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Brent Rickenbacker

Joined: Jun 13, 2011
Posts: 23
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?
R Scott

Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 3047
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
I make dehydrated meals--all kinds of homemade camping meals. I have access to hot water at work to rehydrate them. Chilli, rice and beans, and potato chowder see me through the winter.

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.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
William James

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 952
Location: Northern Italy
This may not be what you're looking for, but, I used to eat folded frozen pizza's wrapped in aluminum foil, brown-bagged, and thrown into the backpack. I could make it as I drank coffee in the morning or as I took a shower and it'd be ready as I left the house.

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.


Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5489
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
I often have lots of stuff to sell. If I go to the coffee shop or to a lunch place, I work the joint for customers. It averages out to lunchtime being a money maker.
It helps to sit near the guys wearing work boots.
I have done at least $25000 worth of business from Starbucks alone.

Dale's picks - These are some of my favorite threads. Greed - My garden - ethics - Good wood bad wood Alder - Bees - Pulling nails -
Chris Fox

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 29
Usually it's what I have leftover from dinner the night before. Stir fry vegetables and whatever steak/chicken/pork I had cooked up. Every time I make up a batch of stew, I end up making pasty. Homemade hotpocket. Round piece of dough, spoon in the stew, par cook it then freeze on baking sheet. Keeps in freezer bags for a few months. Really anytime I cook, I make up a big batch and freeze individual portions. Thank jebus for chest freezers.
Jeanine Gurley

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1393
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
Today's lunch (or rather tonight since I work nights) was

Celery sticks with peanut butter and honey
Cubed watermelon

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.

1. my projects
Brent Rickenbacker

Joined: Jun 13, 2011
Posts: 23
Thanks for all of the replies! So far I've already saved about 24 bucks this week by not going out to lunch.

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.
Erik Lee

Joined: Sep 21, 2011
Posts: 104
Location: Zone 6 - Missouri
We try to make a couple of crock pot dishes every week for lunches. They're easy, cheap, and tasty. I like the recipes from 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes The only downside is you have to bring a container for them, but that's not a big deal. Leftovers from dinner also make it in there on a regular basis.

Permaculture will save civilization:
Ray Cover

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
like Chris, I often end up eating the previous nights left overs. IT does save money. gets boring at times but it does save money.

Leila Rich

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
I don't often eat bread, so I'm basically being curious...the average lunch for adults and kids in NZ is some version of the sandwich. Is this the case in the USA?
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...
Amy Bee

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 10
Brent, I totally understand where you are coming from. When I used to work outside of my home, I ended up packing lunch a lot because I love good food. There's only so much fast food or cafe type lunches I could take. Plus I couldn't afford to eat out every day (and it really bugged me that I was paying so much for crappy food!).

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 '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.
Cris Bessette

Joined: May 20, 2011
Posts: 735
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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.

Sandra Ellane

Joined: Nov 08, 2011
Posts: 71
Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
Do you have access to a fridge and microwave, or would you be relying on a cooler? I take salads routinely, as well as leftover casseroles, etc.

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....
A sustainable approach to life in the city
John Polk

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6879
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
I know a lady who had the lunch bandit problem at work...
...until the day she made a tuna sandwich with cat food tuna.

Amy Bee

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 10
John Polk wrote:I know a lady who had the lunch bandit problem at work...
...until the day she made a tuna sandwich with cat food tuna.

lol that would do the trick!
Deb Stephens

Joined: Dec 03, 2011
Posts: 313
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 6b-7a
You can put anything on a tortilla and fold it into a burrito. If you are tired of sandwiches but like something easy to grab, burritos are the perfect finger food. I make bean & cheese versions -- sometimes with rice, chopped onions and lettuce and a dollop of sour cream for a fancier version. You can make breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs plus whatever else you want to add. I usually chop in herbs and vegetables with cheese, but sometimes I put seitan or soy sausages too (we are vegetarians). I've even made dessert burritos with cooked apples (spiced with cinnamon and butter). You can do a steak and potatoes type meal with a tortilla too. Just plop on three courses or so and roll it all up. (Great use of leftovers.) If you wrap the finished burrito in waxed paper instead of plastic wrap, you can open one end and eat it without anything falling out to make a mess. A very handy little food package! Best of all, you can make up a few dozen of them at one time, pop them in a freezer bag and freeze. Then just grab one or two when you are ready to go and they will be thawed by lunchtime. (They microwave well too.) With an apple and a few corn chips, you have a great meal.
Kylie Harper

Joined: May 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6, Kentucky, high water table
I also make all of my food from scratch, so when I need to bring a bagged lunch I eat leftovers and a lot of fruit. On days when I've planned ahead poorly, I bring bread and fruit and focus on eating a big, filling breakfast.

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.

Amy Bee

Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 10
Not meaning to hijack here, but this, I need to start to do:

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's going to rain here tomorrow so a good day to cook
Ken Peavey

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2523
Location: FL
When the phone rings, I'm out the door. There are times when preparing a lunch is not going to happen. Most of the places I work do not have a cafeteria, and leaving the site to grab a burger is not an option. Sometimes a 12 hour shift turns into a 16 hour shift. Not having enough food makes the day seem even longer. Some sites have a fridge, most have at least a microwave, sometimes all that is available is the lunch bucket.
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
-canned fruit
-hard candy
-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.
-small pies
-snack cakes
-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
-fried chicken
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
-mosquito repellent
-ziplock bag of forks and spoons
-spare eyeglasses
-dry socks
-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
-cubed cheese

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's all good. Roast in the oven, slice it up for sandwiches.

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subject: Lunch?