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you CAN pack lunch

December 11th, 2006 at 02:28 pm

I have a friend who complains bitterly about the quality of food served in our cafeteria (aren't we lucky to have one?) and not having any money. I finally told him that there's an easy remedy to both problems - pack lunch. But - it's too much work! I don't have time! I don't know how!

Look, it may be hard at first, but it packing lunch can become second nature, just like anything else. I've packed lunch nearly every day I've worked in the past five years. It normally takes me about 5 minutes to pack my lunch in the morning.

~ Eat breakfast before you walk out of the house. I spend 5 minutes cooking and eating my bowl of oatmeal every morning, and it keeps me going until my 10:30 snack.

~ Always have lots of snacks on hand, stuff you can quickly grab-and-go: apples, bananas, grapes, pears, oranges, yogurt, granola bars, mini V-8 cans, string cheese, chocolate, pretzel rods, raisin boxes, crackers, etc.

~ If you cook dinner (and you should be, if you're trying to save money and your waistline), make things that create leftovers. After dinner, pop what you've made into individual microwavable containers, and slide them into the fridge (or freezer). In the morning, grab one of these containers, a few of your snack options, and viola! Food for the day.

~ If you eat dinner out, and you can't eat it all, box up the rest for lunch the next day.

~ Keep non-perishable goods in your desk drawer. I've got a jar of peanut butter, a variety of tea bags, and some ketchup/salt/pepper packets. Sometimes a simple tablespoon of peanut butter keeps me going until lunch. If you just can't eat breakfast at home, bring a box of shredded wheat to work and tuck it into your desk drawer. I'd keep a bag of chocolate there too, if I could keep my hand out of it.

~ Make lunch the night before. If you're having burritos for dinner, fold up an extra one and wrap it in plastic wrap or foil. Toss it in your lunch bag with a snack or two and a beverage, and place the whole thing in the fridge so you won't miss it the next day.

~ Buy frozen meals on sale and with a coupon. Stock your freezer for the inevitable no-food-in-the-fridge mornings. Just be careful not to rely too heavily on them!

Any other lunchtime tips and tricks? I know I've saved tons of money over the years by packing my own lunch.

7 Responses to “you CAN pack lunch”

  1. threebeansalad Says:

    Nice post. My lunch is ALWAYS leftovers from the previous night's dinner. On the rare occasaion I don't cook or there aren't leftovers, I bring a veggie burger sandwich or a can of soup. Recently I bought Progresso canned soups on sale for $ 0.50 / can. Each can is 200 kcal (perfect lunch portion) and has a pop off lid so oyou don't even need a can opener. Last night there weren't any leftovers, so I through a can of soup in my bag for lunch today. Another tip is to keep fork / knife and bowl in the desk drawer.

  2. mairgrif Says:

    Easy lunches - soups, leftovers, make a bunch of egg or tuna salad and make sandwiches in the morning, or take the salad and a loaf of bread to work and make them there, or get lunch meats and take them and bread with you to work. I have a friend who does this with some coworkers - they rotate who buys each week.

    My mother has been working for the better part of the past 30 years, and has never eaten lunch bought at the cafeteria. She goes out or orders in from time to time, but generally brings lunch with her.

    OH, and I keep utensils and some disposable cups and bowls in my desk, as well as hot chocolate and oatmeal packets.

  3. JanH Says:

    Such great ideas from all! I eat at home, but these are good ideas for quick lunches then, too.

  4. paigu Says:

    About those frozen dinners; when did they become so popular!?!? It seems almost every single woman (not me, though) brings in one of those Lean Cuisines or Red Box brand and stacks them up in the freezers at work. One entire fridge's freezer is dedicated to them (the men ruefully refer to it as the "woman's fridge").
    Back to your post; it helps if the company has free hot water dispenser. I not only can have tea all day long (I keep a thermos and tea bags at my desk) but I can also make instant oatmeal or ramen noodles (oooh bad) for lunch. The line for the microwave is always too long..
    By the way, your namesake- Kashi- good cereals and crackers =)

  5. baselle Says:

    Energy bars in my drawer. Odwallas or Clif bars, which I get on sale for .79 -.99/each. Okay, the .99/bar was from Whole Paycheck, so I still think I'm getting a deal.

    I also keep some instant miso/wakame soup packets. Love the free hot water dispenser.

    I'm the original non-lunch packer, so really my tips are really for stretching a lunch - the half way point between packing a lunch and buying a lunch everyday. Does this person depend on the cafeteria/vending machines or do they know all the places around to eat? If there are places, then...

    A sub shop with a good specials on footlong subs - buy the footlong, eat 1/2 one day, 1/2 the other.

    If your office is near a grocery store, grazing from the deli might not be cheaper than the cafeteria, but is probably cheaper than a restaurant.

    The trick might be to figure out what you like to eat, then find cheaper and cheaper ways to procure it.

  6. PRICEPLUS Says:

    Lunch from home is always best. You can pack a nice meal for not a lot of money. Leftovers are one source but you can be creative.

  7. jriessel Says:

    I pack my lunch nearly every day. Most of the time it is leftovers from the night before - While cleaning up after our meal I put the leftovers in single serve containers. This helps me in the morning so much - I just grab and go. I have a few cans of soup I keep on hand just in case I don't have any leftovers from the night before.

    I also cook a big batch of soup every weekend during the winter. We eat it for a lunch and then I portion the rest of the soup into single serve containers and throw them in the freezer. My hubby is the one that usually grabs these - he likes the variety so he doesn't have to eat the same soup every day.

    I normally do not eat breakfast in the morning - I have to get two little ones ready and out the door in time so I just plan on eating breakfast at work to cut down on the morning crazyness. We have a toaster in the breakroom - so normally I just bring a few slices of bread or english muffin with peanut butter. I also use the hot water dispenser for oatmeal occasionally.

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