Repeat after us: no more sad desk lunches.

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.

Ready?

**The math:**

- About $1.00 of squash ($3.99 for a whole one)
- $2.36 of kale ($2.36 for one bunch)
- 44 cents' worth of almonds ($6.99 for 16 ounces)
- 81 cents' worth of cheddar ($5.64 for 7 ounces)
- 55 cents' worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

**The total:** $5.16 for two servings: **$2.58 for one serving**

**The math:**

- $2.58 worth of potatoes (2 pounds at $1.29 per pound)
- $1.19 worth of onion ($1.19 for one)
- $2.33 worth of eggs ($3.49 for a dozen)
- About $1.50 of Parmesan ($4.75 for a quarter-pound)
- 40 cents' worth of butter ($3.79 for 8 ounces)

**The total:** $8 for six servings; **$1.33 for one serving**

**The math:**

- $2.58 worth of canned chickpeas (2 cans at $1.29 each)
- 20 cents’ worth of celery (from 1 bunch, at $2.99)
- 20 cents’ worth of shallot (for one small shallot)
- $1 worth of mayo ($4.99 for a 15 ounce jar)
- 30 cents’ worth of curry powder ($3.99 per jar)
- 30 cents’ worth of turmeric ($3.99 per jar)
- 50 cents’ worth of parsley (99 cents for a small bunch)
- $2.32 worth of sliced bread ($6.99 per loaf at the sandwich creator's neighborhood market)

**Total cost:** $7.40 for four servings; **$1.85 for one serving**

**The math:**

- $3.99 worth of basil ($3.99 for a bunch)
- 23 cents' worth of garlic ($4.99 for a pound)
- 55 cents' worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)
- $4 worth of walnuts ($7.99 for 8 ounces)
- About $1.75 of broccoli ($3.49 for roughly two heads)
- $1.78 worth of apple ($1.78 for one)

**The total:** $12.30 for three servings; **$4.10 for one serving**

**The math:**

- $1.09 worth of quinoa ($5.99 for 16 ounces)
- $2.38 worth of goat cheese ($2.99 for 4 ounces)
- $3.49 worth of arugula ($3.49 for large container)
- 55 cents' worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

**The total:** $7.51 for two servings; **$3.76 for one serving**

**The math:**

- $1.09 worth of spaghetti ($1.09 per pound)
- $5.62 worth of sausage ($5.62 per pound)
- About 30 cents' worth of garlic ($0.51 for a head)
- 49 cents' worth of red chili flakes ($2.94 for a bottle)
- $3.92 worth of Parmesan ($7.84 for about 5 ounces)
- 75 cents' worth of parsley ($1.49 for a bunch)

**The total:** $12.17 for four servings; **$3.04 for one serving**

Alanai
April 3, 2019

I made two of these recipes -- the cheesy fritters with arugula and the chickpea salad sandwich -- and thought they were both great. The main thing I would point out is that these could easily cost more than the stated price unless you already have the ingredients on hand and incorporate the extra stuff you inevitably buy into future meals.

Take the chick pea salad, which I made today: celery ($3.99), parsley ($1.50), curry powder ($3.69), turmeric ($3.34), chickpeas ($2), shallots ($1), tomatoes ($2.79), whole wheat pita ($1.39). I already had the mayo, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper at home. I also had a 20% off coupon for some of the groceries, so the total cost to me was: $16.91 or about $4.23 per serving.

Was it good? Yes! But realistically, no one buys one stalk of celery or half a bunch of parsley or half a cup of mayo. Some stuff you already have, most you don't.

For the fritters, I already had the quinoa, salt, pepper and oil. So all I bought was the log of goat cheese ($3.99 minus 20% =$3.19) , the arugula ($3.99 minus 20% =$3.19) and the lemon ($0.49), for a total cost of: $6.87. But two fritters per serving wasn't enough for me. I'd say this works out to more like 3 servings, at $2.29 per meal. That's actually less than the author's estimated price per serving, but ig you didn't have the oil and/or quinoa this would cost significantly more too.

Take the chick pea salad, which I made today: celery ($3.99), parsley ($1.50), curry powder ($3.69), turmeric ($3.34), chickpeas ($2), shallots ($1), tomatoes ($2.79), whole wheat pita ($1.39). I already had the mayo, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper at home. I also had a 20% off coupon for some of the groceries, so the total cost to me was: $16.91 or about $4.23 per serving.

Was it good? Yes! But realistically, no one buys one stalk of celery or half a bunch of parsley or half a cup of mayo. Some stuff you already have, most you don't.

For the fritters, I already had the quinoa, salt, pepper and oil. So all I bought was the log of goat cheese ($3.99 minus 20% =$3.19) , the arugula ($3.99 minus 20% =$3.19) and the lemon ($0.49), for a total cost of: $6.87. But two fritters per serving wasn't enough for me. I'd say this works out to more like 3 servings, at $2.29 per meal. That's actually less than the author's estimated price per serving, but ig you didn't have the oil and/or quinoa this would cost significantly more too.

susielou
March 31, 2019

Your recipes look tasty and nourishing. What about using some of the same ingredients in different recipes, so that buying them, especially fresh, is not a one-time purchase? (Ex. Kale, chickpeas, quinoa, shallots, part.)

kimikoftokyo
March 31, 2019

I guess I better get buying. I am the type who will eat the same things everyday out of simple frustration because I do not know what to buy anymore. Lol

Marc L.
March 31, 2019

Ditto: please, more Whole 30 lunches for $5 using foods that hold up well in a drug the next day. Great idea!

Ashley
March 26, 2019

More of these, please! Although I do question whether the pasta would get dry after sitting overnight + several hours during the day

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