In the perfect world of Instagram and Pinterest, weekly meal prep is supposed to be easy. I love to throw a sheet pan dinner in the oven or a pot of soup on the stove for lunch the next day as much as the next gal, but life can get in the way fast — grocery stores get crowded, calendars fill up and occasionally a lunch bag gets forgotten in the fridge.
Just because you’re in a pinch doesn’t mean you’re doomed to scavenge from the vending machine or spend a fortune on takeout. Here's the fall-back plan I use to create meals and snacks from five (or seven, if I'm feeling hungry) convenience store items. Keep a couple of these on hand at your desk and in the office fridge, and you can stay satisfied all day — without breaking the bank (or derailing your diet).
7 Items To Grab at the Convenience Store
No sugar-added peanut butter (or the nut butter of your choice): $3.99
Plain Greek yogurt (The 2 percent fat variety helps me feel full for longer): $1.69
Whole grain crackers: $4.99
Apples (grapes, strawberries or bananas would work as well): $1/each, or $5.99 for a box
A can of chickpeas or tuna: $1.49 & $2.59
- Hard-boiled eggs (1.19 for a pack of two)
- String or snack-sized cheddar cheese: ($0.99)
These staples will keep for at least a few weeks unopened (except for pre-cut fruit), so they’re easy enough to keep on hand and restock as needed.
[Editor's Note: Prices are based on a New York City-based convenience store and may vary in your area. To get these items even cheaper, scan your local grocery store circulars for better deals.]
Peanut Butter Apple Parfait
Jazz up plain yogurt with a chopped apple and a dollop of peanut butter. Simple and classic, the combination of protein from the yogurt, healthy fat from the nut butter and fiber from the apple will keep you fuller longer than your morning bagel. For added flavor, top with cinnamon (and a small amount of honey, if needed) from the office kitchen.
Lightened Up Tuna/Chickpea Salad
Combine half a can of your favorite protein, add a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt and some salt, pepper and hot sauce or mustard — if spice is your thing — for a minimalist take on tuna salad. (If you opt for the vegetarian version, you can smash the chickpeas with the fork for a more condensed texture.) If you can find lemon wedges at your local coffee shop or in the office kitchen, add a squeeze for a brighter flavor. Scoop up with crackers, or if you can sneak away to a pay-per-pound salad bar, put the mixture over some greens — they’re so lightweight, they often don’t cost much. For extra protein, slice an egg on top.
Grown Up Open-Faced PB&J
A crunchier version of our first option, top a few crackers with peanut butter and apple slices for a more desk-friendly, bite-sized take on a peanut butter sandwich.
Afternoon Cheese Plate
Skip the pricey snack boxes from your local coffee joint and make your own. Slice up a combination of cheese and fruit, a small portion of nuts or a boiled egg and a few whole grain crackers for a quick, protein-packed meal in a pinch.
MORE HEALTHY LUNCH HACKS
- A week's worth of healthy lunches for under $20
- How to boost the nutrition (and flavor) in your sad desk salad
- 7 healthy recipes you can make in your Instant Pot in minutes
- The healthiest picks at Panera Bread