Frugal Foo

Foo Thinking Money"Money can't buy me love"... But everything else is in this blog.

Work Lunches

Enjoy cheap healthy work lunches everyday without wasting precious time in the kitchen. 

The cost of lunches at work adds up.  The money spent on the daily trip to the local cafe or food court over the course of a year could cost around $2400 assuming spending $10 per weekday for 48 weeks of the year.

Worse still, the kilos around your waste will also add up if you don't watch what you eat for lunch and where you buy it.

Sandwiches made at home before you leave in the morning, or last nights dinner left overs may not be the answer.  If you work in an office, your work colleges will not appreciate the fragrant aroma of last nights meatloaf as it is released from your lunch box at 12:30pm in the afternoon.

What's your time worth?  The time available the morning between waking from sleep and departing for work is so limited.  These are possibly the most precious minutes of the day.  There's so much to do in limited time.  To squeeze in another chore means setting the alarm clock earlier.  Being frugal is one thing, but I draw the line at loosing sleep over making sandwiches which by lunch time will be soggy, room temperature and almost ready to open the lunch box all by themselves and walk across the desk.  Our objective here is to save time and money, not trade one for the other.  Have a think about what your time is worth in the morning. 

How I cut the cost of work lunches in half and stayed healthy without spending extra time in the kitchen.

Set a budget for work lunches.  It must be affordable. I can't recommend a right or wrong amount to spend on lunch each day which suits everyone.  It will vary depending on how you value your time and how much you can afford.  As a general rule, I will not pay someone else to do something if it costs me more than what I could earn doing my job for the same amount of time.  For example, if I earn $20 per hour, then I'm not going to pay someone $10 for something which would only take me 15 minutes to prepare in my own kitchen at home.  However $5 to pay some else to make my lunch seems much better value for money and probably worthwhile, provided I can afford it.

If you like to snack during the day, avoid buying over-sized, expensive and unhealthy snacks at vending machines or shops around your work place.  Instead, buy snacks as part of your weekly grocery shop and have them on hand and ready grab in the morning to be taken to work.  If you like to bake, bake your own and pre-package them in daily portions ready to go.  Even having a single Tim Tam in your bag at work will answer the call for afternoon munchies so you won't be tempted to pull a Mars bar from that evil vending machine in the office kitchen.

Come lunch time, use your legs.  Seek out the best healthy food bargains in the local area.  This works best if working in a capital city.  If you can't find anything healthy which will match your budget, WALK FURTHER.  Use your lunch break to explore the neighborhood, enjoy the fresh air and get some cardio happening.  The health benefits of walking at least 30 mins a day are well documented.  Make your favourite lunch spot as far from the office as practical.

Make the most of company subsidized food if available at the company cafeteria.  But don't just assume it costs less than the local cafe.  Competition in the real world is much more fierce than for your average company cafeteria which has a captive market. Often the local places at street level will become price competitive with your company cafeteria since they are competing for your lunch dollar.  Again, use your legs and find the value where ever it is.

Look for blackboard specials.  Cafes and restaurants often display a board out front with work lunch specials to draw people in off the street expecting that they will be tempted by other offerings and drinks once they arrive.  Be disciplined to eat only the special and save money.

Keep it simple.  A humble ham sandwich will cost less than the turkey breast and camenbert on ciabatta with french mustard.  (Sorry Babe that's just the way it is.)  Think of it this way.  If you had cut your own work lunch, would it more closely resemble the ham sandwich or the fancy turkey breast option?  Save money on everyday sustenance for work and then with the money you have saved treat yourself to an occasional quality restaurant meal experience shared with good company when you have time to enjoy it.

Drink tap water.  It's healthy and good cafes will provide water for free.  If not, carry your own supply of tap water or water from the office water cooler.  I can never understand anyone paying for water in any place in the world where tap water is drinkable.

Keep it healthy.  Resist the temptation of buying cheap junk food to fit your budget. If you think your budget can only afford pizza, hamburgers or deep fried junk, then search further for better alternatives.  Have I mentioned using your legs yet!?  Often there is healthy food to be found for less than the cost of a burger meal deal. If you're accustomed to eating fast food, a healthy salad wrap won't hit you with that salty-sweet zing your taste buds will be expecting at lunch time.  Return to basics.  Retrain your tongue to appreciate fresh natural ingredients once more.  It may take time before "rabbit food" becomes tasty again but your body will thank you for it in the long run.   Have you ever seen an unhappy rabbit?

After a week of doing this, add up every dollar spent on work lunches, for the week.  If you blew your budget, not to worry.  Consider how much money you saved compared to previous weeks.  Multiply that saving by 48 weeks over a full year and start dreaming of what you will do with all that extra money!  I decided to spend my savings on breakfast out each work day morning, applying the same money saving ideas as above for work lunches and saving even more time in the kitchen.

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