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7 Grocery Store Shortcuts for Fast, Easy Lunches

By Aly Walansky and Jess Novak
May 29, 2024

On days that are just way too busy, even the thought of making lunch feels stressful — but ordering out for a sad desk salad is just too depressing (and not the most budget friendly, either). In the middle of the workday, we usually don’t have time to prep and cook a whole meal, and we really don’t want to make a habit of ordering takeout. The solution: Shortcut items we can pick up during our regular grocery store run to help us whip up easy lunches in a flash. We perused the aisles to bring you some of the best options.

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1. Pre-made bean dishes over cauliflower rice 

Zap some frozen prepped cauliflower rice, and top it with a pre-made bean dish, and a healthy, filling lunch is served. Here are some we like:

2. Toppings from the fridge on a ready-to-eat quinoa bowl

Create your own grain bowl on the fly with Kitchen & Love Cooked Red & White Quinoa Cups. You don’t even have to add water, just open up a cup, add toppings, and enjoy easy lunches in a flash. Heat up a cup, or eat it cold. Grab whatever’s in the fridge to top it off: Leftovers from dinner, a bunch of stray veggies, some sliced deli meat. Or make some quick poached eggs. Drizzle with any dressing or sauce you have on hand, and sprinkle with nuts or seeds for crunch.

3. Mini mezze platter

Brands vary by region, but in the deli section of most grocery stores, you can find premade tabbouleh, chickpea salad, hummus, and baba ganoush. Pick up a package of feta and some olives, too. Throw these together on a plate with some pre-cut vegetables for dipping, and you’ve got a delicious, plant-forward lunch that takes the same amount of time to make as a sandwich — but it’s healthier and more exciting. Be sure to read the labels and choose options made with extra virgin olive oil rather than canola or sunflower oil. 

4. Healthier roll-ups 

We love these egg white-based wraps from Egglife as a swap for tortillas, and you can wrap anything you like in them. They’re made with just a few wholesome ingredients, have just 25 calories, and each gives you 5 grams of protein with no carbs. Zap a few in the microwave and fill with any sandwich fillings: BLT, sliced turkey and cheese, tuna salad — or make them into quick quesadillas. Serve with a pre-made salad kit or just some cut-up veggies, and you’ve got a delicious, easy lunch. 

5. DIY “protein box” 

Skip the overpriced Starbucks packs and assemble your own protein box for lunch at home. Fill your plate with pre-made options, such as hardboiled eggs, goat cheese, sliced vegetables, roasted almonds, and a piece of fruit

Apple slices, celery sticks, cheddar cheese, whole-grain crackers, and nuts are a timeless combination, too. “I’ll often have some combination of these and add a side of dark chocolate when I feel like it,” says dietitian Jenna Volpe. “They hit all the food groups and go great together. Depending on the portions of each food, this combo can serve as either a meal or a snack.” 

6. English muffin pizzas 

Nostalgia alert: If you enjoyed frozen pizza bagel bites as a kid, you’ll love this option. “Top whole grain English muffin halves with pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, and broil in the oven or toaster oven for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese is melted,” says dietitian Mia Syn. “Mozzarella is a lower-fat cheese that provides protein and key nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.”

For toppings, use pre-sliced mushrooms, bell peppers, a handful of baby spinach, and/or black olives. But if pizza just isn’t pizza without pepperoni for you (and you want some more protein), try Applegate Natural Uncured Turkey Pepperoni, made without added nitrites, nitrates, antibiotics, or hormones. 

7. Rotisserie chicken salad

Salad is often go-to when it comes to easy lunches, but it can be a snooze, or not satisfying enough. Topping your bowl with flavorful chicken can make all the difference. Grab a rotisserie bird during your regular grocery store run, and as soon as you get home, pull off the meat, chop it up, and portion it. Mix some into a traditional chicken salad, or just top off whatever your favorite mix of greens is with slices of chicken. Add some hummus for additional protein and fiber, drizzle on your favorite dressing, and you’re good to go.

Read next: 7 Ready-to-Eat Healthy Lunches You Can Grab at Grocery Chains

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.

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