lunch boxIn years past, power lunches and quick meals on the go were standard fare, with brown bag lunches relegated to second-class citizen status. A cold meat sandwich could hardly compare to a delicious burger and fries. That began to change in 2008, and 2009 is set to be the comeback year for brown-bag lunches. Thanks mainly to the economic downturn, those of us packing our lunches will have more company in the break room this year. Prepackaged food companies haven't missed this comeback, either, and are in the process of rolling out new options to meet the demands of the modern brown bag lunch.

While I write this, I'm eating my brown-bagged peanut butter and jelly, but thanks to several companies and the Internet you can get much more creative.

Prepackaged lunches are no longer limited to the frozen dinner fare of our parents; companies are stepping up and offering appropriately portioned lunch meals in a variety of culinary styles. My new favorite lunch is a Red Baron French Bread Single which is easily heated in a microwave. Kraft's Oscar Mayer Deli Creations and the new Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers round out the new prepackaged offerings with tempting sandwiches and several rice and pasta creations to keep lunch interesting.

If a little home cooking is more up your alley, you can still brown-bag it with ease in 2009 thanks to the help of dedicated bloggers everywhere. When you are packing your own lunch, it's easy to fall into a rut, but thankfully you can use this handy brown-bag lunch matrix to reduce repetition and make shopping a breeze. If you want to eat healthy from a brown-bag lunch than you should definitely check out this Metafilter thread which is full of suggestions for healthy lunches at the office. Finally, you can always plan for lunch the night before by making extra and brown-bagging the leftovers.

With all of these choices available on your grocer's shelves and online; packing your lunch hasn't been this easy since your mom did it for you. Because of the economy and the wealth of choices, the brown bag may be the biggest comeback of 2009. If you choose right, the cost savings from brown bagging alone may save you more than dropping cable. If you're planning to get serious about brown bagging it, go modern and ditch the brown bag for one of the more stylish and environmentally friendly lunchboxes from Lunchboxes.com or your local thrift store.


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