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Tips for a Brown-Bag Lunch with Co-Workers

Tips for a Brown-Bag Lunch with Co-Workers

What you need to know for a fun, in-office lunch potluck

For many of us office workers sitting all day behind a computer screen, running out to the nearest Chipotle or corner salad spot is a daily ritual that gives us a brief moment to catch up with co-workers and get some fresh air. It’s also a habit that be expensive and unhealthy (if you frequently indulge in your penchance for burgers and shakes) over time. So why not brown bag it instead?

All this week, Big Girls Small Kitchen and Small Kitchen College is focusing on the art of the brown bag lunch. Now if thoughts of lunchboxes stuffed with a boring sandwich, carrot sticks, and a pudding cup that you eat alone come to mind, think again. Instead of making a lifeless lunch-for-one, team up with co-workers and host a weekly brown bag potluck in your office. With our tips and suggestions below, you can share a healthy and delicious meal made from scratch over good conversation, all while saving money and reducing lunchtime waste.

1. Pick the Date

Begin by picking what day of the week you want have your gathering. Wednesday offers a midweek respite from your office’s busy pace, or choose Friday for a fun and social way to ease into the weekend. Then be sure to book your office conference room or create an area where lunch can be set up (like that empty desktop?) That way, when it’s time to eat, desk chairs can be pulled together in a circle.

2. Poll Your Co-Workers

Send an email around to your colleagues inviting those interested to join in. Assign three colleagues each one dish — an appetizer, entrée, or dessert — to bring that is large enough to feed your group. If you have more than three people participating, make the gathering a weekly tradition so the people bringing the food rotates to ensure everyone has equal cooking responsibilities. Create a calendar to post in your break room so no one forgets when it's their day to cook.

3. What You Need

Hosting a brown bag potluck is easy if your office has a full kitchen with fridge and sink for storing and cleaning up. For budget- and eco-friendly dining, have each participant bring in their own plate, utensils, and napkin (which they can stash at their desk or in a kitchen cupboard) and be sure that you have utensils on hand for serving. And be sure to have some cleaning spray and paper towels on hand to wipe down any dripped food or crumbs from the surfaces (so you don’t attract unwanted four-legged friends).


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.


Stop Buying Lunch Every Day (Seriously, Stop)

Ka-ching! That was the sound of me handing over $8 and change for a medium-size salad—not including a drink or a bag of chips—as I did almost every day of the workweek. The economy being what it is, I decided to see just how much I was spending on lunch: a little over $2,000 a year. Whoa. And these weren't memorable dining experiences with loved ones this was a meal I ate over my computer keyboard.

The only way to keep my money in my purse was to whip out a brown bag. I worried that making my own lunches would be time-consuming and boring—and I kept having flashbacks to the soggy tuna sandwiches of my school days. Then again, I had two thousand good reasons to change my habits. So I came up with my brown-bagging rules: I'd spend only 10 minutes fixing the meal, and it had to be something I'd look forward to eating.

At the end of the week, a funny thing happened on the way to the ATM—I didn't need to take out any cash because I still had plenty in my wallet. But wasn't I spending more at the grocery store for lunch items? Surprisingly, the answer was no. Switching from an upscale food store to my less-expensive neighborhood supermarket made a huge difference. I also started using food more efficiently leftovers, formerly banished to the back of the fridge and tossed out a week later, were repurposed immediately. Last night's chicken became today's chicken sandwich extra couscous joined grilled veggies for a salad. Almost nothing went to waste. Since some foods, such as tabbouleh and pasta salad, taste even better after they've marinated, I started making extra for dinner so I could take some to work the next day—sometimes stuffing salads into pita bread (and always packing a snack like fruit, good-quality dark chocolate, or dried apricots).

Besides the savings, I discovered other benefits inside my lunch bag. There is the comfort of knowing who prepared my food—Chef Moi. I know exactly what's in it: no trans fats, not too much salad dressing, and I didn't skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes. There's also a sense of pride when my co-workers ask, "Hey, where did you get that?"—and especially when my husband sees me preparing my lunch in the morning and asks if I'll make the same thing for him. That's a feeling even an extra $2,000 can't buy.