Thursday, September 10, 2009


When I started working at my current job I was so devoted to taking my lunch. Every night I would pack up left overs, sandwiches, fruit, granola, etc. Well a year later and that habit is falling by the wayside more and more. I am a social worker and I have to visit people in their homes. Meaning I am in the office only about 25% of the time. This makes it difficult to pack lunches and plan on being in the office to actually sit down and eat. But starting next week I am going to try and make an effort to be in the office to eat a lunch that I packed.

When I packed my lunch everyday I did several things to pique my interest and make me look forward to lunch.

1. Packing my lunch in a cute bag or container always made it feel more special and appealing than just taking an old brown bag. I also discovered bento boxes and tiffins which are really popular in Japan and are becoming widely available in the US. I bought mine from a store called Ichiban Khan which is sadly no longer selling online but ebay, amazon, and tons of independent online store sells bento's. Here is a cute one from amazon:

Tiffins, which is basically the bento's cousin, are also great for packing lunches. The only downside to most tiffins is that they are made from metal and cannot be heated in the microwave. But if you are packing pasta salad, dip, or anything that doesn't need to be heated they are great. (Note: they also make plastic tiffins, however they are hard to find!) Here is an awesome tiffin from to go ware

I could go on and on about lunch boxes, tiffins, and bento's, and maybe I will in a following post!

2. The second thing that helped me to enjoy my lunches was to pack things I enjoyed! A novel concept right? At first I found myself packing the typical "lunch box" food of yogurt, fruit, sandwich, and crackers. That got old FAST! So I started packing things I liked. In the beginning of the week I would make a big bowl of pasta salad and pack it every day with some fresh bread, fruit, and a homemade cookie. Or I would cook something for dinner with the intention of leftovers. For instance I would make fried rice for dinner but make extra rice for leftovers and combine it with some parm cheese, fake chicken, and vegetables for a different rice dish from the night before. Lunch box food is okay every now and then but if I had to eat it every day packing my lunch would be depressing!

3. The last thing that I do to enjoy packing my lunch is to go out for lunch! I work in downtown Pittsburgh and I am surrounded by amazing places to eat. I also work with people who go out for lunch A LOT! Sitting in your office watching people go out to lunch is not fun. It can also make you resent packing your lunch. When I was really into packing my lunch everyday I would still allow myself to go out once every 2 weeks or so. Sometimes, especially when you are having a hard day, its nice just to get out of the office for an hour and have somebody serve you for a change. It also keeps people from perceiving you as the bump on a log that never does anything with your co-workers!

These are just a few of the things that helped me pack my lunch for about 5 months straight. Like I said though I WILL be packing again! Maybe I will even post some pics and ideas of my favorite lunches!

What Jason and I really seem to be struggling with now though is keeping snacks in the house. Buying processed food and prepackaged snacks is really starting to break the budget! Some of the things we have been making is popcorn (with the air popper), tortilla chips and salsa, and homemade cookies. I am just at a loss though when it comes to thinking of more frugal snacks! If you have any idea's I would love to hear them!!

This post is linked to The Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom


  1. Excellent suggestions! I love them all, especially the part about changing your scenery. How do you keep food cold in bentos and tiffins?

    Next week on URS is Healthier-for-You snacks/tailgate party foods. I bet we can come up with some that are frugal as well.

  2. I have always either put my bento in the fridge or packed an ice pack with it. I'm not sure if you can put tiffin's in the fridge since they are metal. But you can put an ice pack underneath the container or in the top container to keep it cool.

    I actually just found this neat article that talks more about both bento's and tiffins. It talks more about the nutritional aspects of bento's regarding the size, which is something I didn't touch on. IT you have a 600 ml bento and you pack it with the right proportion of protein, carbs, and vegetables.

    Bento's have their own little cult follow and you could literally spend days filtering through all of the info!