One of most basic ways to do more with less is to bring your lunch to work; if you usually spend just $7 a day on lunch, bringing it four days a week (splurge and buy lunch on the fifth, if you like) can easily leave $100 or more in your wallet each month. Though you do end up spending a little more on groceries, the savings — especially if you learn to love leftovers — can be substantial.
Bringing your lunch to work doesn’t mean throwing a soggy sandwich into a baggie and tossing it in your purse, though. It also doesn’t mean a dazzling selection of non-nutritive items from the snack machine. Here are five lunches that take little effort to prepare:
Steak and Bleu salad: Fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, and thin slivers of leftover london broil, pot roast, or even shredded roast beef from the deli. Fill a small container with bleu cheese dressing and drizzle it over the salad just before you eat it. (Don’t have any small jars? A zip-top plastic bag can keep the dressing contained; to drizzle, snip of part of one corner with scissors and squeeze like a pastry bag.)
Chips and dip: Believe it or not, low-salt tortilla chips, a small bowl of refried beans, and a small bowl of guacamole can be a perfectly healthy (and filling) lunch. Make your own beans, or choose a premade version without lard to keep the fat content low.
Deconstructed sandwich: The thing I dislike about sandwiches that they always fall apart when I try to take a bite — usually spilling something ugly onto my shirt or jacket. Packing the components seperately can mitigate the mess, and it tastes as a good. My current favorite: smoked turkey, thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, cheddar cheese, and marble rye bread.
Bag o’ snacks. Sometime, I don’t even have time for lunch, but its easy to keep hunger at bay if I graze throughout the day. Apple slices, peanut butter, dried fruit, nuts, carrot sticks, celery sticks, whole-grain crackers, and some low-fat string cheese fit the bill. Too much like what’s in your child’s lunchbox? Think “appetizers” instead of snacks, and pack frozen potstickers (Trader Joe’s has some good ones), breadsticks wrapped with ham, cubes of cheese, and slices of bell pepper with dressing as a dip.
Fried rice. Transform leftovers at home into fried rice and bring it to work. It’s easy: Leftover rice + slivers of leftover chicken or a quickly scrambled egg + the odds and ends of leftover veggies + soy sauce + sesame oil. Heat in a pan — or, if you’re really out of time, in the microwave at work.
What’s your favorite last-minute lunch to bring to work?