We’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you’re eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.
So far, there have been six workdays in September and I’ve brought six lunches from home. I haven’t done this in months! I certainly haven’t done this, um, ever with fresh ingredients. But here we are.
I’ve been worried about not getting enough vegetables at lunch. With the diet I’m on, I’m supposed to have two cups of veggies at both lunch and dinner. For Tuesday’s lunch, I decided to try Ronzoni’s Garden Delight pasta, as it claims to be one serving of vegetables. That’s kind of a lie because you need to eat 4 oz of pasta to get the full serving of veggies, which is twice the size of a regular serving of pasta. It’s also nearly 400 calories. I’m only allowed 1300 calories a day, so that’s pretty steep. I made the 2 oz of pasta and called it a half serving. I also added a 1/4 cup of pasta sauce, which is also a half serving of vegetables. (What’s even worse is that a serving of vegetables is pretty much considered to be a half cup, so I’m technically supposed to have 4 servings per meal. Sometimes, like today, that just seems overboard.) I added some Butterball grilled chicken and a little bit of cheese and had myself a nice little Italian lunch.
When Tuesday night rolled around, I had absolutely no idea what to make for Wednesday’s lunch, so I had a repeat performance of the pasta and chicken. Fail. Right around this time, @healthyeats was retweeting what my fellow challengers were bringing for their lunches. These people are not messing around. It seemed like every post was more creative than the next. Also? I couldn’t believe the amount of people who had CSA veggies on hand. Is this something I need to look into next season? There’s no way I’m winning any awards for my lunches! But, that’s not what this is about anyway.
Wednesday was a cold and rainy day here in the Bay State. Something about the remnants of Hurricane Lee. I had a pound of grass-fed ground beef from Whole Foods sitting in the fridge, waiting to get cooked up. I bought it because it was on sale last week, not because I really had a plan for it. I was going to make meatballs, but then we got invited to my in-laws’ house for meatballs and sauce and that plan kind of went out the window. I thought about Shepard’s Pie, but that meal is kind of light on veggies. At the last minute, I found this recipe for Spinach & Meatball Soup. Score! When it came down to it, I barely used the recipe. I fresh spinach, a carton of beef stock, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning, cut spaghetti noodles and meatballs. Some of the complaints in the reviews were that the soup itself is kind of bland, so I wanted to spice it up. Mission accomplished. The soup was nice and filling, but it was really fatty. I don’t know if it’s the stock I used or what, but I was kind of grossed out by the oil slick on the top of the bowl. Nonetheless, there was enough left over for Mr. Wonderful and I to each bring some to work the next day.
While I was shopping for soup stuff Wednesday night, I did the smart thing and picked up sandwich meat. I also bought Thomas’s mini pitas. I’m only allowed two 80-calorie servings of grains/starches a day, so I have to be careful picking up bread. One slice alone is usually 80 calories. I got excited about the mini pitas because they’re only 70 calories. One thing I didn’t foresee? They’re freakin’ small! Two ounces of roast beef and some swiss cheese later and I had a blowout. The “pita” didn’t make it out of the kitchen in tact! It did, however, make for a delicious sandwich. I steamed some broccoli in the microwave at work so I could at least have some vegetables. I’m sure I didn’t have enough, but better than nothing.
I’m not sure if I can really quantify it, but I probably saved about $30 last week. It’s been difficult coming up with options that fit into my diet, but I’m learning. I did miss going out to lunch on Friday, but hey, it’s only a month, right?