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Restaurant, Cafeteria or Grocery Meals: Money-Saving Tricks for Lunches

Eating lunch at work or school can be fun and inexpensive.

It’s late morning, and your stomach starts to grumble. Before staff meeting is even over, your coworkers start discussing lunch plans. With a pang of regret, you know you didn’t bring a lunch, but money is tight. Yet again, you realize you should have planned ahead.

Every day, you can rely on trips to the cafeteria, mobile food trucks or restaurant outings to fill your lunchtime cravings. But any look back at monthly spending will quickly tell you these can be a killer to your budget,and derail any hopes of saving cash regularly.

Enter grocery meals. One of the best things you can do financially is to develop a few good habits that, come lunchtime, will fill your tummy without emptying your bank account. Making lunches ahead of time can stop the leak that is lunchtime spending and put your savings back on track.

Here are five great habits to establish for saving money while away from home every day for lunch.

  • Focus on one-bowl dishes. Pasta salads, casseroles and sandwiches can all be meals that have most of – if not all – the food groups. One-bowl meals also eliminate the need for multiple containers and dishes, keeping things extra simple.
  • Go old-school. Decide one day a week is always peanut-butter-and-jelly day, and see whether coworkers comment on how tasty the childhood staple looks. When jealous officemates ogle your sweet-and-salty weekly commitment, tell them it costs you less than a dollar to do.
  • Talk soup. Soup has always been one of the least expensive grocery meals you can make. Since most of the ingredients in soups are inexpensive (think lentils, noodles, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, beans and vegetables), bringing a thermos of soup and crackers can be one of the cheapest ways to tickle your taste buds when the noon bell sounds.Don’t have a microwave at work? Or perhaps the thought of a warm soup in summer doesn’t do much for you. Here is a list of some of the best-chilled soups for you to try.
  • Supplement with fresh fruit and vegetables. Since apples, oranges, bananas and berries are kept at room temperature, toss a few extra whole pieces into your lunch bag each morning when heading out the door. A powerhouse of nutrition, fresh fruits and veggies will nourish your body and your mind.

That means when others return from the restaurant sluggish and complaining of being “too full,” you’ll be empowered and energized --- not to mention a few bucks wealthier.

  • Don’t make lunch at all --- just reheat supper. When making supper each night, double the amount you make to separate into Tupperware containers for leftovers the next day.

Lunches for Bunches

If you’re in the position of being responsible for the entire family’s midday meal, take heart; kids and spouses alike will love the same grocery meals you are enjoying. The trick is to double or triple the portions of each pre-prepared meal to stash in the fridge for their morning dash out the door.

Finally, don’t beat yourself up when you find yourself hungry and unprepared. Opt for a quick trip to the nearest grocery store –not restaurant – to pick up a pre-made sandwich or some sushi. And look at the bright side: whenever you do blow the budget on lunches, there’s always tomorrow.

If you have any tips or tricks to save money on your lunches, leave it in the comments below! Or, for more financial hacks, visit us at CESI Solutions.

Image Source: Flickr

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