5 healthy and dietitian-approved lunch ideas that cost less than $5

Dietitian, Melissa Meier shares her go-to and cheap lunch ideas made from pantry staples that won’t require yet another trip to the shops. 

Organising your lunch every day can be tedious. Especially if you’re still on the WFH bandwagon and don’t have the convenience of popping into a local food court or café to pick up a salad or sandwich.

My bet, however, is that you’ve probably already got the bones of a dietitian-approved meal lurking in your pantry; you just might just need a little inspo to tie it into a well-balanced meal.

So, without further ado, here are five cheap and easy lunch ideas that make use of the pantry staples (and a few extra ingredients) you probably already have at home.

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1. Baked beans on toast = $2.08 per serve

I recommend baked beans *a lot* (see here and here and here)… but there’s a really good reason for doing so.

Along with chickpeas and lentils, beans are rich in plant-based protein, gut-loving fibre and slow-burning carbs. They fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied. Consuming them regularly is associated with a raft of health perks, including reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some types of cancer.

For a nutritious and delicious meal, pair a 220g tin of reduced-salt baked beans with a couple of slices of wholegrain bread.

2. Tuna, rice and veg = $4.20 per serve

Protein-packed tinned tuna is an economical way to get health-giving seafood into your diet, while rice provides much-needed carbs to help balance out the meal.

I’d suggest opting for long grain brown rice over white rice – that way, you’ll get some wholegrain goodness and low-GI carbs to balance your blood sugars.

If you’ve got any fresh veggies sitting in your crisper, throw them into the mix as well, and if not, whip up an easy peasy sauce using chopped tinned tomatoes and dried spices.

3. Bean bruschetta = $3.64 per serve

Another one with wholesome legumes in mind, this time in the form of cannellini beans.

Simply combine a can of beans and strained canned cherry tomatoes with lemon juice and fresh herbs if you’ve got them on hand. Then, adorn the mixture atop a couple of slices of wholegrain bread and voila – you’ve got a healthy meal ready in minutes.

If you’re feeling fancy, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a crumbling of feta cheese.

4. Corn fritters = $2.63 per serve

Corn is a crowd-pleaser when it comes to veggies – and an excellent choice if you’re dealing with fussy eaters.

To make corn fritters, simply combine tinned corn with a little flour, egg and baking powder, and fry the mixture in dollops in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To keep it on the lighter side, serve your fritters with Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream.

5. Wholegrain crackers and tuna = $5.34 per serve

Yes, another option on the tuna bandwagon. (It’s such a fantastic pantry staple!) This time, pair your can of tuna with some quality carbs in the form of wholegrain crispbreads.

To round out the meal, serve your crackers with any chopped veg from your crisper (I love baby cucumbers and cherry tomatoes for this meal), and add a little hummus for a boost of flavour. Delish.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram.