Bring Your Own Lunch
by Elizabeth L. Blair
The Frugal Lunchbox
Deals on Lunchmeat
Brown Bag Lunches
We've all heard the money saving tips, such as brewing your own coffee at home will save you $3.50 a day and bringing your lunch to work will save you thousands in the end. And it's true. But it's also easier said than done. Packing a lunch everyday can take work which leads to time which leads to just doing what's easiest and grabbing a quick lunch out. Once again, over time, that adds up to a lot of money spent. How can you avoid falling into this trap? It just takes a little planning ahead.
The first thing you'll want to do is invest in a couple of things. You will need a reusable lunch box or bag. Just say "no" to the paper bags since they are rarely reusable, and right there, you are spending money just to carry your lunch. Buy a selection of plastic wear. I bought my set of twenty pieces at a discount store for ten dollars. Plastic sandwich bags are wonderful, but they will cause you to end up spending a few bucks on a regular basis, which is exactly what we are attempting to avoid. Reusable plastic wear can just be thrown in the dishwasher. You will also want to invest in a cold compress. You can either buy one that has to be refrozen nightly or one that can be filled with ice. Either way, this will give you the option of bringing your own drinks, which will help you stay away from that money eating soda machine. You will also be able to bring snacks like yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, rolled up deli meat, or applesauce.
Next, it's time to start planning your lunches and you don't have to stay with the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Try cooking extra food the evening before at dinner so there are plenty of leftovers. You can add a little flavor by making a container of ranch dressing that will be a great dipping sauce for carrots or bringing a small container of peanut butter for celery. Other easy and healthy items to prepare for lunch are hardboiled eggs, soup or stew, or any variety of burrito. Or bake chicken breasts, cut them up, and throw them over a salad.
Whatever your lunch will be the following day, whether the traditional sandwich or a steak with a baked potato, prepare and pack it the evening before. Another time saving option that I finally adapted for our household is spending a few minutes on Sunday or any free time to prepare most of the food before hand, such as cutting up a large container of veggies or fruit and even preparing cut up meat in advance. The best part is that lunch preparation is reduced to only minutes and is ready to be placed in a plastic container and easy to grab from the fridge.
If the soda machine's friend the vending machine lures you daily, it's time to start bringing your own snacks for that late afternoon snack attack. Buying in bulk is the way to go when it comes to snack foods. Large quantities of cookies, crackers, nuts, raisins, and pretzels can be divided up.
Finally, make sure you give yourself a real break and get out of the office. Just because you bring your lunch doesn't mean you have to stay cooped up in your cubical. Find a park to escape to, plant yourself on the building's steps, or take a short ride in your car or the bus for some new scenery.
What it boils down to is bringing what you enjoy eating. If you don't care for your lunch, you may be tempted to venture out to a restaurant, leading to spending money and wasting your home brought lunch. Just give "lunch from home" a try. If you fail at first or have a hard time getting started, that's okay. Start with your afternoon snacks or bringing your own beverages. When you do "get good" at bringing your lunch regularly, allowing yourself the occasional or weekly meal out will still save you a bundle compared to the previous daily indulgences you were allowing. Bon Appetit!
See "Bento Boxes" in The Dollar Stretcher Community
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor
Prices keep rising while my income remains stagnant and I worry I am heading for debt trouble. Tell us: Yes, I think I am heading for debt trouble and could use some help! or No, I am not in debt trouble but I am always looking for new ways to help keep my budget on track!
More Money-Saving Lifestyle Tips
- Best September bargains for thrifty shoppers
- 4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life
- 6 tips for a fabulously free vacation
- Secrets to living luxuriously for less
- Money-saving secrets of the rich and frugal
- 4 secrets to being a frugal foodie
- Should I sell my phone or trade it in?
- How to get more from the stores you shop at
- Mastering the mess for less
- This week's Readers' Tips