Updated on 03.09.07

Five Minute Finances #9: Make a Sandwich (or Something Else)

Trent Hamm

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

This is a “five minute” trick I do twice a week or so: I assemble a big, delicious sandwich and put it in a brown paper sack to take to work with me. It just takes a few minutes in the morning (or in the evening before) to have something delicious at work the next day – and if you go out for lunch regularly, this will save you a lot of money. Just take five minutes, make yourself a sandwich, and put it in a brown paper sack. Don’t like sandwiches? Package up some leftovers.

Here are a few complaints I had with the “brown bag” club – and how I address them.

I don’t want to mess up the kitchen for this! I’ve found that for me the best time to do this is during clean-up time from supper. The kitchen is already a mess, so I just make my food for the next day and stow it away in the refrigerator.

I’ll lose out on valuable networking time if I do this. Unless you work in a tiny office, there are probably some people who don’t eat out. If you just take your lunch half the time, you can actually improve your networking by eating with the brown bag club sometimes and the regular crew other days.

Brown bag lunches taste like my mom’s old bologna. Brown bag lunches can be tasty if you do it right. For example, there are several slick tricks for making leftovers a lot better, and getting high quality condiments can make a boring sandwich great (I love my French mustard).

I use eating out for lunch as an excuse to get out of this miserable office. Take your sack lunch outside and eat in the fresh air. You can even take it to your car and drive to a park or something. Brown bagging it doesn’t require you to eat at work.

I don’t think I can miss out on kvetching with my friends. Try to convince a bunch of them to start a brown bag day once a week – it will be good for all of your wallets.

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  1. Stephen Risinger says:

    Where I used to work (I’m in Iraq right now…), a group of us would pitch in some money, and one or two people would go out and buy different meats, cheeses, veggies and breads. Then we would all partake of the food as we desired. We considered ourselves a “Sandwich Club”. This allowed us to be able to have multiple meats and cheeses, without spending a whole lot of money. This is a great alternative to bringing in the same kind of sandwich day after day, plus it gives you and your coworkers another thing to talk about other than work.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I know this is an older post, but having just returned from the grocery store and eaten a delicious wrap, I for some reason thought you might be interested in this particular meal that I eat almost every day with all kinds of variations.

    The large low-fat whole grain tortillas I buy are very healthy and also tasty. I put them on a salad plate and top with previously grilled chicken pieces (I do these all at once every week) or – as a weekend treat – several grilled shrimp. Half a minute in the microwave warms it all up and then I add various condiments. Sometimes I just use horseradish sauce, other times I’ll add shredded cheese. Today I used brown mustard and added a pico de gallo mixture our grocery store sells. Finish with a couple of Romaine lettuce leaves and roll it up. Today I had a side of Honeydew melon and a carton of vanilla yogurt for dessert. In the past, I’ve also used leftover pork or beef. It’s all good, and there are enough possible variations to keep it from getting boring. Seriously, I eat this every single day.

    Something else that is incredibly easy and healthy is pumpkin soup. I don’t even bother with the nutmeg or ginger some people use. The pumpkin taste with just salt and pepper is delicious to me. I use a large can of pure pumpkin and add chicken broth until it’s at a consistency I like. (I buy the chicken broth in a box so I don’t have to worry about having part of a can left over.)Then I add just about a third of a small carton of half and half. Stir over a medium fire until it’s warm enough to eat. I like mine pretty thick, so a bowl is really filling. I usually fix this at least twice a week and eat it almost every other day.

    Finally, one of my all time favorites is chopping up 10 tomatoes, 8 zucchini and a couple of yellow squash and throwing it in a big pot with a generous couple of splashes of sesame oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Variations include adding chunks of chicken and/or serving over rice or pasta. Note: everything cooks down to almost half the size because it’s all made up of so much water – which also means there is a lot of juice, too.

    I’ve never been a big fan of spending time in the kitchen…which is why I love crock pots, too. My favorite meals are quick, healthy, easy, low-cal, low-fat and not very expensive. These recipes fit the bill. Hope you can try them and that you’ll enjoy them.

  3. trish says:

    rebecca, thanks for the recipe ideas. i’m looking forward to trying all of them.

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