Who else out there is not a morning person? I’m making an effort to change that, but I have my doubts about the success of this endeavor. Some traits are just ingrained into the very fiber of a person’s being. (Ha! See that’s funny because I’m talking about food today.) I’ll use every last second I have getting ready in the morning no matter how early I get up. I’m always really grateful to my past self when I don’t have to make lunch on those busy mornings because I pre-packed it. I wrote before about eating healthy when busy because fueling my life with good quality foods is really important to me. Stretching my finances is also something I work really hard at, and I think this topic can be approached from both angles.
I’m talking about making big batches of food that can serve as lunches throughout the week. Sometimes I do this by making a dish of something on Sundays just for that purpose. Other times I plan larger dinners to feed four or six people so that the leftovers can be packed for lunch. Either approach can work great, but take the time to portion out what you would eat for each day. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to reach into the fridge, throw a container into a lunch box with a utensil, and run out the door.
This makes financial sense for a few reasons. If you’re taking a lunch you aren’t eating out. Unless you know a place that has spectacularly inexpensive lunch deals, making it yourself is almost always cheaper, not to mention healthier. If you drive then you’re also using gas money to go out and grab lunch. Sometimes lunches out are accompanied by a little shopping or errand running. Staying in or near the office to eat eliminates the chances to spend money on extra things over your lunch break. Unless you’re shopping online, in which case I can’t stop you.
There are a couple parameters to consider before starting your money saving quest of making lunches.
Pick things you’ll actually eat.
This is probably a given, but if you’re trying to develop this habit, choose meals that are appetizing to you. If you aren’t excited to eat it, you might jump at the opportunity to leave your lunch behind when someone in the office offers to pick up fast food. This is especially important if you don’t care for eating the same thing each day. Making extras at each dinner should provide more variety for weekday lunches if this happens to you.
Use versatile ingredients.
When picking recipes or deciding what to make for lunches, look for dishes that have ingredients you’ll use again for meals. You won’t save much money if you buy specialty items that are hard to use in other ways. A few different grains, a few different condiments, your favorite veggies and protein can be mixed and matched into many dishes for lunch or dinner. Here are some of my favorite lunch recipes:
- Quinoa salad with black beans, avocado, and cumin-lime dressing (try it with different grains or add a cooked meat if you want)
- Pumpkin chili: even better a day or two old!
- Mediterranean rice salad (change it up with other veggies and grains)
- Tzatziki chicken salad: quick to make and tastes so fresh!
How do you save money on weekday lunches? Do you take something for lunch that always makes your coworkers jealous?
Photo courtesy of saori usuki.