If you’ve perused even a few books or articles about saving money, odds are good you’ve heard that brown-bagging your lunches is the way to go. A purchased lunch typically costs between $5 and $10 even on the cheap end of things, and you can beat that price by miles if you pack your own.
But simply having that knowledge isn’t enough because packing your lunch every day is hard to do. (If it were easy, people wouldn’t always be going out for lunch!) You need some tips to help you stick with your new lunch-packing resolution.
1. Take leftovers.
The fabulous thing about leftover is that they’re already prepared. You just need to pack them up and take them with you. Plus, if you faithfully eat your leftovers for lunch, you won’t be letting them go to waste, and that will also save you money (because throwing away food is like throwing away money).
To make this easier, package a lunch portion of leftovers as you put away food at night. Then in the morning, you can grab and go.
2. Pack the night before.
If mornings are a crazy time for you, as they are for most people, pack your lunch at night and put the whole bag in the fridge. In the morning, you won’t have to waste any time or mental energy-you can just pull your bag out of the fridge and head out of the house.
If you haven’t got sufficient fridge space for a lunch bag, then do as much prep as you can the night before. Lay out supplies like bags or containers, and package up refrigerated lunch items so you can quickly assemble your lunch in the morning.
3. Freeze lunch meals for future use.
When I have more leftovers than can be eaten promptly, I freeze lunch portions. For instance, if I have extra barbecued beef, I freeze individual portions and extra buns as well. This makes it easy to put together a lunch when we have no other leftovers or lunch fixings.
4. Keep staples on hand for a basic lunch.
If you’ve got a loaf of bread in the freezer, a jar of jelly in the fridge, and a jar of peanut butter in the cabinet, you can always throw together a quick lunch, even if you’ve got no leftovers and no meals in your freezer. It’s not fancy, to be sure, but it’s significantly cheaper than almost any meal you could buy out.
With a little bit of forward thinking, brown-bagging can turn into a manageable way of trimming your budget. Give it a try, and enjoy the savings!
Kristen is a wife, mom, the blogger behind The Frugal Girl and a contributor to the CareOne Debt Relief Services blog, a provider of debt consolidation in Tennessee.