Frugal Living: Save on Brown Bag Lunches

If you’re the least bit dedicated to living thriftily, you probably already pack your lunch most days rather than eating out. If you’re not paying attention to what you are packing, however, you might be paying just as much for your brown bag lunch as you would for a sandwich at the deli. Follow these thrifty tips for lunches that are not only more affordable, but also healthy and good for the planet.

 1. Set A Budget

Decide on a reasonable amount to spend on lunch per day. Depending on your budget, this might be $5.00, or it might be as low as $1.50. Multiply this figure by five to calculate the yield the amount of money you can spend each week on groceries to make your lunches. When you head to the store, make sure you stick to that budget, using the following tips for assistance.

2. Go Meatless     

Going meatless several days per week can reduce the cost of your lunches considerably. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, veggies in hummus dip and bean salads are all very inexpensive and loaded with filling protein. Eating less meat is also good for the environment.

3. Add Sides

In addition to a protein-packed main course, flesh out your lunch with some low-cost sides. Find some recipes for homemade granola. The main ingredients – oats, fried fruit, vegetable oil, and spices – are all inexpensive, and the whole grain oats in granola are great for your heart. If you have the facilities to warm up dishes, try making some baked potatoes at the beginning of the week and packing them for lunch. Potatoes often go on sale for less than $1.00 per pound, and they’re actually a healthy choice if you don’t smother them in butter and sour cream.

4. Buy Large      

Single serve packages of potato chips, pretzels, yogurt and other lunch-type items are always far more expensive than the large bags. Buy a large container for your favorite lunch snacks, and pack individual portions into a reusable container instead. You’ll be producing less waste, too.

5. Free Water 

Stop purchasing individual containers of soda, water and juice. Instead, purchase a good reusable drink cup or water bottle, and refill it every day with the very affordable water from your tap. If you don’t like the taste of tap water, run it though a filter pitcher before filling your bottle. You’ll still be saving hundreds of dollars per year compared to the cost of bottled drinks. Don’t be afraid to spruce up your water by adding pieces of your favorite fruit.

6. Fruit & Vegetables 

A healthy lunch is not complete without some fruits and vegetables. You can save a considerable amount of cash by buying what is in season. These in-season fruits and veggies also tend to be more nutritious than those grow in greenhouses or shipped from overseas. Carrots and bananas are always inexpensive bets, so make them staples in your lunch bag.

7. Repetition & Patience

Instead of taking a different lunch to work or school each day, try varying your lunch only weekly. Eat the same items each day until they are gone, and then shop again for a new set of lunch ingredients. This reduces the amount of food you throw away due to spoilage, and it also makes it easier to keep track of what you need to buy.

If you follow the tips above, you can easily make lunches that average out to a cost of less than $2.00 per day. The biggest secret is to focus on buying the most affordable ingredients. Set your budget before you head to the store, and stick to it, even if that means saying “no” to the fancy new yogurt in the dairy case. At the end of the week when you realize how much you have saved by eating frugally, you’ll be glad you took the time to plan and pack wisely.

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