Healthy lunches on a budget

We recently ran a Nutrition Week in our office, where I gave a talk on “Healthy Lunches on a Budget”.  It proved to be really popular so I thought I’d share some of my tips with you.

Plan ahead

If you do your grocery shopping at the weekend, think about the week ahead and what you would like for lunch.  Buy some key items such as seasonal salad vegetables.  You can then add to these items during the week e.g. leftover pasta or baby potatoes.  If you are cooking chicken fillets, cook a couple extra so you can take these to have with lunch during the week.  They’ll keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Think of the food pyramid 

Lunchtime is a key opportunity to tick some boxes on the food pyramid – salad veg can boost your 5-a-day, lean protein such as chicken or turkey will help to fill you up, and wholegrain carbohydrates e.g. crackers or a roll will boost your fibre intake.

Cut out convenience

Pre-prepared salad bowls can work out very expensive compared to buying the individual ingredients.  All it takes is a little planning and prep the night before or in the morning before work to throw some salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and ham or chicken in a lunchbox.  Pick up a fresh wholegrain roll that day, add a little dressing (see recipe below) and there you have it!

Batch cooking

Batch cooking saves money, time and can be very therapeutic!  Make big pots of soup during Winter and freeze in portions for a handy lunch.  Use leftover pasta, rice, potatoes, chicken etc in salads for

lunch the following day.

Equip yourself

Invest in some key equipment such as good quality lunch boxes, a plastic bottle for salad dressing and a portable soup container.  These items will leave you with no excuses for not having a healthy lunch!

Healthy Lunch Ideas


Pitta Pocket

Wholemeal pitta toasted & filled with sliced avocado, cottage cheese or feta, cherry tomatoes & leaves.

Mango Chicken Salad

Leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, cooked chicken pieces, ripe mango pieces, balsamic dressing, cashew nuts or seeds.

Lentil & Feta Salad

Leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, ½ tin puy lentils, chopped feta, ½ red pepper, balsamic dressing.

Tuna & Baby Potato Salad

Leaves, tomatoes, olives, cooked baby potatoes, tin of tuna, cold hard-boiled egg, balsamic dressing.

Finally, here’s a salad dressing that can be made and kept in a jar in the fridge, and used as needed.  It’s so easy to make at the start of the week and handy to have in the fridge, and because you’ve made it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it.  The olive oil provides vitamin E which is important for healthy DNA.


Homemade balsamic dressing

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp wholegrain  mustard

Combine the ingredients in a clean jam jar.  Shake before using and use a clean tablespoon to drizzle over salad as needed.


Nutrition information per tablespoon: 85 calories, 9g fat

Source of Vitamin E & Omega-3

Kellie, Nutritionist

I'm a Registered Nutritionist with an honours degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Ulster in Coleraine. Originally from Armagh, I now live in Wicklow with my husband. We live on a big sheep farm so there is never a dull moment! Mum to 1 year old- Ellen. I love trying out new recipes so my pregnancy is giving me a whole new opportunity to experiment with recipes and make them even healthier. I hope you enjoy trying some of my recipes!

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