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30 Cheap Lunch Ideas

On a budget? These cheap lunch ideas are easy on your wallet, but don't miss out on flavor. Whip 'em up on Sunday to enjoy all week long!

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Veggie Calzones

Bread dough makes it a breeze to assemble these savory turnovers. If you have a favorite pizza dough, use it instead. These freeze well and once they are frozen, they can be heated in half an hour. —Lee Ann Lowe, Gray, Maine
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Ham Pasta Toss

This is my favorite meal to make when I'm short on time. You can also use different meats or vegetables depending on what you have on hand. —Sharon Gerst, North Liberty, Iowa.
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Super Quick Chicken Fried Rice

After my first child was born, I needed meals that were satisfying and fast. This fried rice is now part of our regular dinner rotation. — Alicia Gower, Auburn, New York
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Muffin-Cup Cheddar Beef Pies

My kids love these beef rolls so much. I always make extra since they heat up so quickly. I give them their choice of dipping sauces—spaghetti sauce or ranch dressing are the top picks. —Kimberly Farmer, Wichita, Kansas
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Cheesy Bow Tie Chicken

Here's a super-simple dish that tastes like it's straight from a nice Italian restaurant. Spinach-artichoke dip is usually available in supermarket delis. It comes frozen, too. Just make sure to thaw it according to the package directions before dinnertime. —Sally Sibthorpe, Shelby Township, Michigan
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Black Bean 'n' Pumpkin Chili

My family is crazy about this slow cooker chili because it uses ingredients you don't usually find in chili. Believe it or not, I discovered that pumpkin is what makes the dish so special. Cook up a big batch and freeze some for later; it tastes even better reheated. —Deborah Vliet, Holland, Michigan
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Chili Coney Dogs

From the youngest kids to the oldest adults, everyone in our family loves these hot dogs. Inspired by the classic Coney dog, they’re so easy to throw together in the morning or even the night before. —Michele Harris, Vicksburg, Michigan
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Pesto Quinoa Salad

My daughter-in-law got me hooked on quinoa, and I'm so glad she did! I've been substituting quinoa in some of my favorite pasta recipes, and this dish is the happy result of one of those experiments. I love using my garden tomatoes and peppers in this salad; however, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers are equally delicious. —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Quick Taco Wraps

I was running late one night, so I shopped in my own fridge and came up with ingredients that became taco wraps. Everybody at the table was a happy camper. —Katie Mitschelen, La Porte, Indiana
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Microwave Egg Sandwich

If you're looking for a grab-and-go breakfast for busy days, this high-protein sandwich is low in fat and keeps me full all morning. Plus, it's only about 200 calories! —Brenda Otto, Reedsburg, Wisconsin
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White Bean Arugula Salad

My red, white and green salad is inspired by the Italian flag. Top it with shaved Parmesan. —Malia Estes, Allston, Massachusetts
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Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Blue cheese dressing and hot pepper sauce enhance these yummy tortilla wraps. Filled with chicken, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, these buffalo chicken wraps are colorful, fun to eat...and tote-able, too! —Athena Russell, Florence, South Carolina
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Creamy Paprika Pork

When I was little, I would often ask my mom to make "favorite meat." She knew I was requesting this homey pork recipe. It's been in my family for more than 30 years and it's still a favorite! —Alexandra Barnett, Forest, Virginia
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Chicken & Onion Caesar Salad

My Caesar with grilled chicken is a healthier alternative to heavy meat and potatoes dishes. After grilling the kabobs, we serve them family style. —Melissa Adams, Tooele, Utah
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Parmesan Bow Tie Pasta with Chicken

On lazy summer weekends, we like chicken and yellow squash tossed with bow tie pasta. Add extra fresh grated Parmesan for a Sunday touch. —Sarah Smiley, Bangor, Maine
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Contest-Winning Roasted Tomato Soup

Just before the first frost of the season, we gather up all of the tomatoes from my mom’s garden to create this flavor-packed soup. Although it sounds like a lot of garlic, when it’s roasted, the garlic becomes mellow and almost sweet. We serve this soup with toasted bread spread with pesto.—Kaitlyn Lerdahl, Madison, Wisconsin
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Sweet Macaroni Salad

A sweet out-of-the-ordinary dressing makes this macaroni salad special. My aunt gave me the recipe and it has become one of my favorites. I occasionally leave out the green pepper if I know that people don't like it, and it still tastes great. —Idalee Scholz, Cocoa Beach, Florida
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Lemon Chicken and Rice

On our busy ranch, we often need meals we can put on the table in a hurry. This all-in-one chicken dish - with its delicate lemon flavor - fits the bill and it's inexpensive to boot. —Kat Thompson, Prineville, Oregon
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Curried Olive Egg Salad

Accessorizing the humble egg salad sandwich with olives, curry powder and celery seed really bumps up the flavor of lunch. —Anita Doyle, Dodgeville, Wisconsin
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Pork & Ramen Stir-Fry

I normally serve a traditional stir-fry, but I wanted to change it up with this ramen noodle recipe. Ramen noodles are a quick sub for the rice, and we really like the crisp-tender bite from fresh broccoli and a package of coleslaw mix. —Barbara Pletzke, Herndon, Virginia
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Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Orzo

Broccoli and rice casserole tops my family's comfort food list, but when we need something fast, this is the stuff. Chicken and veggie orzo cooked on the stovetop speeds everything up. —Mary Shivers, Ada, Oklahoma
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Penne with Tomatoes & White Beans

I learned how to make this dish from friends in Genoa, Italy, where they're known for creating tasty combinations of veggies, pasta and beans. You can sub feta cheese to give this a Greek twist. —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho
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Hummus & Veggie Wrap-Up

I had a vegan wrap that was similar to this once when I stopped at a diner while on a long and arduous walk. I enjoyed it so much that I modified it to my own taste and now have it for lunch on a regular basis. Everyone at work wants to know how to make it. —Michael Steffens, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Slow-Cooked Lentil Stew

This vegetarian stew is perfect when you want to take a break from meat. Adding the cream at the end gives it a smoother texture.—Michelle Collins, Suffolk Virginia
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Chicken Pesto with Pasta

Prepared sauce accents this warm chicken pesto pasta. Keep pesto in the freezer for the next time you have leftover chicken. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Lemon Cranberry Quinoa Salad

As the family cook, I appreciate how easy this is to throw together on a busy weeknight. Plus, this salad never gets boring. One of my favorite variations is to substitute diced fresh mango for the cranberries, cilantro for the parsley, and lime for the lemon juice and zest. —Mary Shenk, DeKalb, Illinois
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Fajitas in Pitas

For a weekend lunch with company, we grill chicken and peppers to stuff inside pita pockets. The dressing doubles as a grilling sauce and a sandwich spread. —Clara Coulson Minney, Washington Court House, Ohio
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Beef Teriyaki Noodles

At our house, we love to combine fresh ingredients with a pantry product. This version starts with beef, onions, peppers and mushrooms, since we always have them on hand, but make the dish your own—bring out your inner chef! —Richard Robinson, Park Forest, Illinois
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Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup

Winter weather calls for steaming bowls of this hearty soup. Chuck roast leftovers add extra homemade flavor. —Jeannie Klugh, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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Thai Peanut Chicken and Noodles

This versatile chicken recipe is very similar to chicken pad Thai but easier to make and tastes just as good. Rice noodles can be swapped with mung bean noodles or any type of egg noodles. —Kristina Segarra, Yonkers, New York

Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.
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