35 Meal Prepped Lunches to Beat Fast Food


Meal prepped lunches are a great way to save you time, money, and effort, whether you work at home or away. Whether you’re looking for a healthy meal prep or just an alternative to higher priced fast food, these lunch recipes you can make ahead of time are perfect for weekday meals.

With everything from Turkey Lettuce Wraps to Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, your tastes are covered in these easy and cheap meal prep ideas. Check out these tips and meal prep lunch recipes for lunch box inspiration.

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Ah lunchtime….

Lunchtime can be a welcome break during a harried day — a sweet respite from the hassles of work. But the prices at fast food these days are crazy, making fast food no longer an affordable option.

Make your meal free from stress and high prices, too, with make-ahead, meal prepped lunches. Meal prepped lunches can be easy, delicious, and affordable! It just takes a little meal planning and prep to get you going.

Why It Matters

Packing your lunch during the workweek is a great routine that allows you to save money, eat well, stick to your food preferences, and save time. You don’t need to stand in line at a restaurant, mess around in the kitchen when you’re hangry, or settle for something less than delicious because you’re in a hurry.

Since you can plan your meal prepped lunches in advance, you can make sure they fit your budget. Want something low carb, like Thai turkey lettuce wraps? No problem. Prefer a Greek chicken meal with lots of hummus and pita? You can have that, too.

The beauty of prepping your own lunch is that the sky is the limit for what you can make! And yes, even if you’re a novice in the kitchen, you can still make a great meal.

meal prep salads in glass dishes.

Tips for Success

Start simple.

Certainly, if you’re just starting out with meal prepped lunches, don’t feel like you have to do a lot. Start with one recipe that you can vary just a little bit so that you can enjoy something slightly different each day.

Good starting recipes are DIY Pasta Salad or meal prep salads that can be easily changed each day, but contain enough common ingredients to make the prep work simple. Meal prep bowls of rice with veggies and meats are also a great starting spot.

Prep many items at once to save time and energy costs.

The more you can group your motions, the easier it will be and the less energy you use. This is so true with meal prepped lunches. Make it easy to do!

Consider a chicken meal prep of meat, veggies, and potatoes. You can even cook the components on one sheet pan to save prep time and clean up. Vary the veggies and sauces for each day to keep things exciting.

Choose meals you love.

It’s not going to save you any money if you make things you don’t really like. Chances are good you’ll just chuck it after a few disappointing meals.

If cold sesame noodle salad is a favorite of yours, learn to make it yourself as a salad meal prep. It may take a few tries to get the recipe just the way you like it, but the time investment will be worth it over the long haul.

Focus on just one or two main proteins.

Keep to simple meal prep ideas for best success. You can meal prep chicken or beef to use in dishes in a myriad of ways. Think about your favorite flavor profiles and how you can vary the sauces or toppings in lunch bowls and other meal prepped lunches.

Avoid Sog City.

What will get soggy? While most foods that you enjoy eating the next day can be meal prepped for lunch, consider if there are sauces or toppings that might make the dish soggy. You’ll want to store those ingredients separately and assemble them right before eating.

For example, egg, tuna, or chicken salad can make the bread too wet if assembled many hours before eating. So, it’s best to store the salad in a container with a lid and package the bread in a bag. Be sure to pack a spoon and put the sandwich together right before eating.

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Storage Ideas

How you store your meal prepped lunches matters to the experience — and how long you’ll stick with it.

At first it’s great to use what you have as you test out your systems and what will work best for the life you live. After that, you may want to level up your meal prep and upgrade your storage containers.

assembling raspberry salads in boxes

Purchasing meal prep containers

Choose identical, uniform containers. When everything stacks neatly together, it’s easier to store, before and during use. Plus, if all the lids are the same, you won’t waste a lot of time searching for the top to a certain container.

Bonus: if you like the aesthetics of your containers, you’re more likely to use them. Use = more meal prepped lunches = more money saved!

Choose locking lids. Many food containers, especially those with divided compartments can leak, making a mess of your workbag. Choose containers with well-sealing lids, particularly around separate compartments.

For ease and best success, focus on using containers that you know are microwave- and dishwasher-safe.

Reusing plastics

If aesthetics don’t bother you then repurposing ingredient containers (think yogurt, cottage cheese, gelato, etc) may be an economical choice. However, keep in mind that many of these containers are not microwave safe and will melt when you try to reheat your lunch.

FAQs

Is meal prep for lunch or dinner?

Meal prepped lunches are simply meals that you’ve prepped and portioned in advance. Most meal preps can work for either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. For instance, it can be something as simple as a sandwich or wrap or as elaborate as your favorite salad or bowl meal piled high with your favorite toppings. You can eat them whenever you want.

Can you eat meal preps cold?

If the food has been properly cooked and refrigerated, there’s no reason why you can’t eat it cold. However, some dishes have better taste and texture when they are reheated.

What are the best meals to prep?

Make what you like! You do yourself no favors prepping something you think you should instead of prepping something you’ll actually eat. Whether your tastes lie in sandwiches, salads, bowls, wraps, there is a wide variety of lunch meal prep you can make at the start of the week and enjoy over the coming days. Scroll down for some yummy lunch ideas.

Can you meal prep for 4 days?

Absolutely! In fact, four days is the limit suggested by the USDA for storing cooked food. A good rule of thumb is to make it on Sunday and consume (or freeze) by Thursday night.

Are packed lunches cheaper?

They usually are! Meal prepping allows you to plan your meals in advance, using up what’s on hand, including leftovers. Further more, by having a meal prepped, you’re less likely to buy pricier convenience foods or spend a fortune at a restaurant.

divided glass meal prep box with coleslaw, bean salad, and strawberries in the sections.

Check out these winning meal prep recipes that are great for packing.

Green Chicken Enchiladas with Cream Cheese

Enchiladas are a perfect meal. Don’t buy frozen and don’t go out. Make these at home and enjoy the savings and the amazing flavor.

Check out this recipe

close up of bite of chicken enchilada on fork on plate of enchiladas.
Shredded Beef Tacos

Shredded beef tacos are a deliciously simple way to make taco night terrific. The tender beef cooks in the slow cooker while you assemble fresh toppings.

Check out this recipe

shredded beef tacos in metal holder on white plate.
Mediterranean Bento Box

Enjoy a delicious, flavor-packed lunch with this Mediterranean Snack Box. Rich hummus, tangy salami, tender veggies, and soft pita bread will make your day!

Check out this recipe

snack box with hummus, pita, and veggies
Bagel Box Recipe

Enjoy an adult “lunchable” with this simple Bagel Box. Supplement the humble bagel with homemade flavored cream cheese and plenty of fruits and veggies.

Check out this recipe

a bento-style Bagel Box
Protein Box (aka DIY Bistro Box)

Make lunch time super simple and totally delicious with this Protein Box, aka DIY Bistro Box. Packed with good stuff, it won’t break the bank.

Check out this recipe

bento box packed with cheese and cracker
Asian Bowls

Asian Bowls are my answer to an easy, delicious, make-ahead dinner. You can mix and match the ingredients however you like — and it’s always amazing.

Check out this recipe

A bowl of chicken and Asian salad ingredients
Mediterranean Chicken Bowl

Enjoy an easy lunch with this Mediterranean Chicken Bowl. It’s packed with flavor and late summer produce. And it’s super-packable.

Check out this recipe

A bowl of Chicken, olives, and veggies
Chicken Burrito Bowls

Forget the fancy taco shop and it’s high priced burrito bowls. You can make your own — better and for less! Pack these Chicken Burrito Bowls with Chipotle Crema for lunch this week.

Check out this recipe

A close up of a chicken burrito bowl
Shrimp Bowls with Mango and Avocado

Enjoy a quick and delicious lunch or dinner with these Shrimp Bowls topped with Mango and Avocado. So easy and so yummy!

Check out this recipe

A bowl of shrimp with mango and avocado
Easy Chicken Quinoa Bowl

This Easy Chicken Quinoa Bowl is simple, hearty, and packed with flavor as well as protein. It makes a perfect weeknight dinner or workaday lunch.

Check out this recipe

A bowl of quinoa and chicken
Egg and Sausage Breakfast Bowls

Enjoy an easy and customizable first meal of the day with breakfasts bowls topped with sausage, vegetables, eggs and anything else you like.

Check out this recipe

fried egg on a breakfast bowl with vegetables and sausage balls
French Dip Sandwiches (Instant Pot & Slow Cooker)

Looking for an easy meal? This French Dip can be prepped in the Instant Pot or the slow cooker, making for easy and delicious sandwiches that are very make-ahead.

Check out this recipe

cut french dip sandwich on square plate with cup of jus and waffle fries.
Instant Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

Instant Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches aren’t difficult to make. They taste amazing, are very freezer-friendly, and can easily be doubled to feed a crowd.

Check out this recipe

Italian beef sandwich in black checked basket with jus cup.
Vegan Sandwich with Avocado

Layer buttery avocado with salsa ingredients on toasted bread for an avocado salsa sandwich that’s light, yet packed with flavor. It’s perfect for Meatless Monday.

Check out this recipe

two halves of vegan sandwich with avocado stacked on a plate with a red toothpick in the top half.
Greek Pita Sandwiches

You don’t need to head to the Mediterranean or the mall to enjoy a great gyro. These Grilled Pita Sandwiches are packed with flavor and are so easy to make.

Check out this recipe

hand holding unwrapped steak pita sandwich with all the toppings.
Italian Sub Sandwiches

The classic Italian Sub is an easy and affordable sandwich to make yourself. You’ll enjoy a great lunch at a price that can’t be beat!

Check out this recipe

Italian sub sandwiches on platter bursting with cold cuts and other fillings.
egg plus salad sandwiches
Instant Pot BBQ Pork Sandwich Recipe

Cook up some tender, flavorful pork to fill your favorite BBQ Pork Sandwiches. The process is so easy, yet makes dinner amazing!

Check out this recipe

instant pot BBQ pork sandwich
Sweet and Sour Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Let your slow cooker do the work with an easy sweet and sour pulled chicken filling perfect for sandwiches and wraps. This simple crockpot recipe will save you time and money!

Check out this recipe

sweet and sour pulled chicken on hawaiian rolls on plate
Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Cucumber

Ready to get up and go? Make sure to save money on your lunch bill by packing up some easy Chicken Salad Sandwiches with crisp, crunchy cucumbers.

Check out this recipe

cut side view of chicken salad sandwich with cucumber
Egg Salad BLT Sandwich

Can’t decide between an egg salad sandwich and a BLT? You don’t have to! This Egg Salad BLT sandwich combines them both into one fantastic meal.

Check out this recipe

egg salad blt in stages on board
Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

Chicken Caesar Baguette Sandwiches are just what you expect – quick and simple deliciousness tucked into French bread. They are a fun, portable twist on a vintage classic.

Check out this recipe

chicken caesar baguettes cut on cutting board
Chicken Salad Club Sandwiches

Sandwich Night will become something super special when you top creamy chicken salad with bacon in this Chicken Salad Club Sandwich.

Check out this recipe

triple decker chicken salad club sandwich on board with checked cloth
A close up of a Veggie Pesto sandwich on a cutting board
Picnic Sandwich

Enjoy eating in the great outdoors with this easy, make-ahead picnic sandwich. Meatless and packed with lots of fresh veggies, it’ll do your summer good.

Check out this recipe

Picnic sandwich cut in pieces
Italian wrap

What happens when you wrap up sub fillings in a tortilla? You can an Italian wrap that’s out of this world and full of flavor.

Check out this recipe

A close up of a person holding a sandwich
Submarine Salad Recipe

The best part of a sub sandwich is the meat and veggies and abundant Italian dressing. You have all those in this tasty Submarine Salad, so good you won’t miss the bread!

Check out this recipe

A bowl of Submarine salad on a red cloth
Lemon Orzo Salad

Dotted with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and tangy feta, this delicious Lemon Orzo Salad comes together quickly in less than 30 minutes!

Check out this recipe

two meal prep containers with lemon orzo salad.
Buffalo Chicken Salad

Salads never need be boring! Liven up your salad plate with spicy chicken bites and tangy Blue Cheese dressing in this Buffalo Chicken Salad.

Check out this recipe

chopped cilantro and green onions topped on the dressing on the salad.
Black Bean Taco Salad

Brown bagging it will taste amazing when you pack up a Black Bean Taco Salad. These stay good for several days in the fridge, so make a bulk batch!

Check out this recipe

black bean taco salad in meal prep box
Basic Meal Prep Salad

Prepare several basic meal prep salads for quick and easy lunches. Add whatever toppings suit your fancy on a given day and you’re good to go!

Check out this recipe

array of four square glass dishes with meal prep salads on black table top.
Pasta Salad with Tortellini

Enjoy a quick and delicious Tortellini Pasta Salad full of fresh veggies and a vibrant dressing. It’s perfect as a packable lunch, a fast main dish, or an easy side.

Check out this recipe

close up of pasta salad with tortellini in black bowl.
Quinoa Salad

Want a Quinoa Salad that will make you swoon? This would be it. It’s one of my favorites to make for a hearty, protein-packed lunch.

Check out this recipe

spoon resting in a bowl of quinoa salad
Chicken & Raspberry Salad

Tender chicken, juicy raspberries, and tangy goat cheese get together to party in this simple yet flavorful Chicken & Raspberry Salad. No need for a cafe salad today when you’ve got this going on!

Check out this recipe

A tray of food on a table, with Raspberry Chicken Salad
Chihuahua Chili

This easy Chihuahua Chili comes together quickly on the stove or in a slow cooker. Flavorful from enchilada sauce, beer, and spices, it is the perfect bowl of red.

Check out this recipe

close up of chili with topping
glass meal prep dishes filled with orzo salad and garnished with lemon.

More Meal Prep Ideas

This post was originally published on November 7, 2020. It has been updated for content and clarity.



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