared, I lay out all the containers and lids and assemble lunches in an assembly line. This part is super quick, so depending on how many elements you’re combining, to make a week of lunches really doesn’t take too long.

5. Refrigerate.

And that’s it! I put two stacks of lunches in the fridge. My husband takes one stack to work with him on Monday mornings. I keep one stack for myself.

It’s so nice not to have to make a meal midday for myself. My kids are happy with quesadillas, burritos, or sandwiches that they can make themselves, but I usually crave something more.

Note about work lunches: my husband has very respectful co-workers. No one has stolen his lunch that I know of. Your mileage may vary. Also, my husband prefers to keep bottles of oil and vinegar as well as a mini pepper grinder at work instead of packing dressing. He prefers the flavors and it makes for easier and less messy lunch times.

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money | Good Cheap Eats

My favorite tools for lunch prep:

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money | Good Cheap Eats

Are you looking for more good cheap eats?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Janet says

    It is our children who pack lunches. I have my “formula” for packing.

    Lunch = 2 fruits +1 vegetable + 1 meat+ 1 crunchy + water

    I believe it was your husband who said you needed the right tools? We start with insulated lunch bags, reusable ice sheets and reusable 4 oz. food containers.

    My kids are not big on salads or casseroles. They do not like their food to touch or mix. Instead, I fill 4 oz. reusable food containers with small amounts of fruit, vegetables, and meat.

    I try to prep these containers on the weekend. The meat is the only item that might spoil. Once I prep the meat containers on Sunday night I put 2 days in the freezer and then pop them out on Wednesday night to thaw or sometimes I will give the kids cheese instead of meat on Friday.

    In the morning every lunch sack gets 2 fruits, 1 vegetable, and 1 meat container. I add in a small bag of crackers or 1 cup of popcorn for something crunchy.

    Each lunch bag includes a thermos of water during warmer months or broth based soup in colder months.

  2. Stephanie M. says

    I actually took an idea from you during a previous post about make ahead salads for lunch. I went out the day I saw that post and bought 6 glad round containers about 9 inches around and started prepping salads for during the week on Sundays. I hard boil some eggs, shred some cheese, cut up the salad items and cook some chicken. I do an assembly line like you said and just make 6 salads. It is definitely so nice to be able to pull one of those from the fridge each day for our daughter who eats most of them and pack them in her lunch bag. I do the same thing with breakfasts for her. I’ll make a frittata on Sundays and cut it into quarters and give her a piece each day. With hubby he usually eats a sandwich or I’ll give him leftovers so I don’t usually prep his lunches for the week. But it sure is nice when there’s something ready each day (especially daughter who is so fussy about what she eats).

    • Your people have it really good. Can you come cook for me?

      • Stephanie M. says

        Thanks to you, Jessica. You have given me so many wonderful ideas! Your family has it great with all that you do for them. Maybe you can cook for me. Ha Ha.

  3. Julie B says

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been waiting for it since seeing your pictures on Instagram. 😉 I’m off to the store to see what veggies they have marked down and we’ll start there. I have the containers in my Amazon cart ready to check out. Thanks again for the wonderful idea!

  4. Jennifer says

    Finally tried the quinoa salad and love it! Even better, hubby likes it. He was convinced it was too “girly food” but he liked it. Better yet, I had to email the recipe to him so that he could share it with the guys at work. Your monkey salad and quinoa salad recipes are now famous with a local group of engineers and factory workers.

  5. Cris says

    I regularly eat five day old salads with chicken, prepped on Sunday afternoons and eaten all week. For those that are leery of five day old salad, instead you can freeze single servings of your favorite soup and make Friday Soup Day every week. Many clear broth based soups are pretty low calorie / fat so you can stay on a diet even though you’re not having a salad. I make a big pot of veggie soup but add shredded chicken for protein, and freeze servings in a container that I can pop out into a glass bowl to microwave. Easy to stay on diet when you bring your lunch, since no one is asking if you want fries with that. You only have to decide to be healthy once a week, when you’re doing your food prep!

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