In the middle school cafeteria there existed two classes of people the haves and the have-nots.
The haves brought in great lunches ham and cheese sandwiches on thick buns, home made cookies and cakes, pudding cups and carefully cut pieces of fruit. They ruled and only got richer through wheeling and dealing, trading pieces of their lunch for even better fare.
Like medieval peasant the have-nots looked on longingly at the haves. No fancy sandwiches, no pudding packs. Instead the have-nots lived resigned to peanut and butter sandwiches, cookies and the obligatory red apple. Yet, even they had it better than those forced to purchase lunch from the cafeteria a meal consisting of card board like pizza and soggy french fries.
What does this have to do with frugality?
Consider this simple fact. Taking your lunch to work just two days a week will save you nearly $25 a month. That’s $300 a year. Pack your lunch everyday and you’ll save over $700 a year!
The problem is that too often we act like the middle school have-nots. We bring simply boring lunches to work. As a result, we lose interest and either ditch our bagged lunch for the nearest lunch counter or stop taking our lunches to work altogether.
The key to money savings is simply this – your noon time lunches should be simply irresistible. Don’t settle for boring! Make your co-workers green with envy. Your lunch can be delicious AND save you money at the same time.
Ditch the brown bag and purchase a good lunch box system This is where spending a few extra dollars will pay big dividends. Consider one of several commercially available lunch box systems or create your own by purchasing several plastic containers and an insulated carrying container.
Such a system will allow you to bring home made soup and other left-overs. In addition, you can package the components of your sandwich separately and then combine them at work to prevent soggy sandwich syndrome.
Just as importantly itll allow you to bring spices, condiments, seasoning, and other toppings that turn a bland lunch into a great lunch.
Dress up your sandwich
Lets face it. Plain bread is boring. Put new life into your sandwich by ditching the plain white bread and rolls. Instead try a ham or cheese sandwich on French bread, chicken and lettuce on a blueberry bagel, sliced turkey rolled up with cheese and toppings in a tortilla wrap, or how about chicken salad placed in a pita pocket.
Dont forget the toppings. Skip the ordinary mayonnaise and mustard. Instead think pesto, dijon mustard, and roasted red peppers. Throw a few pickle slices on the side for a true deli like experience.
Have a salad for lunch
Heads of lettuce can be purchased quite cheaply at the supermarket. With a salad spinner you can quickly create clean fresh salad to take to work for lunch. Combine with sliced cucumbers, carrots, onions, sunflower seeds and you have a great lunch time meal.
But why stop there. Combine chicken from last nights dinner and you have a real treat. Throw in some left-over vegetables for an added crunch. A good lunch box system will allow you to bring some of your favorite dressing from home to make the salad complete.
Think outside the box
There’s no golden rule that states your lunch has to feature the same old sandwich or salad. Have fun. Be creative.
Jazz up your fruit. Apple slices topped with a small bit of peanut butter and sunflower seeds sounds delicious. Dip carrot sticks into homemade hummus.
Melt some chocolate chips in the office microwave or use caramel to dip strawberries or bananas your co-workers will be truly envious as they undo the cellophane from their lunch counter sandwiches.
Make your own almond, peanut and raisin trail mixes. This can be done quite inexpensively by using the bulk bins at your local supermarket.
Bring in a variety of cheese cubes along with crackers. When you purchase the cheese in small blocks from the grocery store it can be quite a frugal component of your lunch.
Boiled eggs can be downright cheap. I purchase mine from Aldis for 99 cents a dozen. Dress up your boiled eggs by adding some cumin or other spices to the top.
Home made soup will have your co-workers drooling. But don’t stop there. Add shredded cheese to the top to make it even more delicious.
What law says that you cant eat breakfast for lunch. Pancakes made in batches and frozen in convenient lunch size portions can be heated in the office microwave. A nice thermos with oatmeal can create a nutritious lunch. Top it with cinnamon, brown sugar, and banana slices and everyone will notice.
Im always a fan of bringing real silverware with my lunches. It gives the meal an authentic feel while those around you use their plastic spoons and forks.
Again this stresses the importance of a good a good lunch box system one that allows you to bring those toppings and little extras that make your co-workers look on with envy. Just as importantly, it allows you to bring soda and juice from home instead of spending an arm and a leg at the vending machine.
Consider this fact- for the price you pay for a 20 oz bottle of Coke at the vending machine (around $1.50) you can purchase a whole 2 liter bottle at the grocery store!
When it comes to taking your lunch to work, think like the middle school haves the ones with the exciting lunches. Not only will you be the envy of your co-workers, but you’ll also be more inclined to bring your lunch to work. In the process you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars each and every year.
So what are some of your tricks for spicing up your brown bag lunch? How do you make your co-workers green with envy?