Inside My Lunchbox + Carrying Food to Work

With all of my prepping for the week, I fully intend to bring my lunch to work 4 out of 5 days per week. I usually allow myself a treat on Friday, like a Chipotle bowl or a big chopped salad from the local market.

To be honest, I don't have much variety in what I bring to work. I typically pack up the following for the day:

breakfast - oatmeal, a make ahead burrito, an egg sandwich or frittata

lunch - a salad, an apple with a scoop of peanut butter and a string cheese

snack - a banana, cut up with a scoop of peanut butter

Usually this gets me through the day without a problem! But it isn't much diversity admittedly.

I cart it all to the office in my trusty little Built lunchbag.

I love this thing. It's a neoprene material and that means it's sturdy and stretchy. It usually fits all of my breakfast and lunch goodies. Let's take a peek inside at yesterday's lunch:

The only thing not pictured is a tiny Tupperware with about 2 Tbsp of peanut butter inside. I think the key for me is having lots of sizes of Tupperwares. I use at least 3 per day (for salad, dressing and pb) but sometimes more if I decided to bring carrots and hummus, for example. I love having some really small ones which take up very little space in the bag.

Sure, I probably look incredibly dorky toting a lunchbox down the street. In fact, I pass by a church preschool on my walk to work and sometimes I feel like I'd fit right in :)

But in all honesty, this totally works for me. It's usually not super heavy. The handle slides over my wrist so that I can still hold onto the handrail on the train or put my hand in my pocket while walking. And for those days when I want more of a shoulder situation? I simply pack up the lunchbox and drop it into a tote bag, like my purple Burberry sweetie:

I especially use this guy when I also want to bring a pair of heels to the office (though admittedly I keep like 3 pairs of shoes at work at all times...don't tell Shaun because he already thinks my collection is out of control :)). I simply throw in the lunchbag and heels and I'm good to go. Usually I don't find it to be too heavy to carry this on one shoulder and my purse (with wallet, kindle, lipstick(s), lip balm(s) and more) on the other.

So that's how I get my daily lunch done and my tips for getting it all to the office unscathed. So far, so good!

Questions of the Day:

Do you bring lunch to work?

How do you pack it up and cart it around?

Cutting down on our grocery bill

I have a dream.

A dream in which my weekly grocery bill falls under $100.

Perhaps you're reading this and thinking, wow, $100/week on groceries? What is she buying?? It is just the two of us after all. In all honestly, I don't know if that is a lot or not. Shaun and I also live in North Jersey, which tends to just be expensive in general, so I don't think that's doing us any favors. What I do know is that I'm on a mission to cut back our weekly bill to only $75.

Shaun and I cook most of our dinners at home, bring our lunches to work 4 out of 5 days per week, and eat breakfast at home or take it on-the-go. I usually do not cook on Friday and Saturday nights, so all told, we are talking around 36 meals per week (18 for each of us) that my grocery bill needs to stretch to. This also includes snacks in between meals. Oh, and did I mention that I try to keep it all healthy?

I recently cut my bill down from $120 to $100. I'm confident that I can do it again, and have been keeping steady for the last couple of weeks. I put together a list of how I'm cutting back. Please chime in with some tips on how you keep your grocery bill down! Be my Yoda, please.

Cutting down on our grocery bill
1. Meal planning. I've found this to be the number one way that I've cut back. With meals planned out for the week (breakfasts and lunches too!), I make my shopping list accordingly and stick to it.

2. Using seasonal ingredients. When I devise my meal plans around what's in season, I definitely find myself with a lower bill. For example, using zucchini in winter is not as cost effective as using cauliflower. Blueberries are prime right now, so I bought 2 cartons for $.99 each for some blueberry baked oatmeal.

3. Scour the sales - before meal planning. I like to do a quick search for my local A&P's online weekly flyer. It lists what's on sale for the coming week. This then advises my meal plan.

4. Eating leftovers - and liking it. Gone are my days of making something totally different for each and every meal that we consume (though the food writer in me begs to differ). Now, when I make dinner, I make enough for us to have lunch the next day. And since I try to make really good meals, I'm excited to eat it again the next day!

5. Bring your own shopping bags. Ok, this savings is minimal, but it just makes carting groceries So. Much. Easier. No bags flopping around in the trunk, no plastic cutting into your hands. And saving a few cents doesn't hurt either.

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6. Use your local store's bonus card. If you don't have one, sign up today. Right now. I don't really understand couponing, especially since I don't eat a whole lot of packaged goods. For me, it's all about the bonus card. Not only will this save you money on all those items you found in the weekly circular, but it also racks up points for percentage discounts or a few dollars off.

7. Eat less. Ok, this one actually comes from Shaun. At first I cracked up when he said this, but then I realized that it's kind of true. Junk food = spending more money. Even if it equals out, I'd rather spend my money on fruit, nut butters and yogurt.

8. Cut up your own fruits and veggies.
I never buy pre-cut. Unless it's butternut squash (which I've battled and lost too many times), I also cut my own - broccoli, pineapple, veggie mixes. I find it's typically more expensive to buy pre-cut. As soon as you get home from the store, cut up all the fruits and veggies that you just bought. Once cut up, it's also easier to eat!

9. Performing a thorough check of the refrigerator and pantry cabinets before shopping. Do you know how many times I've stocked up on crushed tomatoes, only to arrive home and find no room in the cabinet for them since I already have like 4 cans? Well it happens a lot. Not only is it wasteful monetarily, but I just don't have the space...see below.

10. Live in a small space (or pretend like you do). Our entire condo is about 1000 sq ft. I just don't have the space for stocking up unnecessarily, and thus, unless I need something in the immediate future, I just don't buy it. I do always have staples on hand (here's a list of our pantry staples), but overall, not overbuying means spending less on groceries weekly.

So there you have it. I plan to utilize all of these tips to the max to cut back on my grocery bill going forward. What are some of your tips for saving some coin at the grocery store?

Gimme some sugar

Have you ever broken the cardinal rule of baking? You know, the one where you’re supposed to read the entire recipe from start to finish, checking off the list of ingredients to ensure that you have all the necessary components for a finished product of perfection? Unfortunately, I often bake on a whim (or just have a minor case of ADD) and forget this step. You know, like the time I had to run out for more jam in the midst of making my peanut butter & jelly bars for July 4th. Or the time I was elbow deep in mixing meatloaf, only to realize that I had nary an egg to bind the whole thing together. Well add another one to my list friends, because during Lindsey and my 1950’s playdate where we spent the entire day making (and subsequently taste testing) apple pies, I was midway through Pie #4 when I realized that I had no brown sugar in the house.

And isn’t brown sugar such a tough ingredient to keep? It’s sold in small packages so I use it up quickly (not to mention the fact that sometimes while baking, I eat small scoops of it since I love it so much - I know, gross). It hardens very easily. It’s not really a baking staple that always graces my cabinet, unlike white sugar, all purpose flour, baking powder or vanilla extract. Instead of stopping midway through our day o’fun to run out to the store, I realized that I could just whip up my own. And honestly? It couldn’t be easier. Or more delicious.

Simply mix 2 tbsp of molasses with 1 cup of granulated sugar. And don’t think the irony is lost on me that I was out of brown sugar, but somehow managed to have a more elusive ingredient like molasses on hand.

I used a fork to mix it altogether until it resembled the brown sugar I know and love.

Though it was a bit more orange that typical brown sugar and at first taste, the molasses was very apparent, I just went with it. We scooped some up and used it in Grandma Ople’s Apple Pie and it worked perfectly!

I stored the rest in an air tight container and by the next day, the molasses flavor had waned a bit and the mixture had turned golden brown. Success all around! And now I never have to worry about running out of brown sugar. Instead, I just have to worry about running out of molasses…

So there you have it. A quick and easy fix in the kitchen. So what I want to know is, have you ever run out of an important ingredient while cooking or baking? Got midway through your recipe only to send the hubs out running to the local store for that last ingredient? Or were you able to improvise? And completely unrelated bonus question: what’s getting you jazzed for the upcoming weekend? I have no plans aside from getting my teeth cleaned and catching up on Boardwalk Empire!

Psst...Miss out on our Two Girls, Two Guys, Four Pies series? Get the scoop from the beginning, here, here, here and here!