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20 Frugal Bagged Lunch Ideas

20 Frugal Bagged Lunch Ideas

Brown-bagging your lunch is a great way to cut down on daily spending by avoiding the price of packaged or pre-assembled food items. It can even be eco-friendly if you use reusable containers and baggies. However, thinking up a variety of meal ideas can be difficult, discouraging, and you may wind up spending more preparing a packed lunch than if you had just bought it pre-packaged.

If this is you, bagged lunches aren’t saving you as much money — and still tasting good — as they should be. Frustrated brown-baggers, this one’s for you, and all those out there who’ve never tried switching to brown bag lunches because you don’t know where to begin. Here are some tasty and affordable ideas for how to rock your brown bag lunches:

1. Turkey sandwich wraps

Turkey lunch meat is typically inexpensive, and tastes great with a number of different cheeses.

    source: rockYOface via Flickr

    2. Chili (homemade or store-bought) & crackers

    Chili is relatively easy to make, even if you’re not an expert cook. It can be made in large batches which you can freeze and de-thaw later. Or you can go the canned route, and bring some crackers along for dipping.

      source: paul goyette via Flickr

      3. Hummus and veggie stuffed pita bread

      Pita bread is awesome because it’s already got a pocket so you don’t even have to put two pieces of bread together! Stuff some hummus and inexpensive veggies in there and you’ve got a quick pocket-o-sandwich.

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        source: roboppy via Flickr

        4. Ham & cheese on a croissant

        Ham & cheese is a classic and cheap combo, but you might get bored with it quickly. Pick up a bag of pre-made croissants at the grocery store, or another unusual bread if you fancy.

          source: Mon555 via Flickr

          5. PB&J, substitute the “P”

          There are all kinds of spreads that taste great with jelly/jam if you’re bored of this lunch staple. Sunflower seed, almond, and cashew butter are the most popular.

            source: mysoslife.com

            6. PB & honey sandwich

            However, if you love your butter with the peanut (as I do), substitute the jelly/jam instead. Honey and peanut butter make a delicious sandwich.

              source: jazzijava via Flickr

              7. PB & potato chip sandwich

              If you’ve never tried this childhood classic…well, don’t knock it ’til you try it! (I really really love peanut butter, if you can’t tell.)

                source: LinguistAtLarge via Wikipedia

                8. Scrambled egg “cupcakes”

                You’d have to make these before the morning-of, obviously, but these tiny pseudo-quiches are tasty and inexpensive. Here’s a recipe.

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                  source: chasingthefirefly.wordpress.com

                  9. Banana & peanut butter wraps

                  Turkey isn’t the only thing that tastes great in a tortilla! (Okay, I swear I’m done with peanut butter…)

                    source: vegancrunk.blogspot.com

                    10. Casseroles (any kind)

                    Another one you have to make in advance, but an evening spent making a casserole provides lunches for days. Plus, there are a plethora of casserole recipes available online, so you can change it up on a whim.

                      source: Julia Frost via Flickr

                      11. Baked beans & hot dogs

                      Chop up some hot dogs and throw them into a can of baked beans. Heat and enjoy.

                        source: servedupwithlove.blogspot.com

                        12. Homemade lentil stew

                        Bags of dried lentils are super cheap, and make a great stew with ham or ham bone, sausage, squash, and a variety of spices. Find some ideas for recipes here.

                          source: youasamachine via Flickr

                          13. Tuna sandwich with celery/cucumbers

                          Even a good tuna fish sandwich can get boring. Chopped celery or cucumbers make a great simple addition,  and add a dash of pepper to taste.

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                            source: David Lifson via Flickr

                            14. Pasta salad

                            Cook a big batch of pasta, then cool it in the fridge and add any veggies, cheese, and nuts you want. Here are some ideas for recipes, which you can tweak based on what’s more affordable at the grocery store.

                              source: Michael Verhoef via Flickr

                              15. Microwave-ready tortilla chips & cheese

                              Nacho purists will sniff their noses at this, but when you’re trying to save money, the microwave is your new best friend. Some shredded cheese over tortilla chips popped into the microwave is quick and inexpensive.

                                source: garlicmysoul.com

                                16. Baked potato & favorite toppings

                                Bake some potatoes the night before and pack one or two with classic toppings like sour cream, shredded cheese, and chives or onions.

                                  source: curryandcomfort.yummly.com

                                  17. Have fun in the canned soup aisle

                                  Who says soup in a can has to be boring? There are many flavors of soup and grocery stores often have specials on canned soup, so branch out and try some!

                                    source: NPR.org

                                    18. Buy “manager’s specials” from the bakery section

                                    They might not be called “manager’s specials” at your local grocery store, but there’s usually a section with discounted day-old baked goods that have nothing wrong with them other than not being freshly baked. Hit up this section to get bread for sandwiches and muffins for treats.

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                                      source: howtohaveitall.net

                                      19. Make extra when cooking dinner

                                      Make a couple extra burritos or burger patties for dinner, and take the extra(s) to lunch the next day.

                                        source: dimitridf via Flickr

                                        20. Upgrade your miscelleneous leftovers

                                        Ever used the leftover food from a big holiday to make sandwiches and pudding the day after? Keep that going all year ’round and make your lunch with leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Salads, wraps, and sandwiches are all quick fixes for food that requires a little revamp.

                                          source: kthread via Flickr

                                          Featured photo credit: Untitled/Travelling Steve via flic.kr

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                                          Last Updated on July 28, 2020

                                          14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

                                          14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

                                          Diet trends may come and go, but a low-GI diet remains one of the few that has been shown to include benefits based on science. Low GI foods provide substantial health benefits over those with a high index, and they are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

                                          What is GI? Glycemic index (GI) is the rate at which the carbohydrate content of a food is broken down into glucose and absorbed from the gut into the blood. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream.[1]

                                          The higher the GI of a food, the faster it will be broken down and cause your blood glucose (sugar) to rise. Foods with a high GI rating are digested very quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. This is why it’s advisable to stick to low GI foods as much as possible, as the carbohydrate content of low GI foods will be digested slowly, allowing a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.

                                          Foods with a GI scale rating of 70 or more are considered to be high GI. Foods with a rating of 55 or below are considered low GI foods.

                                          It’s important to note that the glycemic index of a food doesn’t factor in the quantity that you eat. For example, although watermelon has a high glycemic index, the water and fiber content of a standard serving of water means it won’t have a significant impact on your blood sugar.

                                          Like watermelon, some high GI foods (such as baked potatoes) are high in nutrients. And some low GI foods (such as corn chips) contain high amounts of trans fats.

                                          In most cases, however, the GI is an important means of gauging the right foods for a healthy diet.

                                          Eating mainly low GI foods every day helps to provide your body with a slow, continuous supply of energy. The carbohydrates in low GI foods is digested slowly, so you feel satisfied for longer. This means you’ll be less likely to suffer from fluctuating sugar levels that can lead to cravings and snacking.

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                                          Let’s continue with some of the best examples of low GI foods.

                                          1. Quinoa

                                          GI: 53

                                          Quinoa has a slightly higher GI than rice or barley, but it contains a much higher proportion of protein. If you don’t get enough protein from the rest of your diet, quinoa could help. It’s technically a seed, so it’s also high in fiber–again, more than most grains. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it excellent for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

                                          2. Brown Rice (Steamed)

                                          GI: 50

                                          Versatile and satisfying, brown rice is one of the best low GI foods and is a staple for many dishes around the world. It’s whole rice from which only the husk (the outermost layer) is removed, so it’s a great source of fiber. In fact, brown rice has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve digestive function, promote fullness, and may even help prevent the formation of blood clots. Just remember to always choose brown over white!

                                          3. Corn on the Cob

                                          GI: 48

                                          Although it tastes sweet, corn on the cob is a good source of slow-burning energy (and one of the tastiest low GI foods). It’s also a good plant source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron, all of which are required for the healthy production of red blood cells in the body. It’s healthiest when eaten without butter and salt!

                                          4. Bananas

                                          GI: 47

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                                          Bananas are a superfood in many ways. They’re rich in potassium and manganese and contain a good amount of vitamin C. Their low GI rating means they’re great for replenishing your fuel stores after a workout.

                                          They are easy to add to smoothies, cereal, or kept on your desk for a quick snack. The less ripe they are, the lower the sugar content is! As one of the best low GI foods, it’s a great addition to any daily diet.

                                          5. Bran Cereal

                                          GI: 43

                                          Bran is famous for being one of the highest cereal sources of fiber. It’s also rich in a huge range of nutrients: calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and a host of B vitamins. Although bran may not be to everyone’s tastes, it can easily be added to other cereals to boost the fiber content and lower the overall GI rating.

                                          6. Natural Muesli

                                          GI: 40

                                          Muesli–when made with unsweetened rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, and other sugar-free ingredients–is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. It’s also very easy to make at home with a variety of other low GI foods. Add yogurt and fresh fruit for a nourishing, energy-packed breakfast.

                                          7. Apples

                                          GI: 40

                                          Apple skin is a great source of pectin, an important prebiotic that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Apples are also high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants, and contain a good amount of vitamin C. They are best eaten raw with the skin on! Apples are one of a number of fruits[2] that have a low glycemic index. Be careful which fruits you choose, as many have a large amount of natural sugars[3].

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                                          8. Apricots

                                          GI: 30

                                          Apricots provide both fiber and potassium, which make them an ideal snack for both athletes and anyone trying to keep sugar cravings at bay. They’re also a source of antioxidants and a range of minerals.

                                          Apricots can be added to salads, cereals, or eaten as part of a healthy mix with nuts at any time of the day.

                                          9. Kidney Beans

                                          GI: 29

                                          Kidney beans and other legumes provide a substantial serving of plant-based protein, so they can be used in lots of vegetarian dishes if you’re looking to adopt a plant-based diet[4]. They’re also packed with fiber and a variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They are great in soups, stews, or with (whole grain) tacos.

                                          10. Barley

                                          GI: 22

                                          Barley is a cereal grain that can be eaten in lots of ways. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. It also contains beta-glucans, a type of fiber that can support gut health and has been shown to reduce appetite and food intake.

                                          Please note that barley does contain gluten, which makes it unsuitable for anyone who is Celiac[5] or who follows a gluten-free diet. In this case, gluten-free alternatives might include quinoa, buckwheat, or millet.

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                                          11. Raw Nuts

                                          GI: 20

                                          Most nuts have a low GI of between 0 and 20, with cashews slightly higher at around 22. Nuts, as one of the best low GI foods, are a crucial part of the Mediterranean diet[6] and are really the perfect snack: they’re a source of plant-based protein, high in fiber, and contain healthy fats. Add them to smoothies and salads to boost the nutritional content. Try to avoid roasted and salted nuts, as these are made with large amounts of added salt and (usually) trans fats.

                                          12. Carrots

                                          GI: 16

                                          Raw carrots are not only a delicious low GI vegetable, but they really do help your vision! They contain vitamin A (beta carotene) and a host of antioxidants. They’re also low-calorie and high in fiber, and they contain good amounts of vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots are great for those monitoring their weight as they’ve been linked to lower cholesterol levels.

                                          13. Greek Yogurt

                                          GI: 12

                                          Unsweetened Greek yogurt is not only low GI, but it’s an excellent source of calcium and probiotics, as well. Probiotics help to keep your gut microbiome in balance and support your overall digestive health and immune function. Greek yogurt makes a healthy breakfast, snack, dessert, or a replacement for dip. The most common probiotic strains found in yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus[7] (found naturally in yogurt) and Lactobacillus acidophilus[8] (which is often added by the manufacturer). You can also look into probiotic supplements for improving your gut health.

                                          14. Hummus

                                          GI: 6

                                          When made the traditional way from chickpeas and tahini, hummus is a fantastic, low-GI dish. It’s a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and can be eaten with almost any savory meal. Full of fiber to maintain satiety and feed your good gut bacteria, hummus is great paired with freshly-chopped vegetables, such as carrots and celery.

                                          Bottom Line

                                          If you’re looking to eat healthier or simply cut down on snacking throughout the day, eating low GI foods is a great way to get started. Choose any of the above foods for a healthy addition to your daily diet and start feeling better for longer.

                                          More Tips on Eating Healthy

                                          Featured photo credit: Alexander Mils via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

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