Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lunches to Go: Keeping It Interesting

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s back to work I go!

That’s right, I recently returned to the work force after being a stay at home mom for the past six years. And you know what I learned? (Well besides the fact that moms on the clock deserve a lot of props!) Eating out every day is expensive!!

I was coming up with every excuse not to pack my lunch each morning. It took too much time…that extra fifteen minutes of sleep would really help later in the day. We didn’t have the right food in the house. I couldn’t bear the thought of another turkey sandwich. I don't want those leftovers. I was running late. I was out of sandwich baggies. I didn’t have the right “lunchbox.” (Yes, I actually used that one.)

And then I sat down and calculated how much I was spending each week: $25-35. Just on lunch for one person! And I only work four days a week. That means I would average $120 a month on my work lunches…more than I budget for an entire week’s worth of groceries and household items for my family of four. Surely, there must be another way.

So I decided to put myself to the test. I sat down and made a list of all the things I could pack in my brand new reusable lunch bag. (Yes, I actually bought a new one.) They are all things I can either make up ahead of time or put together quickly in the morning. I realized that not only did I spend literally a fraction of the cost, the lunches were enjoyable and I felt so much better eating real food instead of restaurant/fast food stuff every day. I’m sure I saved some calories too. Bonus!

Just in case there are others struggling with this dilemma, I wanted to share the little method I came up with. Not because I think it’s ingenious or anything, but because I know every penny saved in this economy is helpful. And sometimes it’s a heck of a lot easier to start when someone gives you a jumping off point to get you going.

First, I divided my list into three categories; breads, fillings, and sides. Next, I quickly jotted down my favorites for each one. Now all I have to do is choose one or two items from each category and add that to my weekly shopping list. Yours might be a bit different than mine, depending on what you like. But having a variety of your favorites will help your bagged lunch seem anything but boring!

-Multi-grain (I love the kind with little seeds or oatmeal on top)
-Whole wheat
-Bagels (plain, whole wheat, everything, etc)
-Sandwich thins
-Hard rolls

-Tuna salad
-Deli meat
-Tomato slices with mayo
-Egg salad
-Chicken salad
-Veggies with hummus
-Bacon, lettuce, tomato
-Grilled chicken
-Peanut butter and banana
-Peanut butter and jelly
-Peanut butter and honey

-Small salad
-Cup of soup
-Cucumber slices
-Baby carrots
-Frozen grapes
-Cottage cheese
-A pickle
-String cheese
-Cheddar cheese cubes
-Grape tomatoes
-Granola bars

You get the idea! Really, the list could go on and on. But separating it like this made it so simple!! I had everything I needed each morning, it was faster to assemble than I expected, and it provided me with enough variety that I haven't felt bored at all.

Got some of your own yummy ideas for “brown baggers” like me?? I’d love to hear them!!

Post submitted by Heather from


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