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Lunch time savings: fun cheap lunch box ideas

Chiara Cavaglieri 7th Jul 2016 3 Comments

Reading Time: 7 minutes

It costs an average of £5 a day to buy your lunch at work. This is £25 for every working week, or £1,300 a year – crazy money to spend on cheese and pickle sandwiches! Homemade lunches are tasty, cheap and healthy and definitely the way forward. You can mix it up with salads, sushi, stews, soups and your own crazy creations. Here are some fun cheap lunch box ideas for you.


What you can use

Lunch boxes don’t need to be boring – there are loads of great looking containers out there so take a look at what we found and make all your work colleagues jealous!

Tiffin boxes

A product of the British Raj in India, these were popular here in the early 20th century and are making a comeback. These days a Tiffin box can be made of various materials including aluminium and plastic (melamine).  They come in pretty much every colour of the rainbow.

A Tiffin box is made up of compartments that sit on top of each other and can be carried as a whole. You could literally carry an entire three-course meal in one – top layer for salad, second layer for some meat and third for a pudding – how brilliant!

eBay is always a good place to look for a bargain. Brand new, stainless steel tiffin boxes can often be found for as low as £6.99. Amazon also offers a range of plastic, wooden, and stainless boxes starting at around £7.

Three brightly coloured tiffin lunch boxes


Japanese Bento boxes

These are similar to Tiffin boxes in that they have separate compartments. Traditionally they have three sections for rice, cooked food and your chopsticks.

You can buy some lovely ones from Japan Centre which cost between £3 and £30. If you’re looking for some great Japanese recipes get your self a copy of 500 Bento Box Lunches for just £5

Japanese Bento Lunch Box


Cool bags

Cool bags will keep your food nice and cold so they’re great for the summer. They’re really easy to wipe down and can last for a really long time. Get one with compartments so your food doesn’t get squashed or use plastic containers and you can put your drink in there too.

Amazon has loads of cool bags to choose from and while you’re there you can also grab some mini ice gel packs which will only set you back a couple of quid. Cool bags don’t have to be dull either – you can get ones for around £18.00; or, splash out on something particularly gorgeous from Cath Kidston. Try the clearance section where you just might find a clever-looking cool bag for a fraction of the standard retail price.

Insulated Cool Bag Lunch Box



Get a stainless steel flask that won’t break if you drop it and will keep your drink hot or cold all day. You can also use your flask for food – soups and stews keep really well in a flask. Prices vary quite wildly with flasks – you can literally spend anything from a fiver to £50. Generally, the more expensive the better but do check the litre capacity. If you go for a more expensive one make sure it has a guarantee.

Once again you can get some great deals at Amazon on flasks, or try Wilkinsons and Argos for some mega cheap options.

Stainless Steel thermos flask with soup


Lunch bags for kids

Unfortunately, kids’ lunch bags and drink bottles aren’t cheap – and if you’re child wants their lunch box to be covered with the latest Disney hero you’ll be paying even more.

Some of the cheapest are available on Amazon and eBay. These popular cartoon design lunch bags are only £4.50 each:Childresn Disney Cartoon Lunch Boxes

Plastic containers

Plastic containers are one of the cheapest options for your packed lunch. They’re airtight so will keep your food fresh. Don’t spend a lot of money; Lakeland is well worth a look for plastic containers and eBay also has a breadth of inexpensive finds.

Plastic containers come in all kinds of sizes and shapes so get a few or buy a set Amazon and Wilkinsons are excellent for cheap plastic storage and cutlery so go to your nearest store or online.

Plastic lunch boxes


Handy hints for packing your lunch

  • Make it the night before so you don’t have to rush around in the morning.
  • Keep soft fruit in a mini plastic container so it doesn’t get squashed or bruised.
  • Wrap sandwiches in greaseproof paper or foil so they don’t go soggy.
  • Use an ice pack to keep things cool and remember that cold air sinks, so place it on top of the food.
  • Try freezing cartons of juice and then pack them with the food to keep them cool.
  • Salad will go soggy if you put dressing or salt and pepper on it in the morning so why not use the mini jam jars, often found in hotels or the lunch aisle of M&S, and fill them with the dressing of your choice so that you can just put it on when you’re ready to eat. The same goes for condiments for your sandwiches. Easy peasy.
  • Keep takeaway meal containers, wash them up and then put your lunch in them.

Woman preparing lunch box

What should you put in them?

Yummy lunch ideas

Leftovers: The cheapest and easiest thing to do is simply use leftovers from dinner. Cold pizza is a great lunch time snack. Make some extra pasta and put it to one side for a lovely pasta salad. Just add some mayonnaise and some tuna and anything else you like, and you’ll have a healthy, filling lunch.

cheap lunch box ideasSandwiches: A good old sarnie is a brilliantly cheap and simple lunch option and generally anything goes with fillings. Put whatever you like in them and if you want some inspiration read Sarah Lockett’s Food and Family blog for some fantastic ideas.

Alternatives to sandwiches: Make a nice lentil soup then put it in a flask to keep warm. Try a Spanish omelette, which is delicious hot or cold – you can have it for your evening meal hot then take the cold leftovers to work with some salad. Make a mini pizza with pitta bread – just spread tomato puree on top, cover with cheese and your preferred topping and then grill. Beans are one of the cheapest things to use in a lunch not to mention really good for bulking up a meal. Try a simple bean salad, or mix them with some couscous.

Snacks: Cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks, sugar snap peas and peppers make a great healthy snack, just use up leftover veg. Cold meats, like ham and salami, are perfect for grazing on through the day.

Saving Money

Get your shopping bill down. There’s no point saving all that money on bringing your own lunch to work if you’re spending lots on the food. Shopping for fruit and veg in local markets, instead of supermarkets, saves you up to 30%; the produce is probably better too. Offcuts of meat are perfectly good to eat and great for sandwiches; ask for some at a deli counter or local butchers.

Go to the cheaper supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi 0for non-fresh products, like jars of mayonnaise and crisps. You can often get well known prices for much less than in the bigger supermarkets and they’re great for trying out some European brands not normally found in the UK.

Keep your food fresh for longer

According to Lovefoodhatewaste.com we waste a massive £10 billion-worth of food each year in the UK and much of it is thrown away completely unnecessarily. All this waste really adds up, so making food last longer could genuinely save you thousands of pounds a year. Follow our tips on ways to keep food fresh for longer and save yourself a packet!

Use these Stayfresh Longer bags from Lakeland to keep your fruit and veg going a few extra days. They allow the food to breathe and the surface is treated to prevent moisture and bacteria forming. All you have to do is put your fruit or veg in (after cleaning and drying it) then seal the bag with a clip and then just shove it in the fridge.

Bag clips seal your bags of crisps and cereal packets. They will last weeks, even months longer. You can get a bumper pack at Lakeland. For £7.19, this pack contains small, standard and jumbo sized clips so it’s really useful, and they last for years so you won’t need to keep buying them. If you only want one size, go to Amazon where you can buy this pack of small bag clips for just £4.29.

Lakeland also have these special bags that preserve your mushrooms, cheese, potatoes and onions. All the bags have a black-out liner to keep out the light and prevent sprouting and the cheese bag even has an anti-mould treatment.

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12 years ago

If I go to the supermarket I try and leave it as late as possible (after 7pm) to catch the reduced section, my local supermarket is brilliant and I can often fill up my freezer for less than £10. It’s good for lunches too so I often buy salads for 40p instead of £2-£3, and they last a day or two. Other things like fresh soup and pasta salads, again for 40-50p, can go in the freezer. Today I had a lovely potato and egg salad for 40p and a punnet of strawberries for 30p! Bargain.

David G
David G
12 years ago

When making Pasta for the kids dinner, I make a bit extra for my lunch the next day. Store it in a plastic takeaway box, that I keep from the takeaways we sometimes have at the weekend, makes a perfect lunchbox, as its a good size and can be put in the microwave and dishwasher. Just wash it after the takeaway..hehe

pallab bhattacharjee
pallab bhattacharjee
13 years ago

we are looking for the co who are interested in marketing disposable plastic food carrier for hotel, dhaba, etc.We have the necessery infrastructure for that and wanting to act as a marketing agent for kolkata primarily, in both retail as well as institution. the activities involved are finding out distributors. catagorising market and also ultimately boosting sales………

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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