The New Brown Bag

LunchIt is a well-known fact that the one of the greatest detriments to keeping a budget on track is eating out. Specifically, electing to brown-bag it at lunch time is a sure-fire way to trim a significant amount off of monthly spending, and often provides a number of healthier choices as well.  However, packing a lunch requires planning and a little creativity.

Re-invent the Sandwich

Does the thought of staring down twin pieces of bread may you cringe and head straight for the food court?  There are many tasty options that are portable and as easy to make as a sandwich. Consider a wrap or a pita, with fresh veggies tossed in vinaigrette, or even a little olive oil and seasoning, with sliced meat, cheeses or nuts (or all three). Fresh, crunchy, tasty, cheap!

BYO Salad Bar

Are you a serial salad bar visitor, simply because you like the options to choose whatever moves you to don your plate? You can offer yourself much of the same homemade selection, simply by packing it, bringing it with you and assembling it midday. Pack multiple small containers, with fresh items (cycling through like a real salad bar), that offers you lunch with options at a fraction of the cost.

Plan for Leftovers

When you set your menu out for the week, include enough portions to either bring and re-heat for lunch the next day, or make dishes that can be re-invented the next day with a little ingenuity.  For instance: roast two small fryer chickens. Feed the family the first one and then shred the leftovers for use in sandwiches or as a salad topping.

Sass up the Soup

Soup is an excellent, healthy way to get your midday meal in. Many homemade soups involve lots of hearty ingredients (lentils, sweet potatoes, beans and meat, fresh herbs and spice) and make a substantial amount. Consider freezing different kinds of soup in single-serve containers for variety. Keep little extras on hand, like grated cheese or green onions that lend a little extra flavour.

Increase your Menu Options

Remember in school when you are your buddy would compare contents of your lunch and offer to trade? The theory still stands as an adult, but with a deliberate edge. Organize pot luck on a regular day at work to expand your menu selections, while keeping costs and preparation time to a minimum. Have themes or special food focus like ethnic foods, seasonal foods or a specific food type (i.e. finger foods, soups, salads, cold or hot foods).