With the recession being felt in full force now all across the country, people have begun to take a closer look at their consuming habits and making steps to cut back costs in any way possible. One strategy people have started warming up to again is the brown bag lunch. Spending $10-15 every day of the week on buying lunch at work can add up rather quickly and so weve put together a guide that will help reacquaint you with that old childhood lunch box upgraded for the working class man and woman.
Tricks of the Trade
Anybody can throw together a cold egg-salad sandwich and some celery, but who wants to sit alone at a desk eating a miserable meal while your coworkers hit up the local Chinese restaurant? The trick to bringing a lunch to work is making a variety of tasty options that wont leave you bored and resentful after your first week of brown-bagging it. Fortunately for you, there are a wealth of options that will not only make lunch a pleasure, but will also leave your coworkers jealous of your healthy and cost-saving meal.
The first step to take is investing in the right containers and utensils. Replace that plastic bag with a Tupperware container and buy a thermos for soups. Also purchase plastic utensils that you can either pack in your lunch or keep in desk drawer at work. In addition to keeping utensils at work, its a good idea to keep some of your favorite condiments at your office such as mustard, salt and pepper, ketchup and hot sauce as none of these require refrigeration.
If your office has a refrigerator, bring your own salad dressings, write your name on the bottle and store it in the fridge. Also, most offices have a microwave available but if they dont, just check your local corner stores or 7-11s as most will have one free for use.
Once youve got your tools ready, you can finally get to work on bringing your lunch to work!
Buying in Bulk
One of the biggest setbacks people face when attempting to make that step towards making your own lunches involve time-constraints. With family, work and leisure time all competing for your attention, not all of us can set aside 20 minutes every morning to make a tasty lunch. Thats why buying and cooking in bulk has become a popular and highly effective strategy for saving time and money.
When making dinners, cook more than needed so that you will have leftovers to use for the next several days. You would be surprised by how many foods can be tweaked to be made lunchbox friendly everything from roast beef to grilled salmon make for great meals the next day.
Another option is to make large stews or soups with the intention of freezing the leftovers to be microwaved back at work. A good way to do this is by placing the leftover soup into plastic bags and then freezing them in a cup so that they can stack easier. Then, when youre at work and feel the hunger, you just remove the plastic bag and place it in a bowl and microwave that sucker for a piping hot fresh soup!
Additionally, soups and stews are some of the only foods that actually get better with age as the ingredients settle together for a more flavorful food.
The Sandwich Solution
The first option you have is to put a twist on the classic sandwich. When deciding on what kind of sandwich to make, avoid recipes that could result in soggy bread or spoiled ingredients. Using a more hearty bread such as a baguette or a roll will keep your sandwich from falling apart and also add to the taste. And if your office lacks a refrigerator, avoid using condiments such as mayonaisse or butter as these ingredients can go bad quickly and spoil a perfectly good sandwich plus, most of these add unnecessary calories and one of the biggest benefits to making your own lunch relates to health.
So whats the perfect office sandwich? One great recipe is the classic grilled chicken sandwich. Grilled chicken is great as you can make it for dinner one night and use the leftovers the next day to put on some bread resulting in one very tasty sandwich. Additionally, you can add your own variations to the dish including mozzarella, pesto sauce, tomatoes or lettuce to customize the dish to your liking.
Other satisfying sandwiches include tuna fish (light on the mayo), the classic deli, mozzarella and tomato, hummus and grilled portabella mushroom.
However, dont feel pressured into conforming to the standard bread-based sandwiches. Wraps and pitas are becoming more common alternatives for those looking to add variety to the standard sandwich.
This is the part where the right tools come in to play. Certain foods wont fit easy into a brown bag or thermos and to avoid getting caught in a soup and sandwich rut, get a hold of some Tupperware containers and watch the world of the business lunchbox open in front of your eyes!
Tupperware makes pastas, salads, rice dishes and other foods all fair game. Most leftovers will easily fit into the containers but some foods hold up better the next day then others.
For instance, salads that have already been mixed with dressing will become soggy and unappetizing by the next day. Additionally, certain cheese-heavy dishes like macaroni-and-cheese or pizza wont fare so well overnight in a refrigerator.
However, pasta with a light olive oil sauce, feta cheese and fresh tomatoes is an excellent example of a pasta that would be delicious the next day heated up or cold. Other dishes that stand up cold include chicken and salmon, as mentioned earlier, and they can be combined with rice or bread to add variety to the meals.
There are also a lot of cheap options for eating out if you must some of them even healthy! For instance, if you order right, Subway sandwiches can make a cheap healthy lunch. Make sure you get one of the five dollar footlongs if theyre available in your area; choose whole wheat bread if you can stomach it (I know, subway bread isnt that great); and dont cover your sandwich in tons of sauces. Food carts can also be inexpensive, and healthy depending on what kind of food youre getting, and if youre going to eat out, try to pick a self-service restaurant, like many buffets offer.
Bring In, Dine Out.
A less obvious but very rewarding reason to bring your lunch in to work is the ability to take it with you anywhere. Just because you brought your own lunch doesnt mean you cant step out on a nice day and enjoy it outside or drive to a nearby park with friends or coworkers. Even if you do decide to eat at your desk, use the time you saved by staying in the office to take a walk around the neighborhood or run some personal errands. Remember, its not just money that you waste eating out but also valuable time waiting for servers and splitting bills.
So take that final step and join the brown-bag revolution!
Do you have any tips or recipes for good brown-bag lunches? If so, leave your suggestions in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!