Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday's Fabulously Frugal Featured Reader

As much as I'd like to take credit for all of Fabulously Frugal's featured tips and ideas, the truth is I'm not omniscient. Shocking to all, I'm sure.

But always true to my dorky and studious side, I just don't have the heart to straight up plagiarize. I know, I know. It's the real world -- it's all about profiting off other people's genius ideas (hello, Mark Zuckerberg!). So, instead of completely ripping off a good idea, every Friday I plan to feature someone who embodies the FF ideals and has some of their own creative tips to share.

This week's FF featured reader was kind enough to let me force her to take the plunge and be our first weekly guru. Though she's not an organic reader of the site (she was coerced by way of being my friend and being spammed by my numerous emails about the blog), she is absolutely worth a shout-out for her Rachael Ray-like lunchbox style.

Kicking things off this Friday is Julia (see photo), a publicist who I happen to know brings some pretty fab lunches to work every day. Below Julia shares her ideas on Tupperware, burrito bowls and online savings accounts. FF readers take note.

If memory serves, you were quite the brown bag lunch connoisseur. How long have you been bringing your lunches to work and why did you start?
Before moving to NYC three years ago, I worked at a museum in Syracuse. I got into the habit of packing my lunch because there weren’t too many restaurant options nearby. Obviously there’s no shortage of restaurants in NYC, but now I face another issue: cheap lunch options tend to be unhealthy, and healthy options tend not to be cheap. By bringing my lunch, I’m getting the best of both worlds.

A lot of people say that bringing lunch lacks variety or that they don't have time to pack a lunch. How do you mix it up and make sure it's part of your weekly routine?
I totally disagree with that assumption. On occasion, I do get out of the habit of bringing lunch, and I find that I get so sick of all the restaurants nearby my office. When I bring, on the other hand, I’m only limited by what I can cook. I usually try to go grocery shopping – often just the bodega or Garden of Eden by my apartment – over the weekend and then make a big batch of whatever on Sunday night. I own a bunch of Tupperware, so just pack the lunches Sunday night for the whole week. Then, in the morning, I grab and go.

Has packing a daily lunch benefited you in any way (i.e., saved you money, made you a better cook, encouraged you to eat healthier)?
Saving money is just one of the benefits of brown bagging it, and, honestly, it’s not even my primary motivation. I like having the control of eating delicious, yet healthy meals every day. Plus, when I bring a lunch, I’m less tempted to splurge on chips, fries, etc. that can add extra cost and calories.

In what other ways are you frugal? Do you have any tips to share with FF readers?
Hmmm… BYOB is a definite fave. I have an online savings account, which offers the interest of a CD without the strings. My work offers discounted movie tickets, which I’ve purchased in bulk and then just use as I go. Basically, I consider myself pretty cost conscious in general, and like to feel like I’m making smart, informed decisions and getting a good deal.

Julia's go-to recipe:
One easy lunch that I love is a take on a Chipotle/Qdoba burrito bowl. I make a huge batch of brown rice, and portion out one cup servings of that. Then, I buy Amy’s Organic Black Beans and portion out ½ cup servings. Finally, I sauté red onion, green pepper, yellow squash and zucchini until they’re tender. I add chili powder to taste and dump however much I feel like over the rice and beans. Voila. Healthy meals for the week for less than $10. Also, if I have one ingredient left over that I want to use up, I check out recipe sites like and do an enhanced search. I type in the ingredient I have, and all the recipes in their database using that ingredient pop-up.

**To nominate yourself or some other lucky person for 15 minutes of FF fame, email**

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