Brown Bag Your Lunch and Save for Designer Shoes

While the thought of bringing your lunch to work might be depressing, you’ve got to admit it is cheaper than hitting up the local cute-as-can-be cafe each day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service found that in 2008, nearly half of every American food dollar, or $565 billion went towards food purchased away from home. Don’t fall into that trap! With so many great local farmers markets (great opportunity to socialize) and lunch boxes ranging from classic REI Gore-tex to shiny, pretty stacked bento boxes, bringing your meals and snacks can be fun. Besides the health benefits of making your own lunches (no hidden salt, sugar or fat), this is your time to show off your culinary creativity.


The “fabulous” Frugal Frump did her math and figured out that when spending $10 a day on lunch, (and that doesn’t get you much) you’ll be spending a whopping $2,475 a year. This is subtracting assumed vacation, holiday and sick days one would take. Bring your own lunch each day to work — which costs on average about $3, and you’ll save $1,924 a year. That extra cash could be a quick trip to Hawaii, five pairs of designer shoes, a labradoodle puppy or a big dent in that credit card. You decide.

Not feeling creative?  Here are some websites with fun and interesting brown bag options. has created a round up of tasty “Recessionista Lunches” Choose from pita sandwiches to warm winter salads.

San Francisco, foodie and writer who goes by the name “Biggie” discovered the wonders of packed lunches during her tenure in Japan. Her website, Lunch in a Box is dedicated to tasty, and aesthetically pleasing lunch items, while they seem to be directed at mom’s making lunches for kids –we think grown-ups would like them too.

And then for a variety of choices ranging from soups, salads and sides, check out

Have we missed any of your favorites? Let us know at

Lunch on the Cheap: Sriracha Black Bean Soup

Last year, The San Francisco Food Bank offered a Hunger Challenge: Can you eat for just $4 a day? That’s the budget the 3.2 million people in California who receive food stamps have to deal with.

As a nod to the challenge, we created a nutritious recipe for a weeks worth of office lunches for about $11.

Black Bean Soup with Sriracha Tofu Crumbles

5 Servings (freezes great!)


3 Cans of Black Beans (About $3)

1 Can of Diced Tomatoes (About $1)

1 Small White Onion (About $.50)

1 Package of Extra Firm Tofu (About $1)

1 Can of Chicken or Vegetable Broth (About $1)

1 Small Jalapeno (About $.50)

1 Cup of Sriracha – or other hot sauce you have on hand (About $4 for the whole bottle)

Directions for soup:

Saute chopped onions until translucent. In large pot over medium heat pour in black beans, tomatoes, diced jalapeno, can of broth. Add onions. Use an immersion blender to blend mixture into a creamy soup.

Directions for Tofu Crumbles:

Place the firm tofu between two paper towels on a plate. Place another plate on top and ‘squeeze’ out the water. Take the tofu and chop up into small crumble-like pieces. Mix in cup of Sriracha until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Place on foiled baking sheet, spreading out the crumbles, and bake on 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Flip tofu so other side now gets the love. Bake again for 25 minutes.

Preparation: Scoop three ladles of soup into bowl, top with tofu crumbles.

Health Benefits: Black beans are an almost fat-free, super high in protein food. They’ve also got significant amounts of folate and magnesium.