Cheap and Easy Recipes to Make Any Brown Bag Lunch a Lot Less Boring

If you’ve set a resolution of living a healthier lifestyle in 2020 — whether it’s fiscal or physical — your daily meals are a good place to start. Instead of relying on takeout every night or going through the drive-thru on your lunch break, you can make meals at home to save money and even lose weight.

For many people, bringing their own lunch to the office is a simple way to keep track of what they eat and to curb spending. Although 70% of all business partnerships fail, employees who work at thriving businesses will often “brown bag it” rather than ordering out each day. But while it’s easy enough to pack up a plastic container (like the ones created via the reaction injection molding process) with a salad or zip-top bag with a sandwich, those lunch breaks might start verging on boring. If you’re not excited about what you’re eating, it’s more likely that you’ll be tempted by less healthy options. You can do yourself a big favor by spicing things up a bit. And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a whole lot of prep (or a whole lot of money) to make lunches that will delight your tastebuds. Here are a few recipes you might want add to your meal rotation this year.

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Rather than make the trek to Chipotle, you can easily create a healthier and more affordable version of a chicken burrito bowl at home. If you meal prep, you can easily make several portions to enjoy throughout the week. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe.

    • 1 cup brown rice
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 and 1/2 pounds ground chicken
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
    • Dash of kosher salt and ground black pepper
    • 15-ounce can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
    • 15.25-ounce can whole kernel corn (drained)
    • 1/2 cup pico de gallo (store-bought or homemade)
    • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
    • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (minced)
    • 1 clove garlic (minced)
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice (fresh)

First, make your chipotle cream sauce by whisking together the Greek yogurt, chipotle pepper, minced garlic, and lime juice and set aside. Then, take a large saucepan, add two cups of water, and cook your rice before setting aside. Heat your olive oil in a Dutch oven or large stockpot over medium-high heat before adding the ground chicken and spices. Cook until chicken is browned (three to five minutes), breaking up the meat as it cooks. Drain the excess fat and divide rice and chicken into containers. Add black beans, corn, and pico de gallo before drizzling with the chipotle cream sauce.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

A ridiculously simple and comforting recipe for a chilly day, this tortellini soup is great for when you’re running late and have only a few ingredients on-hand. For this dish, you’ll merely need:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes (diced, with liquid)
  • 10-ounce bag of fresh tortellini

Add your chicken stock and fire-roasted tomatoes to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, you’ll need to turn off the heat and puree the stock and tomatoes with an immersion blender. Once it’s pureed, you can add the tortellini and cook for three to four minutes. Then, turn off the heat and serve!

Mason Jar Chickpea Pasta Salad

Mason jar salads have been popular for a few years, as they’re easy to make and promote environmental sustainability (thanks to their reusable packaging). The ingredients for this chickpea pasta salad are simple, delicious, filling, and vegetarian-friendly. You’ll need:

  • 1/4 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 2 tablespoons kalamata olives (halved)
  • 1 cup cooked pasta spirals
  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby arugula (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Take a one-quart mason jar and add your onion, red wine vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Add chickpeas and shake to coat. Then, top with tomatoes, olives, pasta, arugula, and feta in layers. When you’re ready to eat, simply turn the jar upside down to disperse the dressing. Open the lid and enjoy.

Whether you’re headed to the office or have time to cook in the moment at home, there’s no need to be bored by your food — or spend a lot of time or money to make it interesting. Armed with these recipes for inspiration, you’ll never be stuck with a mundane lunch again.

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