7 Easy work lunch ideas to save $

Los Angeles Times - - MARKETPLACE - — Peter Jones, The Job Net­work

Sick of the same old sand­wich? Or shelling out $20 to order take-out to your desk? Or just the usual spot you and your co­work­ers go and get the same $10 salad ev­ery sin­gle day?

Save money, calo­ries, and san­ity by pack­ing your­self an en­joy­able and tasty lunch that might just help you en­joy your work­day that much more. Here are some great ideas to get you started.

1. Jar salad.

Yes, this is still a salad, but a) you make it your­self so you’re not pay­ing a ridicu­lous markup, and b) you can buy in bulk and cre­ate the fol­low­ing pack­age a few times a week. Boom — healthy and cheap. Pack your salad in an adorable ma­son jar. Just put dress­ing, wet in­gre­di­ents, and mois­ture re­sis­tant veg­gies on the bot­tom, then layer other veg­gies, pro­teins, greens, grains, and crunchy bits as you work your way up the jar. Tie a fork to the side and you’re set!

2. To-go-gurt.

Same bulk and mon­eysav­ing the­ory, same con­tainer, maybe a lit­tle more fun. Layer gra­nola, com­pote or jam, fruit, yo­gurt, etc. in a delicious ma­son jar par­fait. Or, keep a con­tainer of yo­gurt, a box of ce­real, and some berries in your work fridge and make this on the spot, if you’re able to. This makes a fab por­ta­ble break­fast or even a pick-me-up snack for the 3 p.m. munchies.

3. Wraps made in the of­fice.

Sand­wiches are bor­ing and don’t travel and sit in a Tup­per­ware all too well. In­stead, box up the tasty fill­ing of your choice (leftovers work great here) and keep a pack of wraps in your work kitchen (tor­tillas, gluten-free wraps, what­ever you fancy). You can think big­ger and bet­ter than PBJ here, but still get that lunchtime sand­wich fix: chicken Cae­sar, creamy av­o­cado and white bean, south­west­ern spiced … what­ever your cre­ative fill­ing of choice, just pop it in and you’re good to go.

4. Sturdy sal­ads.

In­stead of the ev­ery­day let­tuce, try mak­ing a grain salad for healthy whole grains and ex­tra en­ergy. Try quinoa, faro, bar­ley, wheat berries, or even cous­cous as a base, then add in crunch veg­gies, nuts, pro­tein, and a bit of dress­ing as you see fit.

5. Cre­ative sand­wiches.

Maybe you’re com­mit­ted to the clas­sic sam­mie but have hit a rut. Just be­cause you’re bored of ham and cheese or PBJ doesn’t mean sand­wiches need to be off the ta­ble. Try fruit! Add ap­ples to your turkey and brie, or your al­mond but­ter. Try a pear-wal­nut combo on cin­na­mon raisin bread. Use hum­mus, av­o­cado, smashed beans. Pesto! Sweet pota­toes. Veggie burger pat­ties. Get cre­ative. And it’s not all about tuna fish or egg salad. Try sal­mon salad, or cur­ried chicken salad for a change.

6. Hearty bowls.

You go buy bur­rito bowls or fa­jita bowls or Baja bowls or Bud­dha bowls … why not make one your­self? Just layer in your grains, pro­tein, greens, and flour­ishes (never un­der­es­ti­mate a sauce or herbal gar­nish), and you’ll have a healthy and hearty meal for your­self at work.

7. Slow-cook­ing.

Put your leftovers to work for you. Make a gi­ant batch of some­thing in your Crock­pot. It will cook while you’re at work one day, and can ei­ther be din­ner one night and lunch the next, or an easy freez­able lunch in Tup­per­ware. Or prac­tice what many savvy lunch­ers do—the Sun­day af­ter­noon meal prep. You can knock out at least 2 or 3 meals with one big batch cook while you’re hang­ing out around the house on a week­end morn­ing. It’s worth the prep to save you money and time dur­ing the hec­tic work week.

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