I went through a phase earlier this year during which I ate a toasted English muffin for lunch every single day, for three weeks. I started out with a bang. Think, flashy towers of toasted muffin halves, swathed in mayo and sambal, cradling fried eggs. Grilled cheeses with a whole gang of melty constituents and caramelized alliums. And then, as time went on, things took a turn. One Wednesday, the toaster wasn't working, and all I could rustle up was a handful of wilted arugula and olive oil. A few days later, I found myself tucking into a muffin-half swirled with a single teaspoon of peanut butter, from a jar a colleague had intended to discard.
By about day 19, even my polite seatmates could no longer avert their gazes.
"I have some leftover rice pilaf!" blurted Eric. "It's in the fridge. You should really, um, switch it up."
In an effort to prove I could take a hint—and, honestly, because I started to find cornmeal crumbs in all of my pants pockets—I decided then and there it was time to make a change. With the help of my colleagues, I compiled the following list of $5 or less lunches to get me through a full work week (plus, one bonus).
A quick note about how our math works: We base prices on local markets or online delivery services, like FreshDirect and Amazon Fresh. When it comes to pantry staples (think: salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar...), we assume you already have those on hand.
The total: $5.16 for two servings: $2.58 for one serving
The total: $8 for six servings; $1.33 for one serving
Total cost: $7.40 for four servings; $1.85 for one serving
The total: $12.30 for three servings; $4.10 for one serving
The total: $7.51 for two servings; $3.76 for one serving
The total: $12.17 for four servings; $3.04 for one serving