Supersizing Brown-Bag Savings

Packing a lunch isn't just for kids, especially these days. Consumer Reports ShopSmart has ways to add spark to lunches so you can start adding up the savings.

A few simple moves can add up to real savings.

Take the Olive Garden's Caesar salad with grilled chicken. It costs almost $12 and packs 850 calories.

ShopSmart's salad costs about $4, and contains 550 calories.

Even sandwiches add up. At Panera Break, a smoke ham and Swiss on whole-grain bread will set you back about $5, and has about 400 calories.

But packing a lunch doesn't mean you always have to tote the basics.

"Try a frittata or a piece of quiche. Both are easy to pack and are great served warm or cold." said Consumer Reports Sue Perry.

Or dress up dinner leftovers like orzo, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or couscous.

"Add some favorite chopped veggies, olive oil and vinegar, or whatever you like, and pack it up." said Perry.

Love appetizers? Instead of spending big bucks at a restaurant, bring your own.

Pack up some cubed mozzarella or provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, crusty whole-grain break, olives, and salami.

Or consider a small container of hummus and some pita bread for dipping.

And don't forget to pack a drink! Buying them at work can be a budget and a diet buster.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart says, of course, a salad is a really healthy choice at lunch.

To avoid wilted and soggy lettuce, pack the salad dressing on the side.

Or an alternative, chopped veggies like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, or sugar snap peas in a vinaigrette.

They'll stay crunchier than lettuce and add a little variety.


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