Saturday, August 23, 2008

Brown Bag It

One way to save money is to pack lunches for work or school. Start with the right lunch box. If you have snacks during the day as well as a lunch, you may need a large container. There are many fun lunch boxes that you can purchase or you can recycle and decorate something like a large ice cream bucket with a lid. If you rather not use a lunch box, carry your lunch in bread bags, or grocery bags, or any other bag that can be recycled into a lunch container.

You also need to keep lunches exciting and different, otherwise it will get boring. Use a variety of colors and flavors each time. Most importantly, keep it frugal. Don't buy the expensive drink boxes, prepackaged snacks, or Lunchables. Recycle small plastic containers with lids and drink bottles. If you use sturdy zipper bags, you can wash them in warm soapy water, rinse and air-dry. Buy large bags of chips or other snacks and pack them in containers. Make your own Lunchables with crackers and meat and cheese that you cut up yourself. Save plastic cutlery and condiments packages from fast food restaurants to add to sandwiches. This will keep them from getting too soggy as they sit and wait for lunch time. Make sure that you add a freezer lunch cube or have a place to refrigerate your lunch if there are perishable in it. You can also freeze your drink and let it thaw until lunch. It will help keep food cold. Make sure food is food is tightly sealed, otherwise it might get soggy when the drink thaws. A thermos is a good lunchtime investment. Heat up soup or canned pasta before going to work or school. Pack crackers or a small salad with it. A helpful hint: If you pack a salad, keep the dressing separate in a small container and add before eating, or you can put the dressing on the bottom of the salad bowl and place salad on top. Mix before eating. I have done a lot of research and experimenting. Here are more ideas to get you packing.

· For a nutritious and low calorie lunch, pack some raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or carrots. Add a small container of dip or individual package of salad dressing.

· Stuffed tomatoes make a nutritious lunch also. Stuff with tuna or egg salad or even potato, pasta or rice salad.

· Boil a couple of hot dogs and put them with a little boiled water in a thermos. Wrap hot dog buns so they don't get stale, and add a couple of condiment packages.

· Start a Brown Bag Club at work. Divide the week between 5 co-workers and each day a different person is responsible for packing the lunches for the others. Or, get together and find a new place to eat each day. Take your bagged lunches and sit at a park, or an ice skating rink, or a mall.

· Core an apple and stuff the inside with peanut butter. Top with raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds or toasted coconut. The filling will keep the cut apple from turning brown.

· Pack fresh fruit with yogurt dip.

· Make fancy sandwiches by cutting shapes out of the bread with a cookie cutter (use the crusts and scraps to make breadcrumbs or croutons).

· If you are packing the lunch for a child or spouse, leave little love notes, or jokes, or something inspirational to help them make the day a little more special.

· Make pita pockets with cooked chicken, lettuce, shredded cheese and salsa or mayo.

· A healthy alternative to a sandwich is ham and cheese rolled inside a lettuce leave.

· Use a hot dog roll to make a kid-sized hero sandwich

· Kids love popcorn in their lunch bag

· Stay away from vending machines. Bring your own beverages and snacks. It is cheaper if you buy them from the grocery store.

· Condiments can be stored in a film canister or pill box

· Don't forget to plan dinner leftovers for a great lunch if your work or school has a microwave handy.

Please post some of your brown bag ideas

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