Save money with homemade lunches

Christina Rittenbach
Christina Rittenbach, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences division of the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Stutsman County.
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Have you ever looked to see just how much you spend on food each month? How much of those expenses come from restaurant purchases?

We need to buy food. It is necessary for our survival. We can also make wise consumer decisions in doing so to help stretch our food dollars a bit further.

Bringing your own lunch to work is a great way to decrease food waste at home if you use leftovers from the night before. Prepare a little extra each night to make packing lunch even easier. Invest in a few good containers so you easily can reheat your lunch at work.

Follow these five tips for a healthful packed lunch:

  • Variety - Include a wide variety of colorful foods to ensure you are meeting all of your nutrition requirements. 
  • Whole grains - Including whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat pasta is a great way to increase the amount of fiber in your diet, which will help you feel fuller longer.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables – They’re healthful, delicious and easy to pack.
  • Taste - You can be creative and try new foods every day or bring your favorite foods.
  • Food safety - If you are using a lunch box, make sure it is well insulated. Use an ice pack to keep your foods at the correct temperature throughout the day or put your lunch in a refrigerator.

This healthy recipe for Asian Style Cobb Salad from NDSU Extension is perfect for a quick, easy and nutritious lunch.
Asian Style Cobb Salad


5 c. chopped romaine lettuce (or spinach)

1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges in light syrup or juice, drained

1/3 c. cooked chicken, shredded

1/3 c. grated carrots

1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced

2 hard-cooked eggs, diced

1/4 c. green onions, sliced

Sesame Vinaigrette Dressing



1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 clove garlic

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. soy sauce



  1. Broil, bake or grill chicken.
  2. Cook eggs. Place eggs in a small saucepan with cold water. Heat water just until boiling. Remove from heat and cover; let stand for 12 minutes. Drain water and eggs into a colander. Rinse eggs with cold water to stop cooking. Use immediately.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together all ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
  4. Assemble salad by placing greens in a large bowl; top with mandarin oranges, chicken, carrots, avocado, eggs and green onion.
  5. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 250 calories, 14 grams (g) fat, 8 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber and 160 milligrams sodium.
For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, NDSU Extension agent in Stutsman County, at (701) 252-9030 or

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