I’ve Paid For This Twice Already…

Frugal living and debt reduction tips for a better financial future. This is one family’s story.

September 3rd, 2007

Brown Bagging the Simple Way: Lunch-overs

Day 5 of NCN’s 33 Days and 33 Ways series is to eat out less. Eating out can be a huge money drain, but as NCN points out, not just for dinner. Lunches out at work can very very quickly add up too, especially as a regular occurrence. My spouse goes to work every weekday, and only very rarely for a special occasion does he eat out for lunch. In fact, I can only recall once in the past year, for a goodbye luncheon for a coworker. We have incorporated steps in our nightly routine to make his “brown-bagging” it as easy and tasty as possible. If it isn’t easy and doesn’t taste good, no one will do it, so we worked out a system that makes a homemade lunch even better than going out to eat!

1) Make tasty meals for dinner that are easy to reheat in the microwave, and then make twice what you need for dinner. I incorporate a lot of “one-dish” or casserole meals that are easy to reheat in one step at a later date. You don’t need to do this every single night, but at least 2-3 nights a week is ideal at first.

2) While dinner’s cooking, prepare your tupperware. Put a label on each lid (I use medical tape that is easy to peel off later) with the name of the meal (“Cheesy beef, broccoli and rice” for example, it doesn’t have to be terribly creative, just descriptive) and the date. Match labels to containers, usually we have 2-3 for each meal. As you do this more often you’ll get a feel for how many lunches a particular meal will provide.

3) When you’re dishing out dinner, dish some into tupperware. At the same time you’re filling everyone’s plates, have the pre-labeled tupperware dishes out to dish a lunch-sized leftover (I call them lunch-overs) into.

4) Stow some in the fridge and some to freeze. I look at how many lunch-overs are in the refrigerator already, and if there are already two, I pop the new ones into the freezer.

5) Nights you don’t make a dinner with lunch-overs, check the fridge and defrost if necessary. On nights we have a meal that isn’t lunch-over friendly, I look in the fridge and make sure there is a lunch-over ready for the next day. If not, I pop the oldest out of the freezer and into the fridge overnight to thaw. You can take them to work right from the freezer, but my spouse has found they don’t microwave as well that way.

6) If you build up too big a stash, have a lunch-over dinner night. If we get too many in the freezer (some weeks one-dish things are all I cook, my spouse likes them so much), I’ll defrost two and make them into a dinner with a new veggie or starch side to liven it up. Makes a really cheap dinner which saves money as well!

I hope some of these ideas help you to be able to incorporate brown-bagging lunch an easy and yummy part of your routine! This takes almost no work in the morning, simply pop the lunch-over into your bag with a granola bar or piece of fruit, and go!

~J

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13 Responses to “Brown Bagging the Simple Way: Lunch-overs”

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been trying to think of ways to save on my lunches. These are really helpful. Do you have any ideas on good (and cheap) recipes?

  2. I like allrecipes.com there are a lot of one-dish and casserole recipes there. I look there for crockpot ideas a lot.

    Also, basically, my “cheap” meal is 1/2 lb meat, 1/2 lb frozen veggie, and box of pasta roni (or rice a roni), double if necessary. Add appropriate spices to taste.

    Tonight’s dinner is “asian garlic chicken” pasta roni with green beans and diced up boneless chicken breast. lol

  3. Making lunch at night is one of those dreaded tasks that often gets ignored resulting in buying my lunch. Thank you so much for for showing how easy it can be if you just incorporate it into preparing dinner.

    I’m finding that it’s also easy to purchase rotissarie chicken on sale and use it for a weeks worth of meals.

  4. We used to try to make sandwiches for lunch and we just never ended up doing it. Coming up with a way that was no added work involved really was the only way to go for us. Hope it helps!

  5. Lunches are a big money drain for me. I have a huge weakness for sushi and I used to get it 3 times a week and that is hugely expensive! I used to eat out the other 2 days as well. When you’re single, the motivation isn’t there to cook even for dinner, let alone lunch. What I do now is go to the grocery store once a week near my place of work and buy sandwich wraps, luncheon meat, washed salad and grated cheese and keep it in the company fridge. I just prepare my lunches at work. I know I can still save but it’s a compromise for someone on the go. I still get my sushi once a week though…

  6. That’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing :)

    It is all about the balance. No one wants to feel deprived all the time.

  7. I almost always eat leftovers for lunch. I keep a few other items on hand in case we do not have anything left the night before such as sandwich fixins’. I find that I very rarely have trouble coming up with something, and in those cases I have always been able to find something, even if it turns out to be a medley of canned vegetables that my wife doesn’t eat and as a result would not go well with any dinners (my mom gives us food sometimes that includes this sort of thing). The only times that I eat out are once a month when our whole team goes out together for lunch and once every couple of months with my wife. I find that staying at work for lunch is cheaper as well as it allows me to take a shorter lunch and get home earlier.

    I do admit that I occasionally get a taste for some hot pockets or chef boyardee and splurge, but I keep that to the bare minimum possible!

  8. Is this unusual? I thought it was a way of life. LOL.

  9. I just have to say thanks… you’d think that after decades (yes, really) of frugal living and brown-bagging that I’d have thought of a system like this by now, but I hadn’t. Usually, I just do the standard “make a big pot of soup on the weekends and freeze it in 2-cup bowls for lunches next week” thing. This is a great idea!

  10. Great ideas! I do this all the time…but I love your idea of packing the lunches up right away. Sometimes I wait until we’re done eating and then we might not have much for lunch the next day! lol

    PS. I’ve really been enjoying your blog. Thanks for all of the amazing hints.

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