Thinking Outside the Frozen Entree

An easy way to quickly save money is to bring your own lunch to work instead of eating out every day. Depending on how much you were spending, you can easily save hundreds of dollars (or more) each year with this switch alone. But many people balk at bringing their own lunch because of the time required and the desire to eat something more appetizing than a frozen entrée or the same boring sandwich. However, with a little planning and some creativity, you can still enjoy a delicious lunch while saving money.

Be Creative with Your Entree

Instead of thinking about traditional brown bag meals, think about the foods you like eating at home or at restaurants and figure out how to make them work for lunch at the office. Salads make a great lunch, especially if you add in protein and keep the dressing on the side. Soup makes a great meal as well, particularly if you bring a piece of bread or salad to round it out. Search online for lunchtime recipes that you may not have thought of. Check out the Tampa Bay Times’ article “25 Healthy Ideas for Lunch” for easy to fix meals. All and also have many different recipes that can be adapted for your lunchbox.

Bring Leftovers from Dinner

A great way to spice up the noontime meal is to bring leftovers from dinner. “I cook an extra portion of whatever we are having for dinner, and that is what my husband takes for his lunch the next day. I always switch things up so he can enjoy a variety, for instance we may do Belgian waffles with fruit, a breakfast casserole for dinner, so that is what he has for lunch,” said Andrea R Frayser, author of “The Pennywize Vegetarian, The How-to Guide for Better Eating on a Budget.”

If you don’t want to eat the same meal as the night before, consider waiting a day or two for the leftovers at lunch. Another way to mix it up is to use the ingredients from dinner as an ingredient for your lunch box. If you have grilled chicken for dinner, cut up the chicken and make a chicken Caesar salad wrap. Grilled sirloin could be used in a steak sandwich and fried chicken can be the star ingredient in a salad.

Arrange a Regular Office Potluck or Lunch Swap

With economy still recovering, odds are that you are not the only one in your office looking to save money while not sacrificing your taste buds. Ian Aronovich, co-founder and CEO at said that every Thursday his staff has a healthy potluck lunch where everyone brings in healthy food from the local deli or grocery store. “Since we’re not ordering out every day from restaurants and such, grabbing a meal from the local market is incredibly frugal. The entire office gets excited about this time of the week and we’ve had some incredibly healthy and delicious dishes,” said Aronovich.

You could also organize a swap on a smaller scale within your department or circle of work friends. Another option is to take turns bringing in lunches for a co-worker to save time on preparation and have a variety of meals.