Trying to save money during the recession? The quickest and easiest way I’ve found to save about $6,000 a year is packing our lunches for work. In midtown Manhattan, a mediocre lunch and non-alcoholic drink will cost you about $12.50 a day. Since there are two of us working, we’re taking about roughly $25 dollars a day. That $25 dollars might not seem like a lot, but over the course of a week we would be spending $125 dollars. That means in just one year, we would be eating $6,000 dollars worth of takeout food! Instead of wasting money buying unhealthy food, we pack our lunches every night and save the money towards other expenses in our budget. When you think about it, $6,000 is a pretty good size down payment on a car, a semester of state school, or a really nice vacation for two.
5 Tips to make the process easy and enjoyable:
1-Set aside 15 minutes each evening to pack your lunch for the following day. If you have a significant other, or kids, pack their lunches at the same time so you don’t have to think about it later. Efficiency is key. If you’re feeling like the process takes too long you won’t bother, and you’ll end up buying lunch the next day.
2- Make twice as much dinner as you need, and take the leftovers to work the next day. We’ve found that Leftover lasagna, stir fry, soups and casseroles heat up particularly well. If you went out to dinner the night before, (Yes, we still go out to dinner sometimes) have your server pack half of your entrée to go. You’ll be saving money and calories!
3- Buy the staples and have them in your pantry each week. If you’re feeling stuck about what to bring, you can always whip up a deli sandwich, an egg salad, or a peanut butter and jelly. Cut up fresh fruit and vegetables and put them in small reusable containers. It’s cheaper then buying pre-packed and cuts down on the packaging headed for the landfill. If you have fruits and vegetables cut and ready to go, you’ll be more likely to pack and eat them. Yogurt, low fat pudding and cottage cheese are also healthy and easy items to include.
4-Buy yourself an attractive and practical lunch box, a water bottle/thermos, some reusable snack bags and containers and a re-useable ice pack. It’s amazing the number of creative and eco-friendly options that are available these days. A brown bag will get the job done just fine, but having a special bag makes the process more fun, keeps your lunch fresher and cooler, and motivates you to continue bringing your lunch and saving money.
5- Don’t worry about what co-workers will say. When they hound you to go out with them, tell them you don’t have $6,000 dollars, and explain why you’re bringing your lunch. If you’re saving for a trip, or to send your kids to school, tell them that. It will be added motivation to stay on track. If you don’t feel comfortable explaining, don’t! Tell them you brought something from home and invite them to eat with you in the kitchen/cafeteria. Changes are, they don’t want to spend $12.50 on their lunch either. Bring lunch for a few days and they’ll probably start doing the same. Have particularly great co-workers? Lunch swap/potluck anyone?
Sure it takes a few weeks to “Get into the groove”, but once you start making lunch a part of your nightly routine, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. You’ll be saving money, eating healthier, and saving the environment at the same time. How else can you save $6,000 a year in just 15 minutes a day?