When I first started working in downtown Minneapolis, I was eating out almost every day. It just seemed easier, it required hardly any effort or planning and I could find plenty of salads and soups that I really enjoyed. However, one week I kept all of my receipts and at the end of the week I had spent nearly $60 on eating out. Multiply that by 4 weeks--and I was almost spending $240 a month on eating out. I started to think about all of the things I would rather spend my money on. Additionally--while I felt like I was being healthy by eating salad and soup mostly, there is often a lot of extra things in salads and soup that can make them really bad for you. Now when I am away from the house at lunch--whether it be at school or working, I pack my lunch. It does require some planning and preparation, but I save a lot of money by doing it. Here are some things I do to make packing a lunch easier:
-I pack my lunch the night before, so I can just grab it on my way out the door.
-I plan and have a good idea what my lunch will consist of at the beginning of the week.
-I take some time, usually on Sundays to make things for much lunch. This might mean chopping up veggies and portioning out dip made with Greek Yogurt or even ranch. It might mean putting pasta salad or soup in tupperware. I also might boil half a dozen eggs as they make either a great mid-morning snack or are great for lunch.
-I have stuff to make sandwiches on hand--usually deli flats, cheese and turkey from Costco. Each sandwich costs about $0.75 and are pretty healthy too. I also try to have Kashi granola bars, yogurt and string cheese on hand because those things are easy to grab.
-I try to eat meals that will create leftovers that can be eaten for lunch.
-I try to switch things up and create variety. It is boring eating a sandwich every day. Sometimes I will make a big salad or take soup instead. I also try to eat different kinds of fruits and veggies and switch up the kind of snacks I bring.
-I pack myself a treat in my lunch--sometimes it is fruit snacks in the shape of sharks (yes, I am a child sometimes and my mom never packed such things in my lunch when I was little) or oreos.
-I allow myself to eat lunch out every now and then. It is a nice treat once and awhile.