Friday, February 19, 2010

Pennies for Lunch

Pennies for Lunch
One tried and true budgeting tool is to completely let go of eating out. Forget having your meal prepared, served, and cleaned up after. You have to get down to the nitty-gritty of things to save those dollars when it comes to food.

If you think about the money you're paying for a meal out, you have to factor in the produce and meats that were prepared (cleaned/chopped/seasoned) before they were cooked (hopefully to order), then presented to you for consumption. You avoid cleaning the preparation dishes, meal dishes/glasses/silverware, the table, the stove top. While I am definitely one to relish in the happiness of having an empty sink, sometimes the cost doesn't justify the means.

Most people are heavy hitters in the saving on lunch dept., when it comes to lunches too- because you have a short time to cook/microwave your food, consume it, and get a piece of mind back before getting back to work. Every article on saving money will tell you to bring your lunch to work- the trick is staying creative so you don't lose motivation.

I am that person, losing motivation. Having chips/pretzels/sliced veggies with sandwiches every single day got boring. Re-heated leftovers lose their flavor. I know several college students who saved mucho dollars, by living on ramen noodles for two meals a day. Every day. For months. I tried it for a week and am done with it. (And I'm the biggest fan of noodles on the planet).

For $1.80, I bought a 6-pack of those 'cup-o-noodles' and for about $3 a bag of apples. That's only $4.80 for a week of lunches at work (Yes, I ate two one day, they're actually not so filling)- quick, easy, but SO NOT satisfying. Looking at the numbers gives me a little excitement, I mean, that's a cheap work week of lunches. CHEAP. I kind of get now- why lower classes have more health problems, because they have to buy cheaper food and coat it with salt. I totally get it. I had a two hour conversation with an academic about why organic food will never make it to the lower class because of salt. But I digress.

I googled ideas for better and cost-effective lunches. I can pair everything with bread and top it with mustard (my favorite) and it still gets boring. VegFamily says to try everything with hummus. Luckily it's super-easy to make your own hummus, but hard to not reach for the salt. Black pepper and mustard are my lunch buddies now. I compared my lunch ideas to school (cafeteria) lunches and didn't come up with many more ideas. This is a rut. WebMD has a few more ideas. I am so proud of my cheap non-lunch-spending habits, that I finally treat myself to one good restaurant lunch every other week to re-motivate myself on this quest. A $5 budget for a week of lunches is leaving me hungry.

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