Friday, March 9, 2012

Tips for brown-bagging your lunch

With always trying to save money, I've been brown-bagging my lunch for years & years.  (By "brown-bagging" I of course mean re-usable lunch box-bagging.  Haha!)  

I've been at my job for 5 years, and I've never once seen my boss bring his lunch to work.  I started to wonder - is it because he just really likes to eat out?  Or is it because he thinks it takes too much time to make & bring a lunch?  

Well, if it's the latter, I'm happy to say that it does NOT take a lot of time to do!  Sure, sometimes I get motivated and take my time with what I make, but most of the time I like for it to be quick & easy.  Here are some tips that I hope will assist you in your lunch-bringing endeavors!  

Bringing your lunch to work with you is SO easy, and I'm surprised that more people don't do it.  Usually your meal will be healthier than eating out, cheaper, and in the correct portion size for a meal.  It just takes a little planning ahead (sometimes none at all), and a little creativity!

Get a good reusable lunch bag, and some good glass storage containers. 
This is my lunch bag.  I bought it at Ross for about $8.  It holds my morning snack, my lunch, and my afternoon snack - and I LOVE IT.

Find a fun & stylish lunch bag that you'd be happy to use every day.  Even if you bike to work a lot (which I do), my lunch bag is still small and squishy enough to fit into my backpack.  Find one that's sturdy yet flexible, that zips closed everywhere so that nothing will fall out. 

Also, get yourself some really good tupperware.  I prefer the Glasslock kinds (click here to find some on Amazon).  You can find them at grocery stores, but you can also get them super discounted at Ross or TJ Maxx in the houseware sections. Be sure to get them in a few different sizes (small, medium, large). 

Glass containers are SO MUCH BETTER than regular plastic tupperware because they don't retain any flavor, they are heavy-duty (they don't break very easily, trust me), I've never had a problem with them leaking or spilling (they get a very tight seal, unlike plastic ones that can warp & make the lids not fit well), and they don't leach icky toxins into your food when you microwave them.  Really, they win my vote all around! 

Make that dinner bigger. 
I know that probably sounds like bad advice, but it's really not!  What I mean is - make that dinner bigger so that you can take the leftovers to work the next day!  Double the recipe if you need to, and just plain make more.  When putting away the leftovers, separate the food into smaller single-serving containers so that you can just grab it & go the next day (rather than go into a larger container & separate it the next day).  

Make snack-bags ahead of time. 
Use ziplock baggies or your small glassware container, and make 5 servings of snacks.  For a quick trail mix, throw some dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips into a large bowl & mix it all up.  Divide it into your serving sizes, and you have a quick snack to throw in your lunch box!

Another favorite snack of mine is popcorn.  I'll make a big batch of it the night before work, and divide it into smaller containers (I stove-pop mine, but you can do this with microwave popcorn too so that you don't end up eating an entire bag at work).  Add a handful of dried cranberries or raisins for a pop of flavor! 

Having easy-to-eat fruit on hand is great too - such as bananas, satsuma oranges, or apples.  They're super easy to grab when you're on the go. 

OR - on Sunday night, make a batch of Powerballs and pop them in your freezer.  When you're leaving for the day, grab one & wrap it in plastic wrap.  Pop it into your work fridge (or just put your whole lunchbox in the fridge), and it'll be ready to go by snack time!  One batch will last you all week (if not longer).

Ramen will save your butt in a pinch. 
I know it's not the healthiest thing on the planet, but I know it's better than running out for a hamburger.  Keep a stash of Ramen Noodles in your cupboard (I think a 6-pack goes for about $3 at the grocery store, or less), and grab a pack when you're REALLY running out the door.  

I like to pack a bowl & a fork in my lunch box along with the Ramen packet.  For a healthier meal, shove a handful of spinach into a baggie on your way out, or even some fresh or frozen broccoli, or some frozen peas.

Just put the Ramen into your bowl when you're ready for lunch, and add the veggie you brought with you.  Sprinkle on the seasoning packet (only use half to cut back on sodium - trust me, it's more than enough), and fill to the brim with water.  Put it in the microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir well, then microwave for another minute or two if need be.  Let it cool for a minute before eating. 

Make enough lunch for two. 
Let's say one morning you get up early enough to take your time making your lunch.  Why not make it big enough to equal TWO lunches, then save one for a day you're running late?  This is super easy to do with salads since you already have all the ingredients out to chop anyway!  

Make some base ingredients as meal starters. 
Some great bases for lunches are brown rice, quinoa, baked potatoes, and whole wheat pasta.  Make a lot of any of these things on a Sunday night and put them in a container in the fridge for an easy starter for your meals.  

Brown Rice topped with quickly seared veggies & soy sauce. 
Or I'll dump some into a container & top it with lettuce, avocado, olives, red onion, tomatoes,  & beans.  I'll use a little container for some ranch dressing (plus a splash of hot sauce), and have myself a Mexican salad / naked burrito!

Quinoa is great with just about anything.  I love it mixed in with salads, or topped with a large serving of broccoli and some salt & pepper.  It's so good with a layer of roasted beets on top too!  Or dump a 1/2 a can of chili on top, some fresh tomatoes, fake meat crumbles, and some vegan cheese - then microwave until warm when you get to work. 

Whole Wheat Pasta can be topped with some marinara sauce and crumbled veggie sausage, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  Or mix in some mashed sweet potatoes and top with a pad of butter (sooo yummy).  

Baked Potatoes are great with anything too.  Top with some broccoli & cheddar cheese, then warm it up when you get to work.  These are awesome topped with chili too!  Sautee up some zucchini & onion as toppings too.  I even like to dice up a baked potato & put it on my salads for a heartier meal. 

That's about all I have for now!  :)  I hope they help you with some ideas, and that they get you on the right track to bringing your lunch with you to work.  It will save you money, AND keep you healthier.  I promise! 

OH, and just for fun (and because it's Friday), here's a super cool music video.  It made me giggle, and I love the song too!  ENJOY! :) 


Mikhael Paskalev - I spy from André Chocron on Vimeo.

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