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Brown Bag Lunches

Brown Bag Lunches

Even if you’ve been brown bagging for years, here are some good ideas for saving money while eating well.

By FamilyTime

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When you consider the price of a deli sandwich, or even how much it costs to buy a bowl of soup from the company cafeteria, bringing your lunch to work makes good sense. If you can save $10, $15 or $20 a week, and do so consistently, you will notice the difference in your wallet sooner than you might imagine.

Many workplaces provide refrigerators and microwaves for employees, both of which allow flexibility when it comes to deciding what to pack in brown bags. If you can heat up a serving of last night’s casserole or keep a tuna salad sandwich chilled, lunch is easy to handle.

If your workplace doesn’t have such luxuries — or if your job takes you on the road most of the time — invest in a small cooler or lunch bag fitted for frozen cold packs. This way you can keep salads and sandwiches cold. To keep hot foods hot, buy a few high-quality thermos containers.

The Leftover Solution
You may be someone who loves leftovers, which is great. Last night’s dinner makes a tasty lunch. Pack the stew, casserole, or piece of chicken in a microwave-safe container with a tight-fitting lid. Include some sauce or gravy, if there is any; otherwise, add a little water before you reheat your lunch. Keep the food in the ‘fridge until it’s time to eat.

For the super organized, make a stretch-able dish on Sunday afternoon and eat it several times during the coming week, both for supper and for brown bag lunches. This dish could be a stew, pasta casserole, rice and beans, or baked chicken with sauce. Think about what you like well enough to eat several times in a row.

Same Old, Same Old
Of course, not everyone has leftovers every day. Take-out pizza might have been dinner the night before. Or you may not like leftovers (there are people who don’t!).

If you fall into these categories, think about what you like to eat for lunch. Are you a sandwich person? Prefer salads? How about nibbling on cheese and crackers?

Most likely, you are happy with all of the above.

Planning ahead is the key to satisfying lunches, which means buying cold cuts from the deli counter at the supermarket, stocking up on salad mixes and their fixings, and packing the cheese drawer in your refrigerator with some tasty cheeses.

Don’t forget about the foodstuffs that round out the meal: the right bread for sandwiches; good salad dressings; and baguettes or quality crackers to make the cheese sing. Pickles and olives complete lunch deliciously.

Fresh fruit is a terrific addition to a brown bag lunch, so buy fruit you especially like. Apples, grapes, bananas, and plums are good choices, but don’t shy away from peaches and berries. Citrus fruit is always welcome, especially in the wintertime.

If you are not worried about your waistline, toss in a few cookies, a small piece of cake, or a candy bar. You’ll save money buying these in the supermarket rather than finding yourself at the vending machines in the middle of a long afternoon.

The Right Stuff
While brown bagging saves money, don’t skimp when you buy the equipment that will make your lunches easy to transport and eat. This means a well insulated lunch bag that is not too bulky to carry on the subway, bus, or carpool. Even if you drive yourself to work, it’s selfish to stuff an oversized lunch bag into the shared refrigerator.

Invest in some sturdy plastic containers. Manufacturers have made brown bagging easy: There are containers just the right size for a sandwich and others with a reservoir for salad dressing that can be tossed with the greens at the last minute.

Make sure those you buy are easy to wash in the dishwasher, have tight-fitting lids, and won’t “melt” in the microwave. Buy more than one or two sets of these containers; you will happy you have them.

For hot food, stock up on thermoses of varying sizes. Hot soup travels well in a tall thermos, but a stew might do better in a wide, shallow one. It’s certainly easier to eat from one. Use your common sense.

Finally, buy extra blue cold packs and keep them in the freezer. These are easy to misplace and yet seem to be needed just when you can’t find one.

Let’s do lunch!

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Tagged With: brown bag, lunch, sandwiches, office, workplace

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