By Laura Fuentes | August 30th, 2011
Bringing your lunch to work can be a quick and easy way to save money.
If you’ve gone to the grocery store lately, you might have noticed that prices have increased over the past year. If you’re working and rely on a quick drive-through or cafeteria trip for lunch, then you are probably spending between $40-60 dollars per week. At a café or restaurant, you are definitely spending more.
In my pre-kids era (back in my corporate job days) I spent an average of $75 per week on lunch, or $300 per month, or nearly $1200yr! (Thank you, Quicken for keeping track) WOW, that could have translated into a long NYC shopping weekend, or a beach trip! Have a spouse? Make that x 2.
You don’t know what to pack? You can’t stand eating left overs the next day? You cook for one? Are you so exhausted after getting the kids to bed, and that making their lunches seems like an impossible item to check off on your to-do list? You are not alone. Lucky for you, I am the Modern-Day Lunch Lady!
The Right Tools Make the Job Easier.
Here are 3 simple steps you can take now to start making healthy lunches at home—and start racking up the savings now.
1. Have a Plan.
Mapping out a quick layout of your weekly meals (breakfast, lunch & dinner) can save you over $50 a week in wasted food, take-out dinners and impulse buys. That can add up to over $200 per month! A lunch planning service like MOMables can help you save time and money every week. It is technically a school lunch planning service, but by adjusting the portion sizes everyone in the family can eat healthy. Short on time? MOMables lunches can be prepared in 10 minutes or less for the entire family. An added bonus: you also get a shopping list and make-ahead tips
2. The right containers make a BIG difference.
Since saving money is our focus here, purchasing a re-usable and durable lunch container is cost effective over time. This will replace many disposable zip bags that would be thrown away every day (over $240 a year for a family of six). The search for something that will work for your entire family can be overwhelming; there are over 1,880 options on Amazon alone. In my household you’ll find. Easy Lunch Boxes. We have two sets at our house and the first set is over a year old. They are durable, are BPA, phthalate, PVC free, and keep the food separated in their 3 compartments. Packing lunch in these for our entire family is a breeze and the different colors help everyone identify the rightful owner. I no longer need containers of different shapes and sizes for my family (no more lost lids either!) Another important benefit: they keep adult portions in check. You can also go stainless steel and other all in-one options. But remember, they have to work for you.
3. Cook your options ahead of time.
You’ve heard of “bringing left overs to work” but what you really need to think about is re-vamping that roasted chicken into other things. Instead of grilling one chicken breast for dinner per person; add an extra one for lunches. Love roasted chicken? Make two. With the extra chicken you now can make chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, bbq chicken sandwiches, black bean chicken burritos, chicken and pasta… just to name a few. If you are making it for dinner, consider cooking up an extra portion or two per person anytime you cook chicken, pasta, pork or pot roast.
Revamping dinners into delicious lunches is easy when you have the food you need already prepared. And it’s very cost effective too!
4. Incorporate variety.
We love options. Who doesn’t like looking at a menu and selecting something delicious? Sandwiches 5 times per week can get boring very fast. You need to think outside the slice. Buy pita pockets, whole-wheat subs, pastas, bread rolls, wraps… the possibilities are endless. You can store them in the fridge or freezer and take out what you need. Having options at home can save you lots of money; at least $8 per day!
5. Get social.
Nobody wants to sit at his or her desk while the rest of the office goes out to lunch. Get a lunch buddy. Social time is one of the biggest reasons we go out to eat. Instead, pick a bench outside the office or a park near by; fresh air is the perfect side dish to your lunch.
If saving $2,000 dollars per year by bringing your lunch to work is not reason enough, think about your new lunch accessories. Of course, you know you are going to shop for a stylish new lunch bag, cloth napkin, and the perfect stainless drink container; right? Everyone else is doing it!
Laura Fuentes is the Chief MOM at MOMables™. A wife, mother of 3 and a lunch enthusiast who insists on healthy, wholesome food for her family.
On her personal blog, Super Glue Mom, she writes about motherhood, green living, deadlines and keeping her cool, even when her kids super-glued her hair. She’s also a food contributor to numerous sites, and helps parents overcome the difficulties of cooking for picky eaters.