Does anyone else feel like you’re cooking and washing dishes exponentially more than usual? This pandemic is seriously cramping my free time. (Just kidding, I’m a mom of young kids. What is free time, anyway?!) Well, my article brings you quick cheap lunch ideas for kids and your whole family during this season of pandemic and quarantine. These easy cheap lunch ideas are designed to make your life easier so you don’t feel like you’re spending 97% of your day in the kitchen!
Here we go…
This post will give you one week’s worth of quick cheap lunch ideas for quarantine. From the seven basic ideas, you can spiral outward with creativity in a lot of directions. Check out our suggestions to simplify midday mealtime.
Quick Cheap Lunch Ideas for the Week
It’s no secret that moms (and dads!) already had their hands full prior to the virus outbreak. Work, errands, shopping, food prep, housework, cleanup, family time—the never-ending list of “to-do” just got longer thanks to coronavirus. So, congratulations, you are now the brand-new owner of more cooking, more cleaning, and more stress. All joking aside,
Learn to Love Leftovers!
Just for the record, this is the era of leftovers. If you aren’t a leftovers person (like my hubby), for the love of pizza and all things sacred, change. At least for own your sanity (or the sanity of whoever washes the dishes)! Desperate times call for desperate measures and it will make your life so much easier. When you cook just a little bit extra each meal, you will have enough yummy leftovers to heat up for lunch the next day or two.
Make Homemade “Pizzas.”
A jar of sauce and a bag of mozzarella go a long way in times like this. Start with any bread product you have at home – some favorites are English muffins, bagels, homemade bread sliced thick! You can make creative personal pizzas with your little ones that even mom and dad will love! French bread style pizza, pizza bagels, what’s not to love?
So, all you really need is a good fry pan or grill pan and some tortillas and cheese. You can also grab a quesadilla maker to make it even more fun and a safer assembly line environment to get your whole family involved in the quarantine cooking experience. The beauty of this quick and easy lunch is that each family member can customize the quesadilla to his or her own liking. Choose a cheese, choose a meat, and voila! Quick, cheap lunch in minutes!
Stretch it further with Soup.
The foods you already love can often convert into a delicious soup entrée or side. Restaurants do this all the time, where they turn the scraps and leftovers into flavorful, highly desired soups. You can even freeze scraps of vegetables for a later soup if you want, or make quick and easy soups out of pantry staples like beef broth and diced tomatoes (my newly discovered beef veggie soup!).
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Turkey Vegetable Soup
- Split Pea Soup with Ham
- Beef Vegetable SoupThese soups are SO easy to make, and even more so if you have an Instant Pot.
Save the Day with Sandwiches.
For ages, sandwiches have been the icon of quick cheap lunch ideas. You can whip up super simple lunches of sandwiches, even if you aren’t too keen on the deli right now. Fresh-sliced cold cuts and cheese aren’t the only options. Here are a few more to consider:
- Egg Sandwich
- Tuna Sandwich
- Leftovers on a Bun
- Prepackaged Lunch Meats
Mix it up with Melts!
Bagels, croissants, English muffins, pretzel rolls, and biscuits all make wonderful buns for melts. Melted sandwiches, in my book, are one of the best quick cheap lunch ideas you can do during quarantine. They’re different from usual lunches, very delicious, and versatile. Most importantly, they’re quick, easy to make, and cheap! In our house, melts are especially awesome after a big holiday dinner like roasted turkey or with an amazing spiral cut ham. Even my kids—who don’t like sandwiches—will eat melts!
Our favorite melts are:
- Turkey and Cheese on a Croissant
- Ham and Cheese on a Pretzel Roll – aka: Pretzelwich!
- Tuna Melts on an English Muffin
- Pepperoni and Mozzarella Melt on a Bagel
Create a DIY Salad Bar!
Salads are the epitome of cheap easy lunches! Even if your toddlers and older kids won’t eat salads, they can still make creative meals with the ingredients that they like. Even just a fruit salad! Be sure to check out our post on easy salads for lunch for some versatile suggestions that are great for kids and parents alike!
Just to get you started, try these salad mix-ins:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cubed ham, turkey or chicken
- Dried fruits like raisins or cranberries
- Leftover meat or seafood from dinner
I know it’s a lot to start cooking lunch every day when you’ve been used to your pre-pandemic style, so I hope these easy lunches help stretch your budget as well as your time. If you have more cheap lunch ideas for kids and their grownups, please share in our comments below! Stay safe, everyone. <3