Save your wallet and your waistline with these tips to make brown bagging fun

By Jené Luciani

If you're stuck behind a desk all day, chances are you're taking in more calories than you're expending, especially if you step out to grab lunch every day. This habit is not only bad for your waistline, it's bad for your wallet too. According to a study reported by, 66 percent of Americans buy their lunch nearly every day, spending close to $160 every month.

We went to Kendal Perez of to find out his best tips for how we can put that money to better use.

Get Creative

The latest trend in healthy, on-the-go eating is the "salad in a jar." This creative concept uses a ‘stacking' method to keep salads fresh for up to three days. Select your favorite dressing-or better yet, make it yourself-and add it to a mason jar followed by salad fixing's like onion, carrots, mushrooms and bell pepper. Add the greens last to keep them from getting soggy!

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BYOI, as in "bring your own ingredients," can be very effective for curbing midday cravings. If your office is equipped with a refrigerator and prep area, purchase fixings for the week and make your salad or sandwich fresh when hunger strikes. It'll likely take less time than heading out for a bite to eat so you can use that time for an afternoon walk.

Mix it Up

As creatures of habit, when we find a food we like, we tend to eat it often. Beat your own brown-bag boredom by checking the internet for culinary inspiration. You'll be surprised at how many unique lunch ideas you'll find (we were amazed by these healthy lunch ideas from SHAPE's Facebook fans!). Plus, it'll keep you from bingeing on that cheap Mexican food around the corner from the office.

Waste Not, Want Not

If you didn't know this already, last night's dinner can make a fabulous next-day lunch. Even if it's just a small portion of leftover vegetables, or half of a steak, it'll taste great with little-to-no prep time the day after. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if your lunch is "put together," just as long as it's satisfying and healthy. Plus, you reduce the risk of leftovers going bad and becoming unusable all together.

Stay Satisfied

Even if you bring your lunch from home, midday hunger may sabotage your efforts to avoid the deli down the road. That's why bringing snacks is so important. Stock your desk drawer with healthy snacks like almonds or small protein bars (or any of these SHAPE-approved snacks under 200 calories). Or buy a bag of carrots or apples to keep in the office refrigerator.

Try Pre-Packaged

Some days, just getting out the door is a struggle and there simply isn't enough time to prepare lunch. If every precious minute of your morning is already taken by your beauty routine, stock up on healthy, pre-packaged foods you can just pop in the microwave, like Kashi All Natural Chicken Florentine and Michael Angelo's Eggplant Parmesan. You can even store them at the office if there's a freezer available.

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