Looking for an easy way to fatten up your wallet? Have you considered packing your lunch? Yep, brown bagging it can not only help you cut costs but also calories, so it’s a win-win! Get ready to be inspired to save (and chow down) by these 53 cold lunch ideas for adults at work!
By the way, if you’re thinking packing a lunch won’t save you that much, you’re wrong. Way wrong. According to Business Insider buying lunch each day costs (on average) nearly $2,000 a year!
So, keep that money where it belongs, in your wallet, by utilizing these cold lunch ideas for work.
Oh, and don’t worry, packing a lunch doesn’t have to be a complicated time consuming task. There are tons of cold lunch ideas for adults at work that are super simple. (Hint: I’m about to share 53 of them with you!)
In addition to being healthy and easy, cold lunches for work (like those below) can be tasty. Like way better than anything you can get out of the vending machine or at a restaurant.
So, do I have your attention?
Great because lunch is served! 😉
Cold Lunch Ideas for Adults at Work: Mason Jars
1. Easy Loaded Tuna Mason Jar Salad (Confessions of An Overworked Mom) – Kicking off this massive list of cold lunch ideas for work is a super-easy-protein-packed option that also happens to be gluten-free, Paleo friendly, and Whole 30 approved. Oh, and it’s also awfully pretty to look at… almost too pretty to eat.
2. Quinoa Chickpea Mason Jar Salad (Melanie Cooks) – Cold lunches for work ideas don’t get much easier than this! All you need to whip up this Mason jar salad is 10 minutes. However, if that’s still a little too much for your morning schedule, you can make this flavor filled salad up to 5 days in advance and store it in the fridge.
3. Chicken Apple Mason Jar Salad (Melanie Cooks) – This salad is bursting with color, flavor, and nutrition. Plus, it’s super portable since it’s made in a Mason jar. Seriously, what’s not to love?
4. Mexican Vegan Burrito Bowl Mason Jar Salad (Chipotle-Style) (Melanie Cooks) – Some of my fav cold lunch ideas for adults at work mimic things you can get at restaurants. For example, this burrito bowl salad is similar to something you’d get a Chipotle, but twice as good at half the price! 🙂
Tip: The burrito bowl Mason jar salad is also a great option for your college co-ed trying to save money! And if he or she wants even more cheap college meals be sure to share these 29 cheap and healthy meals for college students.
5. Barley & Zucchini Mason Jar Salad (Hot Eats and Cool Reads) – Salads may sound like boring cold lunches for work, but there are so many different varieties you can try that with just a smidge of imagination, I’m confident you’ll never get bored! Take this barley-zucchini combo for instance.
Tip: Make this recipe ahead of time and store it in the fridge (in a Mason jar) for a grab-and-go lunch option.
6. Mason Jar Pasta Salad (Must Have Mom) – Use whole wheat pasta in this salad for some healthy carbs that’ll give you the energy you need to power through the 3 p.m. slump! Bonus: This recipe can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
7. Caprese Pasta Salad Mason Jar (Must Have Mom) – Most cold lunches for work ideas that are made in a Mason jar will stay fresh for several days (thanks to the Mason jar), but some (like this one) get even better with age as the vegetables marinate. Yum!
Tip: Need even more make-ahead meal options? I’ve got you covered! Here are 48 make ahead lunches.
8. Mason Jar Chef Salad (Must Have Mom) – If you need quick cold lunch ideas for adults at work, you’ve come to the right place. All that stands between you and this yummy pasta salad is 5 measly minutes!
9. Sweet Kale Superfood Mason Jar Salad (Must Have Mom) – Here’s another quick and easy Mason jar salad that you can put together in just 5 minutes! This recipe is a great option when you want to pack in some extra nutrients.
Cold Lunch Ideas for Adults at Work: Salads
10. Baby Blue Salad with Fresh Pears and Sweet and Spicy Pecans (Freebie Finding Mom) – This delicious salad, complete with homemade dressing, makes one of my fav easy healthy cold lunch ideas for work. It’s just sooo satisfying. It also makes a great side salad with dinner.
11. Hearty Avocado and Turkey Salad with Greek Dressing (Thrifty Jinxy) – These cold lunch ideas for adults at work can also be used as dishes for your next office potluck! This particular dish is a great option because it’s packed with lean protein and healthy fat. Plus, if you opt to make it in individual glasses or Mason jars, all of the beautiful, contrasting colors will be on full display and are sure to impress.
12. Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad (Thrifty Jinxy) – Some of the best dishes on this list are actually cold dinner ideas for work. In other words, they allow you to put last night’s leftovers to good use, and this recipe is no exception! Use corn on the cob from last night’s barbecue to make this simple, flavor filled salad.
13. Italian Blue Salad With Apricot Dressing (Trial and Eater) – Honey roasted pecan pieces, tangy blue cheese, and sweet apricot dressing—this salad is way too decadent to be a healthy lunch, right? Wrong! At 480 calories you can chow down on this salad without feeling guilty.
14. Veggie Pasta Salad (Midlife Healthy Living) – When it comes to cold lunch ideas for adults at work, complexity (or lack thereof) must be considered. This dish is cheap, healthy, and easy… so it definitely fits the bill.
Tip: Make it a day ahead of time so the veggies have plenty of time to soak up the flavor!
15. Cantaloupe Prosciutto Mozzarella Salad (Ann’s Entitled Life) – Okay, now I know at first glance this is one of those cold lunch ideas for work that sounds pretty strange, but don’t knock it till you try it. (Oh, and trust me, once you try it, you won’t want to knock it!) The flavors of fresh cantaloupe, prosciutto, and mozzarella come together perfectly, creating a taste you won’t soon forget.
16. Chicken and Avocado Salad With Lime and Cilantro (Kalyn’s Kitchen) – This southwestern inspired salad is the perfect option when you’re trying to eat healthier. It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and can easily be adapted to be Paleo or Whole 30 friendly.
Tip: Craving more gluten-free options? Well, sink your teeth into these 21 gluten-free lunch ideas!
17. Rainbow Buckwheat Salad (Gluten-Free, Vegan) (Strength & Sunshine) – I love cold lunches for work that look almost as good as they taste, and this is one of them! The carrots, blueberries, radishes, and herbs (mint and basil) give this dish pops of brilliant color that are sure to brighten your day. Just remember: It tastes even better than it looks!
18. Easy Canned Salmon Salad (Trisha Dishes) – Talk about easy cold lunch ideas for adults at work! You only need 4 ingredients (and about as many minutes) to pull this recipe off. The recipe recommends serving on crackers or toast, but to cut down on calories (and carbs), consider using Romain lettuce or just eating the salad on its own.
19. Cold Peanut Noodle Salad (Savory Tooth) – Craving Thai food for lunch? No worries, this Thai inspired dish is vegan, gluten-free, flavorful as it is colorful, and is sure to save you money over takeout!
20. Best Cold Broccoli Salad With Bacon and Cranberries (Savory Tooth) – Sometimes I come across cold lunches for work ideas online that seem too easy to be true. This was one of them… until I saw the how-to video the chef made. The video is only 20 seconds long. 🙂
21. Easy Tuna and White Bean Salad (Cooking in Stilettos) – This cold lunch ideas for adults at work comes together in just 15 minutes! Serve in a pita pocket or eat it by itself—either way is delicious.
22. Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad (Cooking in Stilettos) – Work day turning into a bit of a nightmare? Wishing you could escape? Easy healthy cold lunch ideas for work like this one will take your tastebuds on an exotic journey that’ll make your next meeting just a smidge more bearable.
23. Dungeness Crab & Sweetpea Zoodle Salad (A Sprinkling of Cayenne) – Okay, this recipe requires a little more prep time (40 minutes) than some of the others, but trust me, it’s well worth the effort! I love how this recipe allows you to indulge in crab while still keeping things healthy by using “zoodles” (zucchini noodles).
24. Healthy Chicken Salad With Grapes, Apples and Tarragon-Yogurt Dressing (Two Healthy Kitchens) – Cold dinner ideas for work that put leftovers to good use are some of my fav! This gluten-free recipe can be made with leftover chicken.
25. BLT Egg Salad (Two Healthy Kitchens) – When it comes to cold lunch ideas for adults at work egg salad is a classic! However, that tried and true dish gets a delicious makeover in this recipe.
Tip: This recipe is also an excellent option for your next company (or family!) picnic.
26. Easy, Healthy Chicken Salad With Quinoa, Tomatoes, Lemon and Basil (Two Healthy Kitchens) – Standard chicken salad gets a modern makeover (without loosing the protein punch!) thanks to this tasty recipe.
Bonus: Never suffer through a boring brown bag meal again! Here are 13 more healthy brown bag lunch ideas.
27. Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad With No Mayonnaise (Low Carb Yum) – Chicken salad is a staple among cold lunch ideas for work; just look at how many versions are in this article! Unfortunately, many chicken salad recipes aren’t quite as healthy as we’d like thanks in part, to the addition of mayo. If you’re looking for ways to make your chicken salad recipes healthier, consider using avocados instead of mayo as in this tasty recipe.
28. Sweet Broccoli Salad Supreme With Cranberries & Bacon (Low Carb Yum) – Looking for cold lunch ideas for adults at work that are guilt free? Look no further! This recipe is low-carb, Paleo friendly, and has no added sugar. Yep, this is a lunch you can brag about at the gym… assuming you can find time to get there. 😉
29. Famous Crack Chicken Salad (My Heavenly Recipes) – Sometimes the simple things in life are the best. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at this recipe. The ingredients are super simple but the end product is amazingly good!
30. Watermelon Salad (Reuse Grow Enjoy) – Have leftover watermelon on hand? Don’t let it go to waste; rather, put it to use in cold lunches for work like this one. Not only does this recipe help you use up leftovers, it comes together in just 5 minutes!
31. ABC Cobb Salad Recipe: Avocado, Bacon and Corn (Mission to Save) – Here’s another of the cold lunch ideas for adults at work that allows you to use up leftovers (corn on the cob) as well as fresh produce from your garden or the local farmer’s market. Yum!
32. 5-Ingredient Thai Peanut Lo Mein Salad (Happy Deal – Happy Day!) – I love recipes like this one that don’t require me to spend hours at the grocery store searching for ingredients. Nope, this dish requires just 5 simple ingredients!
33. Summer Herbed Quinoa Salad (Gluten-Free, Vegan) (Recipes From A Pantry) – Ditch cold lunches for work ideas that call for you to dirty a sink full of dishes! Instead opt for simple recipes like this one. To pull this dish off all you need is a pot to cook the quinoa in, a cutting board, and a knife.
34. Roasted Carrot and Farro Salad With a Tahini Yogurt Dressing (Recipes From A Pantry) – Cold lunch ideas for adults at work don’t get much more colorful than this, but this recipe isn’t just a pretty face. Nope, it’s nutritious and quick, calling for just 10 minutes of prep time.
Tip: Make this recipe gluten-free by using quinoa in place of farro.
35. Harissa Spiced Chickpea Salad (Gluten-Free) (Recipes From A Pantry) – If you aren’t familiar with them, chickpeas are an easy way to add protein and fiber to any dish. When it comes to lunch, they’re a great option to give you energy and keep you feeling full all afternoon. 🙂
36. Bacon Red Bean Salad (Happy Foods Tube) – The red beans in this easy healthy cold lunch ideas for work are a win-win. They’re protein packed to give you an energy boost and have a high fiber content, so you’ll be able to resist the siren’s call of the vending machine!
37. Tuna White Bean Salad (Happy Foods Tube) – Of all the cold lunch ideas for adults at work in this article, this has got to be one of the fastest. You can have this dish ready to go in just 5 minutes! Yep, that includes prep and cook time. (Don’t worry, it’s also super yummy.)
Cold Lunch Ideas for Adults at Work: Sandwiches
38. Vegan Chickpea Mayonnaise Salad Sandwich (GF) (Rhian’s Recipe) – Sandwiches are practically synonymous with lunch, but sometimes they get a bad rep. I’ll admit, sandwiches can be unhealthy, but they don’t have to be. Meet this tasty chickpea salad sandwich: It’s vegan, gluten-free, protein-packed, hearty, and healthy!
39. Curried Black Eyed Pea Salad Sandwiches (Gluten-Free, Vegan) (Strength & Sunshine) – Have food allergies? No worries, there are still plenty of tasty cold dinner ideas for work you can chow down on. This particular recipe takes just 10 minutes and is free of the top 8 allergens (dairy, egg, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish).
40. The Ultimate Vegan BLT (Strength & Sunshine) – This is one of my favorite vegan cold lunch ideas for adults at work! You use smoky eggplant in place of bacon. Combine it with fresh tomatoes, zesty tahini mayo, and crusty bread and you’ve got a sandwich that is sure to be the envy of the office.
41. Caesar Salmon Sandwich (Hot Eats and Cool Reads) – Do you love a good Caesar salad? Then this recipe will be right up your alley! This recipe turns a Caesar salad into a tasty (and easy!) sandwich.
42. Tomato Basil Egg Salad Sandwich (Hot Eats and Cool Reads) – Here’s another twist on “traditional” egg salad that makes an awesome cold lunch idea for work. Keep this recipe healthy by opting for bread with high fiber content, using a low-carb wrap, or forgoing bread entirely and using Romain leaves.
More Cold Lunch Ideas for Adults at Work
43. Homemade “Go-Gurt” With Hidden Veggies (Freebie Finding Mom) – This is one lunch (or snack) that is great for parents and kids. Originally, I came up with this recipe as a way to trick my picky little eater into willingly consuming a vegetable; however, it’s actually really yummy and makes a great on-the-go option!
44. Homemade Sweet Potato and Kale Veggie Chips (Freebie Finding Mom) – Potato chips are a staple of many cold lunches for work, but they aren’t exactly healthy. Kick the nutritional content up a bit by swapping potato chips for veggie chips like these sweet potato and kale chips! 🙂
45. Mexican Buddha Bowl (Mommy Musings) – Craving Mexican? Then this cold lunch idea for adults at work is sure to hit the spot! This super simple recipe is a great way to celebrate Taco Tuesday.
46. Vegan Sunflower Wrap (Trial and Eater) – Sunflower hummus gives this dish a unique flavor you won’t soon forget. You use collard greens as the “wrap” instead of bread which makes this lunch option even healthier.
47. Buffalo Tahini Quinoa & Rice Wraps (Strength & Sunshine) – This article is filled with easy healthy cold lunch ideas for work but here’s one that really stands out! It takes just 5 minutes to make, is gluten-free, top 8 allergen-free, and can be made in advance and frozen!
48. Grilled Green Goddess Wraps (Strength & Sunshine) – Need cold lunch ideas for adults at work that can be made in a flash? You’re in the right spot with this recipe! It takes just 4 minutes.
49. Low-Carb Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps With Capers and Tomatoes (Kalyn’s Kitchen) – Need a diet friendly lunch option? No problem! These tasty wraps are low-carb, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and can be made Paleo friendly and Whole 30 approved by opting for a different mayo.
50. Low Carb Roast Beef Lettuce Wraps (Adventures of Mel) – Copycat cold dinner ideas for work are a great way to feel like you’re treating yourself to a meal out without breaking your budget. This particular recipe is a copycat of a Jimmy Johns’ sandwich.
51. Granola Crunch Apple-Peanut Butter Sandwich Wraps (Two Healthy Kitchens) – PB&J gets a grownup makeover in this cold lunch idea for adults at work! Seriously, one bite and you’ll remember why you loved PB&J sandwiches as a kid. 🙂
52. Easy Appetizer Pinwheels Recipe (Mission to Save) – This recipe is so easy to customize that you can really use whatever ingredients you have on hand. Mix and match different meats, cheeses, and veggies to get some really yummy out-of-the-lunchbox combos.
Tip: This recipe is also great for parties and office carry-ins.
53. Butter Roasted Split Pea Power Bowl (Happy Foods Tube) – Got a big presentation coming up? Opt for cold lunch ideas for adults at work that’ll give you the energy to power through! This particular recipe is packed full of protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients that’ll help you be your best!
Whew! I’m stuffed, but if you’ve got room for more, here are an additional 25 healthy cold lunch ideas to sink your teeth into.
Do you know of other out-of-this-world cold lunch ideas for adults at work? Please share your favs in the comments!