A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report cited that Americans spend over $3,000 each year on eating out, in general. (Spending an average of $10 per out-of-office lunch per work week alone can set you back $2,500 per year!) According to a 2016 study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 92 percent of restaurant meals have too many calories.
No one is saying that you can’t treat yourself to a lunch out once in a while. But wouldn’t it be nicer to have that savings in your own pocket — and eat healthier, too?
For adults dining on their desktop, their grown-up “lunchbox” can include everything from soup to sushi, and can be as much a fashion statement as a briefcase or shoulder bag. The idea is to choose a bag that motivates you to want to bring it to work and that you want to fill with healthy items. You’ll not only enjoy eating well because you’re creating your own menu, you’ll maintain better control over calories and ingredients, and save money too.
Here’s how to “brown bag it” for health and savings with style:
Choose a “lunchbox” with style, storage, and portability. From about $12 to $20, zippered, insulated vinyl (or flexible, foldable neoprene) is designed to keep things cold or hot, and can still be stored in the fridge. Some bags include a freezable gel component, or separate compartments that mimic the Japanese restaurant-style bento box to keep items organized. Others might include space for a beverage (or have a water bottle attached). Pick shoulder strap or double-handled – solid colored or funky pattern!
Set up your assembly line the night before. Pre-cut fruit or veggies, a pre-assembled salad, or a turkey sandwich on whole grain can be fridge-ready for easy grabbing. Soup in an airtight container avoids wrestling with the can opener in the a.m.
Love leftovers. They still rock. Get two meals for the price of one when you bring a portion of last night’s dinner for lunch.
Plan for snack attacks. Whole-grain crackers, low-fat string cheese, fruit, hummus, nuts, popcorn, and yogurt are all good go-tos. Packing favorite tea bags or K-cups bypass caffeine costs.
Cha-ching and bon appetite!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano