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When I first started meal planning, I only planned out dinners for the week. And even though we saw a decrease in the cost of groceries by organising our meals, the game changed when I started planning breakfast and lunches, too. Suddenly, we saw a huge drop in our weekly food spends. Previously, I bought lots of vague possibilities for breakfasts and lunches, which would then sit, unused, in the cupboard, to wait out their ‘use by’ date before being chucked out when I had a clear out. I might as well have chucked my money in the bin. And more often than not, I grabbed lunch on the go. But when I started to plan out what we were eating, that wasted money stayed in my bank account, and it went towards wiping out our debt.
A decrease in your budgeted food spends isn’t the only benefit of prepping lunch in advance for the week. You swap two or three hours on a designated day to prep for the week plus clean up, store everything in ready-to-go containers, and that’s lunch taken care of. Then you just need to grab a container when you’re ready to eat, rather than prepping and cleaning up every single day. So you get back a ton of time and energy, too.
This cajun chicken quinoa salad is fresh, tasty and comes in at £8.86 for the full recipe. That works out £1.27 per portion. Each portion is really filling and satisfying, and ready to eat for lunch on the go. If you are spending money every day on meal deals, prepackaged sandwiches and salads, try this recipe instead! You’ll see a huge saving week on week. For example, swapping a £4 meal deal for my budget cajun chicken quinoa salad for a week works out at nearly £20 cheaper every week. Over the course of a year of swapping meal deals for pre-prepped lunches like this, you could save a massive £1000!
When I started paying off my debt, I would roast chickens like nobody’s business. Previously, I bought a lot of chicken breasts, which are hugely expensive compared to a whole chicken. So now I prep a whole chicken instead, for a tastier and much cheaper swap. While it’s roasting, I get on with prepping the rest of my ingredients. By the time the chicken is ready, I’m ready to start assembling my meals. With my budget cajun chicken quinoa salad, that’s exactly how this recipe can be prepared in about two hours.
As for the salad, I’ve used my favourite bits and pieces, and you should, too. I’ve detailed the vegetable ingredients in mine below, but use whatever you already have in the fridge. If you’ve bought vegetables for other meals that you haven’t used in full, chop them up and put them in. Use them up! The beauty of this lunch is that the ingredients can be very versatile and therefore, budget friendly.
Here’s the recipe, or continue to scroll to download the recipe card.
1 whole chicken
2 tbsp cajun seasoning
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil (I use Asda own brand vegetable oil, which is currently 100% rapeseed oil and therefore, a total bargain)
400g quinoa (dry weight), plus enough boiling water to cook according to the packet instructions (I used 1.6l)
A handful of dried apricots
1/3 head of raw brocolli
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
400g natural yoghurt (optional)
3 lemons, juiced (optional)
Chilli flakes, to serve (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Prepare the chicken for roasting by mixing the cajun spices with the vegetable oil and rubbing over the chicken. Roast the chicken in the oven for around one to one and a half hours, until the chicken is cooked, the skin is crispy and juices run clear.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Put the quinoa into a sieve (check to ensure that the quinoa can’t escape through the sieve as the grains are really small!) and wash under cold water for a few minutes until the water runs clear, to get rid of the bitterness. Then put the quinoa into a pot, sprinkle a little salt over it, and top it up with the boiling water. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil on the highest setting of the stove. Once the water is starting to bubble and rise, turn down to a medium heat and allow to simmer. In total, the quinoa should cook for around 20 minutes, until it absorbs all of the water. Remove from the heat when cooked.
Prep the veg by chopping everything into small pieces and putting into a bowl. The bowl needs to be large enough to add the quinoa when cooked.
To make a light dressing for the dish, use the optional ingredients above (the cajun chicken quinoa salad is good with or without it!). Whisk the juice of three lemons, plus the chilli flakes, into natural yoghurt, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
When the quinoa has cooled slightly, add it to the vegetable mix and incorporate thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
When the chicken has cooked and has had time to cool a little, remove the meat from the bones. Chop and shred the meat into little pieces, retaining the skin to give your salad some crisp and spice.
And you are now ready to assemble your cajun chicken quinoa salad boxes. Start by layering in the vegetable quinoa mix, and then top with chunks of chicken. If you are serving it with dressing, drizzle the dressing over the salad before serving (if you are grabbing a box of this for lunch on your way to work in the morning, add the dressing before you leave the house and it will be absolutely fine).
And there you have it- a healthy, tasty lunch prepped for the week! My click and store tupperware is available here. This is the lightest and most compact tupperware I’ve ever used, and it’s microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe, too. The pot I’ve used to store the yoghurt dressing is available at Tesco, but you can always use the yoghurt pot that the yoghurt came in, as long as it comes with an airtight lid. A recycled jar works great, too.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried this recipe and what vegetables you think would work well in this salad. Let’s share some ideas!