We all know in theory that brown bagging is a great way to save money and eat a bit healthier. However, for a lot of us, it’s hard to find the motivation and energy to pack a lunch, especially if it’s going to be the same old ham and cheese on wheat every day. Before long, we lose momentum and it’s back to eating burgers and subs five days a week.
If that sounds like you, here are some tips to help you pack an inexpensive lunch that will make you forget all about the allure of restaurant meals.
1. Get your kitchen organized. The easier it is for you to pack your lunch, the fewer excuses you’ll have for skipping it.
- Designate a cabinet or shelf for containers, bags and wraps, to-go cutlery (I only send the mismatched forks and spoons I don’t mind losing).
- Weed out any mismatched or damaged containers and lids.
- Make a point of keeping this area tidy and organized so that finding what you need is a breeze.
- Clean out your fridge to make it easy to find sandwich condiments and salad dressings and to have room for leftovers, yogurt, prepared fruit and vegetables and other easy to grab snacks. You’ll also want to keep a space available to store your lunch overnight if you prefer to pack it the night before.
- Keep a basket on a shelf in your pantry to store lunchbox snacks like granola bars, chips and crackers. You can portion out a week’s worth at a time in plastic bags – this is cheaper than buying individual servings and just about as easy.
- In general, having clear counters, sink and stove makes packing a lunch (and cooking) far less dreadful. If your kitchen tends to be on the messy side, de-cluttering can make a huge difference in how motivated you are to prepare food.
2. Go beyond lunch meat. Some people are happy eating the same deli meat and cheese sandwich every day while others need variety. Foods marketed especially for lunch can also be more expensive than starting from whole foods and processing it yourself.
- Instead of deli meat, try slicing up chicken, turkey, beef and pork that you’ve roasted yourself at home. Where I live, boneless, skinless chicken breast can often be found on sale for under $2 a pound, compared to $8-10 a pound for deli chicken breast. Not only can you save money, but you can also have more control over the salt and fat content.
- If you like frozen dinners for lunch, try making your own by freezing portions of lasagna, enchiladas, stews and other home-cooked foods that freeze well. The food will be tastier and freezing to eat later is great for those who don’t like eating the same meals two or more days in a row.
- Hummus with vegetables and pita bread for dipping can be a very healthy lunch. Making your own hummus is incredibly cheap and you can go beyond the normal chickpea version and experiment with black beans, edamame and other variations.
3. Make brown bagging it a fun, social affair. All workplaces have different cultures and if yours happens to be one where most people eat out, it can be isolating to be the only one who declines to participate. This isn’t only lonely, it can also leave you out of the loop and have a negative impact on your career.
- You can encourage your colleagues to pack a lunch by talking to them about the benefits and encouraging them to give it a shot. Not only can they save money, but it can also help them lose weight and feel less stressed about making it back to the office in time.
- Suggest fun ways to encourage each other to pack a lunch. Some coworkers have had great luck with a salad bar club (everyone brings different ingredients to keep in the fridge to make salads that week) or bringing dishes to share. For workplaces where people are interested in getting healthier, a quick brown bag lunch followed by a brisk walk during the lunch hour can be a great motivator.
- If most of your coworkers do eat lunch out daily, consider making room in your budget to join them some of the time. This will give you an opportunity to socialize with them outside of the office environment and help you avoid being perceived as a total outsider.
Do you pack a lunch every day? How do you avoid falling into a rut?
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Several of my friends signed up and they are able to eat at home more because the instructions are easy to follow, making everything convenient. The deal also comes with grocery shopping lists, which saves them so much time. Check it out yourself by clicking here and you too may be able to save more and become healthier at the same time.