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Brown bag lunch ideas
Old 05-09-2015, 11:39 AM   #1
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Brown bag lunch ideas

I've always brown bagged my lunch, mostly because I was too busy to go out. When I did go out for lunch it was for a special event (co-workers new job, birthday, marriage, etc).

Inspired by threads on "how do I reduce my budget" I thought it might be nice to create a list of ideas for brown bagged lunches.

When I brown bagged it my typical lunch was:

* Canned soup (usually Progresso brand) with a few saltine crackers
* Leftovers - in generally I make about 30% more than needed for certain suppers and DH and I have the leftovers within the next few days
* Frozen veggies and a can of tuna. Nuke the veggies, drain and add the tuna.
* Chopped lettuce and a small can of chicken breast or tuna, with a couple of tablespoons of dressing brought in a separate deli cup. I tend to stay away from the premade salad bags since they are much more expensive per pound. It doesn't take long to run a knife through a head of romaine lettuce.
* Frozen meals (if they were on sale). This was actually a "treat" and used as a last resort when I didn't have any alternatives.

One of my desk drawers was kept as a pantry and contained a couple of cans of soup, a bottle of balsamic vinegar, a couple of cans of tuna and/or chicken breast. I was lucky to work at a place that had a small food area with a fridge/freezer and a microwave. I usually had one or two bags of frozen vegs in the freezer. I never kept frozen meals there since they usually ended up "accidentally" being eaten by a co-worker - never had that problem with the frozen veggies
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Old 05-09-2015, 11:46 AM   #2
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Similar situation for me when I was still w*rking at megacorp.


I would occasionally go out to lunch with co-workers, but over time I found that more and more meetings were actually being scheduled *during* lunch, because "that was the only free time on everyone's Outlook schedule" - blech.


So, I was just about 99% of the time just bringing lunch to w*rk and eating at my desk.


I would joke with others at noon as they would shuffle out to the elevators to go to lunch: "You....actually get to leave the building for lunch? How did you negotiate that!??"


My lunches were primarily left overs from dinner the night before. It was much more economical for us to make the dinner portions a bit bigger so there would be enough for me to have for lunch the next day. Much cheaper than buying specific lunch items - for our situation.
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Old 05-09-2015, 12:06 PM   #3
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There is also a nutritional benefit to bringing your own lunch. The lunches and snacks that I brought from home were healthier and lower-calorie than anything I could get at the in-house cafeteria. Lunch was usually half a sandwich, a few pretzels, and carrots or fruit. Snacks were almonds, cheese, hummus, or fruit. I'm a grazer-- little bits at a time through the day.
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Old 05-09-2015, 01:05 PM   #4
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Since I worked out of a car for many years I bought one of those contstruction-worker type lunch coolers. Microwave ovens generally were not available until the late '80's I think and I only had 30 minutes anyway. Usually lunch was a sandwich and a fruit like an apple or pear, and a bottle of tap water.

Right after my soon-to-be-ex moved out of the house and left me holding the bag for all costs I figured out pretty quickly that I couldn't afford to be buying lunches. I bought this one for $15 and figured over the next 20 years it saved me ~$15K over buying lunches. Not a bad ROI!

I kept the cooler in the trunk of the car while working and found that the trick to keeping the food fully chilled even in summer was to put the entire cooler in the refrigerator the night before. That in addition to the two plastic "icecube" things that came with it kept things cold.
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Old 05-09-2015, 05:57 PM   #5
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I've always taken lunches to work. I have a microwave in the office, so I just need to reheat. Over the years I have bought Corning Grab-Its (w/lids) at yard sales for $1 or less (they go for ~$9 new) and currently have a fleet of them. On the weekends (while I wash dishes) I will make a batch of brown rice and add in good helpings of meat (usually chicken) and vegetables (usually carrots & peas). I make enough to fill at least 5 of the Grab-Its. In the fridge at work I leave something to spice up the meal after reheating (teriyaki sauce is the most common). I take various drinks in refillable 16 oz. bottles. And I take a protein drink in another bottle I pre-make before heading to work. I figure the cost is $1 or less for the whole meal daily.

I know this isn't for everyone as the repetition will get to many, but it doesn't bother me. Plus I can swap out different meat, vegetables, or sauces from week to week to change things.
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Old 05-09-2015, 06:26 PM   #6
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I was a go-out-to-lunch type in good weather. I used to buy those Smart Shopper coupon books for $20. The books were full of buy 1-get 1 free lunch offers. It was easy to find a co-w*rker who needed some fresh air and a change of scenery. We both ate at half price.

In the cold snowy winter months, I was a dedicated brown bagger. I also brought dinner leftovers in and kept ready-serve soups on hand. I used an oversized ceramic soup mug from the dollar store to heat my food. I was leery of eating food that had been reheated in plastic.

The break room refrig was small for the large number of people who utilized it, so I was limited on how many perishable items I could bring in. Nobody messed with my yogurt or cottage cheese.

For anytime grazing, I kept Cheerios, pretzels, and ChexMix in critter proof containers in my desk drawer. Fresh, canned or dried fruit was a fabulous snack if I couldn't take a lunch break because of back-to-back meetings or visitors running late on a demo tour of the facility. Fresh grapes and cherries were a favorite.
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Old 05-09-2015, 06:38 PM   #7
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I always took leftovers from dinner when I was working full-time. I started working 3 days per week, 5 yrs ago and I have the same thing every day for lunch. I have a container of nuts I keep in my work bag, I grab an apple and I take a glass to get water. Repetition does not bother me, and I don't have to waste time wondering what to make for lunch.
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Old 05-09-2015, 06:39 PM   #8
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I used to make a great sandwich the night before, and place it in the freezer.

In the morning, I could take it out of the freezer and stick it in my desk drawer. By the time lunchtime rolled around, it had thawed out perfectly and seemed as fresh as when I first made it.

I did this for quite a few years, and it worked beautifully.
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Old 05-09-2015, 06:45 PM   #9
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Many moons ago when I worked in an office building I used to bring dinner leftovers for lunch. Microwave ovens were new and my department was in a reconfigured area partitioned off from a bigger department. Our little lunch area had a small table and a few seats, refrigerator and the microwave.

There was a guy in an adjacent department that said that anything we put in the microwave he could smell in his office. He was annoyed by that but put up with it unless one of us brought fish. If we heated up any kind of fish that guy would actually throw a tantrum!

I hope he's retired by now.
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Old 05-09-2015, 07:25 PM   #10
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Fortunately I seldom had lunch time meetings. Lunch was my time to be alone. Getting out of the office to eat alone was something I wanted to do. About 30% of the time I would eat leftovers alone in my office.
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Old 05-09-2015, 07:34 PM   #11
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I eat lunch at my desk every day. I try to mix it up a bit, leftovers one day, a sandwich and yogurt the next, a Lean Cuisine here and there, some salads...
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Old 05-09-2015, 07:40 PM   #12
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Live and Learn, I take rice (brown or white) because you can eat it hot or cold and just about anything can be mixed with it, peas, tuna, chicken, tomatoes, nuts, fruit. Try different food combinations: rice, romaine, chopped ham, craisins, walnuts with a little poppy seed dressing. Apples chopped up are great in salads or on sandwiches. I loooooove fruit sandwiches: whole wheat bread, sliced thin red pears and salad dressing. My girlfriend just started eating this sandwich but adds thin sliced chicken. I'm a big oatmeal (plain) fan and keep it at work. I have it for breakfast every morning but have it for lunch sometimes, usually in the Winter, and add cinnamon, nuts, craisins, peanut butter. My all time favorite sandwich is peanut butter and mayonnaise. Try something different, you may like it. Peanut butter and Cheerio sandwich or peanut butter and romaine, anyone.
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Old 05-09-2015, 09:25 PM   #13
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Mmmm, peanut butter and fresh blueberries on whole wheat toast.
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Old 05-09-2015, 10:00 PM   #14
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Almost always leftovers from the night before. If there aren't any leftovers, I make a sandwich and take it, with a can of soda and a piece of fruit.

This is my lunch box. I often get comments walking to and from my car.
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Old 05-09-2015, 10:16 PM   #15
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I carried my lunch to work every day, and it was saving me about $2,000 per year. With the money saved, we took vacations all over the world.

I had a conversion van with 4 bucket seats and a electric bed that'd fold flat. I'd eat my lunch and spend about 45 minutes taking a nap in the bed. I'd return to my office well rested and ready go go for another 4 hard hours.
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Old 05-10-2015, 08:25 AM   #16
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I love that lunchbox!!!!
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Old 05-10-2015, 09:20 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue J View Post
There was a guy in an adjacent department that said that anything we put in the microwave he could smell in his office. He was annoyed by that but put up with it unless one of us brought fish. If we heated up any kind of fish that guy would actually throw a tantrum.
I wasn't that bad, but when I sat close to the break room I would always be exposed to the smell of burnt popcorn. I don't like popcorn in general, but burnt is the worst. It's amazing how many people couldn't nuke a bag of popcorn properly. Nasty.

Back on topic, I was always a fan of the brown paper bags. They kept the bottle from clinking when I slipped it back in the drawer.
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Old 05-10-2015, 09:58 AM   #18
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I normally plan meals to have some leftovers for lunch the next day. I also keep granola bars and fruit at my desk, along with a container of homemade trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, etc.) for grazing.

I used to make sandwiches but don't any more as I am walking distance from 2 grocery stores, and will sometimes shop during lunch. I found that $1 - $1.50 can buy a fresh baked roll with enough lunch meat to make a sandwich.

I'm also a 5 minute drive from Costco and will pop in every now and then for their cheap lunches.
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Old 05-10-2015, 02:47 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue J View Post
There was a guy in an adjacent department that said that anything we put in the microwave he could smell in his office. He was annoyed by that but put up with it unless one of us brought fish. If we heated up any kind of fish that guy would actually throw a tantrum!

I hope he's retired by now.
I can't blame him. We have someone that always microwaves food and the smell lingers. Don't know what he puts in his little casseroles but they stink. Everyone now has room sprays/deodorizers in their offices. Regarding microwave popcorn, I agree with Harley, the smell of burnt popcorn is not something you want in an office.
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Old 05-10-2015, 03:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue J View Post
There was a guy in an adjacent department that said that anything we put in the microwave he could smell in his office. He was annoyed by that but put up with it unless one of us brought fish. If we heated up any kind of fish that guy would actually throw a tantrum!

I hope he's retired by now.
There's always one in a crowd, and unfortunately next to you. We have lots of Indians / South Asians in my cubicle farm that can cook spicy smelly stuff, and yet this guy in the cube next to me would complain about any heated food I brought to my cube, no matter how innocent. He wouldn't complain about the others as he worked with them, but I worked for a different group so I seemed to be his favorite target. After a few episodes of him spraying stuff at my cube and me refusing to work in my cube during this behavior... he was this close to being fired. Finally they moved him away and he knows better than to talk to me now, which is fine by me.
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