There are lots of stressful things about the current economic recession, but there are also a lot of positive areas – like a return to a simpler lifestyle. For one, brown bagging seems to be back in style.
Packing your lunch to work is not a new concept. Before the days of prosperity where having lunch out was considered the “norm” and brown-baggers were losers, people understood the economics of preparing food at home.
While the fiscal analysis varies from “expert” to “expert,” you can wrap your head around the concept pretty quickly just by considering a single day of your working life, what you spend on an average lunch ($10? $15? $40?) and the cost for preparing something at home ($5? $3?, etc.). You get the idea – just multiply by 250 to find your yearly savings. Whoa. 🙂
Even with brown-bagging being “cool” again, there are people failing to jump on board, not because of embarrassment, but because of boredom and a lack of enthusiasm. They simply don’t want to eat the same thing day in and day out, and it’s a chore to prepare meals in the morning.
So for you – I have a list of things you can do to make packing lunch more efficient, more enjoyable, much easier, and way more fun!
- Sit down for an hour today and create a list of 5-10 lunches that would be enjoyable to eat and relatively easy to prepare. Make sure you have the ingredients for at least 5 of these on hand at all times.
- When making dinner, prepare extra portions for the following day. Most of the time, re-heated leftovers still taste way better than anything you can prepare cold while at work.
- Prepare as much of your lunch as possible the night before or earlier. Most mornings are too hectic to throw things together, and you’ll just end up frustrating yourself. If you do need to prep in the morning, make sure you set aside time in your routine to do so.
- Prepare individually-packed servings of snack foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. Do it once a week, and just take another bag each day!
- It’s no fun to eat anything soggy and moist for lunch. To prevent this, simply pack all your wet items, like sliced tomatoes, in a separate bag, and add them just before enjoying your meal.
- If a microwave is your only available heat source at work, keep that in mind when bringing foods meant to be re-heated. Some things taste great coming out of the microwave – and some don’t. A lot of this is personal preference (for example, I can’t eat anything doughy – like pizzas and breads, prepared in the microwave).
- If a stove top is available at work (some offices have full-service kitchens), consider doing all of your prep work at home and bringing a ready-to-cook kit of parts with you. For ease of preparation and cleanup, make sure everything can be cooked in one skillet or pan.
- Visit websites like Food Network and Epicurious to discover new recipies and try them out once in a while to break up the monotony of your “regular” lunches.
- Use ingredients with color to make your food stand out and to give it a playful character. Not to mention that most high-color components are also rich in vitamins!
- Try mix-and-matching ingredients to achieve unexpected results and add a little variety.
- Add a different piece of fresh fruit to your brown bag lunch every day. Not only will you get a little more “food volume,” but a load of vitamins as well!
- Get your whole family in on the deal! Have your kids prepare a portion of the meal, or your spouse cut up ingredients.
- Give each lunch day a theme – for example, Tuesdays can be Italian day, Wednesdays are sandwich days, Thursdays are leftovers, etc… It will also make it easier to think of what to prepare.
- Change the location of where you eat lunch. Don’t eat at your desk – get out of the office and sit at the park or head down to a place you’ve never stopped to look at. It’s very refreshing.
Now that you know how to create quick, easy, and fun meals, you have no excuse for going out to lunch every single day!
How about you? Do you have other ideas for making brown bagging more enjoyable? Share them in the comments.
9 thoughts on “Make Brown-Bagging Efficient and Fun”
Even if you don’t like to make lunch, it is usually cheaper to buy stuff that you can microwave from Kroger or Walmart than it is to buy lunch from a restaurant.
I agree – on some days I won’t have time to prepare lunch, but I’ll still be able to get a nice big sandwich from the local supermarket on the cheap and most importantly – way better than anything from Subway.
My husband would never make his lunches and I’m just not that organized to do it for him. But, I do buy him frozen lunches from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They both have quite a few really good options for $4 and less. He mixes this with also taking leftovers and then the occasional dining out.
When I worked, I preferred to take my lunch. I would eat it at my desk, then put on my walking shoes and head out door. I loved to spend the majority of my lunchtime walking outside to get some exercise and time in the fresh air!
My workplace used to be on a really nice, urban Florida street with lots of foot traffic and people to interact with. Unfortunately, we moved to a nicer building but are now in the middle of an office park, so walking around is not all that pleasant.
A good site to check out is http://www.5dollardinners.com/. Technically, a site for dinners, but you can definitely use these for lunches or left-overs.
Blog looks awesome. Thanks for sharing that tip!
I have become a big fan of brown-bagging. Not only does it save me money, but I also know what I am eating. Besides, I’d like to think that my wife and I are pretty good cooks. I enjoy my own cooking quite a bit. Why not brown-bag our own food then?
I think that’s precisely why many parents are choosing to brown-bag for their kids. Thinking back to my own school lunches served in the cafeteria, they weren’t the healthiest choices of food.
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