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Mar 6, 2006 01:31 PM

broke as a joke- need ideas for things to bring to lunch

  • l

Hi i rushed out and spent my paycheck a little too fast this month...i have little $ left and need to bring in my lunch for the next week and a half versus eating out. Looking to avoid the usual broke foods: ramen, turkey sandwich, and pb&j if I can....any of you have any ideas for a bring to work lunch that won't break the bank?

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  1. h
    Hungry Celeste

    --Lentils & rice (nutritionally complete) will feed you for days and days for PENNIES.
    --cheese sandwiches (nice if your office has a toaster)
    What sort of things are hanging around your kitchen? Maybe we can help you brainstorm ways to use what you already have.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      I second Celeste's suggestion to tell us what you've got.

      A huge money saver for me is a homemade version of Tuna helper. A bag of pasta in your choice of shape (99 cents for the Safeway brand), a can of tuna (50 cents?), and some fresh vegetables or canned vegetables (choose something less than $1). Cook the pasta and toss everything together in a fry pan with some salt, pepper, and some spices and/or cheese if you have it.

      For that grand total of about $3, I can eat three or four meals and it's relatively healthy.

    2. I'm with Celeste on us helping you use stuff you've already got in your pantry. My preferred method of lunch-at-work is to make oodles of (cheap) dinner foods and bring in little portions... the stuck pot rice recipe I posted last week is cheap to make and tasty, and you could certainly throw some beans in for a more complete meal. I also make a big batch of veggie soup using one big can of v8 and one big thing of chicken broth, and throw whatever frozen veggies I have lying around in, and make some little dumplings out of flour, salt, pepper, and water and throw those in, and that can keep me happy as a clam for a while.

      I'm the queen of cheap lunches, and would be happy to help more with more info.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Foodie2

        Unfortunately, i live in a new york studio apartment, so i don't have much in the kitchen these days... beer, water, and some flour tortillas in the fridge, and some tomato soup and lobster bisque in the cabinet..and of course dry pasta, oatmeal. not much to work with.

        thanks for trying...

        1. re: Lisabnyc

          Well, it's not the most exciting, but it'll get you through the end of the week... tomato soup, lobster bisque with tortillas for dipping... with the tomato soup, I'd grill some cheese in those tortillas. Satisfying and tasty? If you're looking for meals that are interesting but don't require cooking, you could make tuna and stuff lettuce leaves with it, or explore fun salad toppers (chicken, cheeses, nuts, etc), or the ever-tasty pbj rollup. Honestly, I was under the impression buying groceries in NYC was just as $$ as eating in dives, though. Some nice light brothy soups with frozen spinach and orzo are nice?

          1. re: Foodie2

            Thanks for all your help, guys....i may make a quick trip through chinatown to pick up a few cheap extras before going home and getting to work...

            1. re: Lisabnyc

              While you're in Chinatown, there are a bunch of buffet style places where you can choose up to four items + white rice for $4. They'll throw in a soup too. I find that they are pretty generous with the food, and depending on how much you eat, you can get 2 - 3 meals out of it.

          2. re: Lisabnyc

            Also, this might sound disgusting (it does to me), but one of my friends was mentioning this weekend his love of curried oatmeal -- he makes oatmeal, mixes it with chopped onions and curry powder. Sounds totally horrible to me, but he swears by it as a lunch item... You can be creative with the pasta, too -- interesting pasta salads in vinaigrettes, all sorts of tasty sauces, etc.

            1. re: Foodie2

              Does it help if you think of it as a whole-grain risotto? :-)
              John Thorne also mentions eating oatmeal with onions as an ultra-cheap supper in _Simple Cooking_ .

              You'd *have* to use real (and inexpensive) rolled oats or steel-cut oats, not the little packets of instant oatmeal. And it would be very filling, so you wouldn't be thinking about snacking for a while afterwards.

              I'd definitely recommend some kind of bulk grain, whether it's oatmeal or rice or something else. (But then, I really like oatmeal and rice and I would never get sick of them.) Good luck!

            2. re: Lisabnyc
              Hungry Celeste

              Most of the world's poorest population lives on dried beans, rice, and/or tortillas.

              Spend a few pennies on some dried black beans (a whole pound will run you 69 cents), some rice, a dozen eggs, an onion, some garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, and a lime (I'm building on the tortillas in the fridge). Stay home for a couple of hours, cook a pot of black beans, seasoning with the garlic, onion, and some of the lime. On the first day, puree some of the beans and eat as black bean soup (season with cumin, cilantro, lime juice, and garnish with a sliced avocado, if your budget permits). Next, cook the rice, and then mix with some of the already cooked beans (like hoppin' john or arroz con gandules--toss in some of that can of diced tomatoes--there's lunch #2). Lunch #3--take some of the remaining beans and roll 'em up in a tortilla with whatever you like or have hanging around for a black bean burrito.

              And since you cooked rice earlier in the week, you can whip up some rice pudding, fried rice, buttered rice, or scrambled eggs with rice. A version of huevos rancheros are within your grasp with the limited ingredients listed above, too. And, with that dozen eggs, of course: egg salad, boiled/devilled eggs, and microwave scrambled eggs (break two eggs in a micro-safe plastic container, stir with a fork, and cook in 30-second increments until as firm as you like; swipe salt-n-pepper from a co-worker if you don't have any little packets lurking in your desk drawer). So, you're also on the road to a breakfast burrito!

              Or, do what my lazy better half used to do in college: blow your cash on the family-sized combination fried rice or vegetable lo mein from the ridiculously cheap ghetto chinese place on the corner and eat the same thing all week! Gross.

              All of this reminds me of a hip-hop song currently on local radio: the refrain is--
              "I'm from the ghetto homey
              I was raised on bread and baloney
              Don't come around here 'cause you're phony..."

          3. I loathe the stuff myself, but eggs are cheap, so how about egg salad? Or deviled eggs? Or maybe a frittata, with some sauteed veggies, eggs and a bit of cheese.

            1. Legumes are your cheap and delicious friend. Chickpea salad (chickpeas in garlicky vinaigrette with chopped onions and minced parsley), black or red beans and rice, split pea soup, black bean soup, lentil soup, refried beans with a little cheese or salsa (or both). Cans are cheap, dried beans even cheaper. Pasta and rice are also cheap but but quite as nutritious. As the OP noted, eggs are also cheap.

              1. c

                Baked potatoes. Buy a few russets, bake them off, then eat them with some baked beans on top, or scoop out the center, mash with cottage cheese and a little cheddar, refill. Reheat in microwave at work.

                I also like peanut noodles, but I usually have various asian sauces in the house to mix with peanut butter and toss on noodles. If you have a little hot sauce, oyster suace, soy, fish sauce, ginger, this can be quick and easy and cheap, but if you have to run out and buy flavorings, it will get expensive fast. A bunch of scallions and some shredded carrot will improve the nutritional value cheaply.

                A pot of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots will give you leftovers for days, plus a freezerful of lunch-sized packets, for under $20.


                1 Reply
                1. re: curiousbaker

                  Definitely potatoes. I can get a 10 lb. sack in San Francisco for $1 in the right markets. Just make sure they're fresh because when they are they're great and when they're not it's a total waste.

                  I had potatoes and cabbage for lunch today and found it shockingly good.

                  Cut potatoes into long strips (like for steak fries), and slice cabbage into wide pieces. Steam both for five to ten minutes, depending on your preference.

                  toss with salt, a little butter, and pepper. I love the scent of cabbage (especially savoy), and the potatoes add nice bulk and soak up butter/salt flavor.