Getting Ready for the Brown-Bag Challenge

Get ready for our September Brown-Bag lunch challenge by stocking up and planning ahead.

We’re teaming up with fellow food bloggers to host a Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you're eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

There's one day to go before the September Brown-Bag Challenge. You can read all of the details in our post announcing the event, but essentially, it's a month-long initiative to bring a healthy lunch to school or work each weekday, to save money and have control over the calories we consume. There are over 80 bloggers participating, plus a large group from the foodnetwork.com offices. It'll be tough for me; working in Chelsea Market means I'm surrounded by temptation, but I feel like I'm ready because I've been preparing ahead. Here's how:

Planning Meals

I'm not a sandwich person. I like sandwiches and all, but I rarely pack one for lunch. I'm more of a leftovers or soup person. I know I'll get tripped up during this challenge if I don't have in my mind the meals I'll make for the coming week. So I've been spending a lot of time researching recipes for food I know I'll look forward to making for dinner, and eating again for lunch the next day. My standby recipes are hummus, babaganoush, green salads topped with either of those two dips, grain salads, butternut squash soup, stir-fry and gazpacho (at least for the next few weeks when tomatoes are in season). These are things in my usual lunch rotation, but I'm looking forward to adding new recipes to my repertoire as a result of this challenge.

For the first lunch of the challenge, I want to try something new, so tonight I'm making Food Network Magazine's Curried Potatoes and Chickpeas; I'll eat it for dinner, then bring the leftovers in for day one of the challenge.

Disclaimer: I don't eat meat. I eat fish occasionally, but I don't eat chicken, pork or beef ever. I don't judge others who do eat meat, in fact I appreciate meat and meat-based dishes, I just don't eat the stuff. So while I will recommend recipes containing meat during this challenge, I won't be eating any myself.

Stocking Up

A well stocked-pantry means you'll be ready to prepare dinner at home, but there's no reason you shouldn't keep the office stocked too. Most offices have refrigerators and freezers for employees to use, and a desk drawer or filing cabinet is a good place to stash some trail mix or granola bars for snacks. I intend to complete this challenge no matter what, so I stocked a desk drawer with almond butter, trail mix, oatmeal and Kind bars. In the office 'fridge, I'm keeping jam, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, and in the freezer, a loaf of whole-grain bread. In an emergency, I can toast the bread and make PB&Js, and I can snack on yogurt, cottage cheese and trail mix. There's no way I'll be tempted to run down to Chelsea Market for a treat.

Get Inspired

Read up on healthy lunch ideas from Healthy Eats and some of our favorite food and health blogs.

What to Expect During the Challenge
In addition to weekly posts here, you can expect:
Weekly giveaways
A Facebook chat with our registered dieticians

Weekly round-ups of our blogger friends' posts about the Brown-Bag Challenge

A Q&A with our friends at Big Girls, Small Kitchen, who did a similar challenge back in August for a week

Tips, recipes and advice on bringing healthy lunches to work and school

If you haven't signed up for the challenge, check out the details and email us to join at foodnetworkhealthyeats at gmail dot com.

What are you having for lunch tomorrow?
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