For the summer, my meals are hard boiled eggs (when the hens are producing we can't eat enough eggs to keep up), homemade bread, salads and home made trail mix or cookies.
I also have DIY oatmeal mix and cheap snacks in my desk.
I get my recipes from camping sites like trailcooking and raw/vegan sites like chocolatecoveredkatie.
It kept me full. And it cost about $2.00 which is a ton less then a restaurant. Granted, you'd only want to do that like 2 (or three) times a week. But in that period I was walking a ton, so it didn't seem to matter.
One week I went to the trouble of making and re-heating the pizza myself for a fraction of that cost, and the satisfaction was sure there, but laziness crept back in and I didn't bother.
If you made the pizza yourself you could modify things to make it healthier.
Celery sticks with peanut butter and honey
I don't have a lot of time for food prep so I usually stick with Salad and lots of fresh fruits and raw vegetables. The only food available for purchase is all processed food - which I don't eat - and I am not able to leave my job to go buy food anyway.
Sometimes I will cook a big pot of rice and whatever veggies and/or meat that we have on hand and that will be our lunch and dinner for a couple of days. I just pack it up in single servings so we can grab and go.
My lunches are real cheap this week. For lunch this week I am brown bagging.
I found a pretty good deal on some microwaveable Ravioli's, Soups, etc that cost about .60 to .80 each.
P, B, and J's are super cheap.
Nutrigrain bars, or similar.
And most importantly... I drink water. No more paying for soda's, coffee, etc.
An added bonus... Because I eat while working I go home an hour earlier. That's worth a lot to me too.
I find soups and Mexicany bean things freeze really well. I make big batches then freeze them in small containers. If I'm organised, I'll cook rice and freeze rice'n'beans together. Maybe chuck some coriander and fresh chilli on top at lunch time...
I still do some of these things to prep for lunches now because we are a busy family- anything that can be done when things are less hectic really helps when we find ourselves really busy.
We pretty much eat all our food prepared from scratch, and a fairly locavore diet. When I'm making supper, I ask myself if I can prepare more servings now to use in recipes later this week, or as-is for individual leftover portions. I make a wicked meatloaf, double the recipe and cook half in a traditional loaf pan and half in a muffin tin. Remember that if you are cooking full sizes of recipes and serving sizes together in your oven that the individual sized pans will cook in shorter time than a loaf/casserole sized version of the same recipe.
With the meatloaf example, I'd cool the muffin tin, throw it in the freezer, then pop out the "meatloaf muffins" and bag 'em in a large freezer bag. Packing lunch for the next day is as simple as throwing some rice/potatoes (rice can be frozen in serving sizes) and one or two servings of meatloaf in a reuseable container, and taking some carrot sticks/an apple (prep a bunch of carrot sticks and keep in water in the fridge for several days). There are lots of great recipes out there for casseroles and the like that can be made ahead of time and frozen in individual portions. Having lots of choices for condiments and salad dressings/dips can help to make meals more interesting.
My best lunch packing investments have been good quality cooler bags, reuseable freezer blocks, and good quality food-safe containers (I prefer glass, then stainless steel). I take full size cutlery in lunches, if you have a set of matching cutlery and fear losing pieces just buy a cheap set new or used and keep it for lunches. I find that most cooler bags marketed as lunch bags are too small to accomodate even a kids' school lunch if using all reusable containers, so a few years ago we started using the medium-sized zippered cool/warm bags sold as reusable grocery bags at the grocery store. They are cheap as they come and really sturdy. The freezer blocks are found at the dollar store here, and you can find some glass ware.
Depending on your lunch room situation at work, you can even get a cheap set of dishes (used Corningware is great because it's virtually indestructible). I like freezing individual portions of soup and chili in smaller glass bottles. If packed in a lunch bag in the morning with no freezer pack, by lunch it's thawed enough to get out of the bottle and into a bowl to reheat in a microwave. If there's no microwave another great investment is a stainless steel thermos...although a dear price I LOVE my Sigg metro mug for coffee as it really keeps it piping hot for 8 hours or more...$40 but it's been in heavy use for five years now and no signs of stopping. We also have some Thermos vacuum insulated stainless steel 10 oz jars...got 'em at a yardsale never used for cheap.
So, hope my rambling helps inspire. Enjoy eating well and saving your money at the same time.
Brent Rickenbacker wrote:I would really love to hear from others who pack \ brown bag their lunches for work. I really don't have a lot of time for food preparation, but man I am so sick of paying for lunch. The fast food game is sooo unhealthy and sooo expensive. What do you guys do to keep from paying through the nose for your meals?
I've been making my own lunches instead of eating out for many years. Generally on Sunday evening I make a crockpot meal, soup, chili, stirfry with rice,etc.
I simply make enough to last me all week. If I get bored half way through the week, I throw some different spices in or somehow modify it.
If I run short or forget my lunch, I always have some packages of Ramen noodles in a drawer at work. You don't want to eat those every day, but they are cheap and easy in a pinch.
This past Sunday, I pulled out the crock pot, chopped up a head of cabbage, some onion, garlic, sausage and threw it in the pot, and left it cooking all afternoon. Took maybe 20 minutes of preparation.
And definitely sandwiches! (Yes Leila, many of us fall back on these )
To keep the bread from getting soggy I bring packets of condiments that I keep around. If there's a fridge available you can bring bottles of condiments and salad dressing and keep it at work during the week. Hopefully you don't have a food thief there....We had that problem for a while....
When I have a really crazy week ahead, I cook as much as I can on a weekend. If I spend an entire day cooking, I can make enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and my sweet tooth for 6-7 days. You could also just pick out a few "lunch only" recipes to prepare ahead of time so that you only spend a couple of hours in the kitchen on the weekend instead of an entire day, haha.
Kylie Harper wrote:
When I have a really crazy week ahead, I cook as much as I can on a weekend. If I spend an entire day cooking, I can make enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and my sweet tooth for 6-7 days.
Thanks for inspiring me to try this....it's going to rain here tomorrow so a good day to cook
The solution for me is to stock items which are suitable for Grab and Go. When time is short, I can find a minute to grab a few of these items. I keep a few things in my truck in the event I lose my mind, leaving behind my lunch, or for those rare events such as my lunch being driven over by a crane (this has happened). It's also handy for the guy who left his lunch at the house.
-Hormel 'Compleats' meals. $2 each, around 20 different entrees, microwave in a minute
-Chef Boy R Dee/canned pasta, less than a buck, can be eaten straight from the can
-Vienna sausages, it gets the job done
-beanie weanies, not very good but when I'm hungry enough it doesn't matter
-Cup O Noodles, add water, microwave, a warm treat on long cold nights
-Snack Packs/pudding/fruit cups
-slim jim/jerky stick
-sardines. It's something to put in your stomach.
Perishable items include
-bananas, the perfect lunch item. Comes in its own disposable wrapper.
-chocolate candy bars when it's not summer
Frozen items are handy. By the time lunch comes around its thawed. These are good when a microwave is available:
-single serving frozen dinners, a buck each, wide variety
toss a couple things in a ziplock bag and I'm out the door
I keep my lunch in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. If I need something to sit on, the bucket does double duty. In addition to lunch I keep some other handy things in there:
-ziplock bag with instant coffee plus sugar. Pour some into a bottle of water, give it a shake. Lousy coffee is better than no coffee!
-heartburn pills, tylenol
-ziplock bag of forks and spoons
-cell phone, car keys, smokes, wallet, pens, notepad, utility knife, locks, earplugs, gloves, can opener
There are plenty of days when I have time to prepare a lunch.
-Eggs. Hard boil a bunch of them at a time. Can be taken in a ziplock bag with a shake of salt. I can mash them up for egg salad sandwiches. My girls give me more eggs than I know what to do with.
-cold cuts/lunch meat sandwiches
-tuna sandwich, I buy tuna by the case. There's nothing better than tuna and mayonnaise sitting in a bucket in the hot sun for hours!
-leftovers from last night, be it a noodle casserole or a pork chop. Ziplock bags are the standard package-keeps it clean, usually keeps moisture contained, will hold up in a microwave, won't break, disposable.
-potato salad/macaroni salad
For my needs the pre-packaged items are especially handy. Still, at a buck or two for the big items, there is plenty of room for frugality.
Packaged sliced ham for sandwiches can be had for $3-5/pound. I can by a whole ham, bone and all for a buck a pound. Cut out the bone and thick fat, use it for soup, thinly slice the rest of it for sandwiches. A whole ham will offer 10-15 pounds of sliced ham. I'd get sick of it if I ate it every day so I pack it into the freezer to use over a couple of months. Some will go into pea soup, some will go into a macaroni salad, some will go into scrambled eggs.
One of my favorite lunch meats is canned chicken. A 10 pound sack of thighs and drumsticks can be had for $5-7. I remove the skins, boil up the whole sack, remove the bones and cartilage, then process the meat in canning jars. A pint, probably 12 ounces of meat, ends up costing me about a buck. Compare to tuna at 69¢ for 5 ounces. I can take the jar as a lunch all by itself, but the empty jar ends up in my truck for weeks. I drain the meat (save for soup or rice), use it for making sandwiches. Moist, delicious, and comes in around 25¢ per sandwich. Beats the hell out of bologna or spam.
Pork is inexpensive. Shoulder, Boston Butt, whole sirloin...it's all good. Roast in the oven, slice it up for sandwiches.