5 Cheap & Healthy Lunches That Require ZERO Cooking

Photographed by Eric Helgas.
I have a confession: I really love to cook. I find the idea of Sunday meal prep, midweek dinner making, and leftover layering to be soothing — okay fine I'll say it, I find it damn near cathartic. But I get that not everyone feels the same way. Because finding time to execute fresh meals at home is no easy feat, and sometimes we just don't want to deal. So what're the cooking-haters out there to do, aside from Seamless and office snack smorgasbords? To answer this question, I decided to take a trip back in time to my elementary school days — to the era of the no-cook lunch.
A no-cook lunch is exactly what it sounds like: A packed brown bag situation that consists of strictly things that don't require any actual cooking. You can whip it up in five minutes flat, no prep work required. Think a peanut butter and jelly sandwich paired with a side of crackers and an apple (my 2nd grade go-to). But since PB&Js don't exactly sound enticing to me these days, I had to up my recipe game.
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I started with a shopping list consisting of some basic essentials: vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains (find my full list, ahead). From there, I planned five separate lunches with ample ingredient overlap to ensure I only had to make one trip to the grocery store and to cut down on costs. Click through for five ideas that are completely customizable, fast, easy, healthy, and delicious enough to make me rethink my whole love affair with cooking (or at least give me a enough reason to take a break from Sunday meal prep once in a while).
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Bistro Box
Inspired by the Starbucks' fan fave, a bistro box can consist of any deconstructed salad or sandwich. Think grains, greens, a spread (try going Greek with a tzatziki or Mexican with some guac), and any additional protein (I went with almonds here, but you could also sub in a cheese).

Ingredients
1 whole wheat pita, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/4 cucumber, sliced
3-4 tbsp hummus, heaping
Handful of almonds (or other nut/seed of choice)
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Turkey & Avocado Chopped "Salad"
A chopped salad is a no-cook staple — regardless of your specific tastes in flavor profiles, going with any green, cheese, nut/seed, meat (or not), and dressing of choice makes for a quick and hearty packed lunch on the fly.

Ingredients
1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
4 turkey breast slices, shredded
Half avocado, diced
1-2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
1-2 tbsp walnuts (or other nut/seed of choice), crumbled
1-2 tbsp dried cranberries (or other dried fruit of choice)
Salad dressing, optional
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Fresh Fruit & Veggie Rolls
Spring roll wrappers soaked in water are a fun way to package salad ingredients so that you can eat them on the go. I went with all-veggie and fruit rolls here, but the options are endlessly customizable to your particular tastes.

Fruit Roll Ingredients
2 spring roll wraps, soaked in water
1/4 cup mango, sliced
1/4 strawberries, sliced
1-2 tbsp mint leaves, roughly torn

Veggie Roll Ingredients
2 spring roll wraps, soaked in water
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup tofu, cubed
1-2 tbsp basil leaves, roughly torn
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Tofu Chopped Salad
Not all of us are meat eaters — so when in need of a veggie-friendly protein-packed option, tofu is a no-cook lunch's friend. Get creative with your dressing and toppings (I opted for a Sriracha whisked in olive oil combo).

Ingredients
Cup romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup tofu, cubed
2-3 tbsp peanuts (or cashews)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Olive oil
Sriracha, optional
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Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Buxton.
Avocado, Hummus, & Sprout Sandwich
For my final no-cook feat, I utilised all of my previously purchased ingredients and went with a veggie-friendly sandwich paired with a fresh fruit salad. My adult version a 2nd grade lunch? Perhaps.

Ingredients
Whole wheat pita, sliced in half
1/2 avocado, smashed
Handful of alfalfa sprouts
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
2-3 tbsp hummus
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
My No-Cook Shopping List
Find everything I needed for a week's worth of lunches, below.

1. Romaine Lettuce
2. Carrots
3. Cucumber
4. Nuts/seeds of choice
5. Feta
6. Dried cranberries (or other dried fruit of choice)
7. Avocados
8. Celery
9. Whole wheat pita
10. Hummus
11. Tofu
12. Spring roll wrappers
13. Strawberries & Mango (or other soft fruit of choice)
14. Sprouts
15. Sliced turkey (or other sliced meat of choice)

Pantry Ingredients
1. Olive oil
2. Sriracha
3. Store-bought salad dressing, optional
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Searching for more lunchtime hacks? Check out our favourite sweet potato avocado "toast" recipe.
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