Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bring Back the Brown Bag: Saving Money on Lunch the Old-Fashioned Way

Move over, breakfast! Lunch is the new king. Recent studies show that employees who take a lunch break are more likely to be productive in the afternoon and avoid long-term burnout. But lunch’s sudden popularity has negative effects, specifically the enormous amounts of money Americans spend each week dining out for lunch. Looking for an alternative to sushi five times a week? The best answer is the simplest: brown-bag it.

Studies show that eating out for lunch can cost between $1,500 and $2,500 per year. However, with some planning, you can spend as little as $5 per brown-bag lunch. Five meals a week, times $5 per meal, times 48 working weeks equals only $1,200, adding $1,300 to your year. Interested?

Here are three tips to jump-start your new lunch habit!

1.) Save while you shop 
There are several money saving ways to outsmart your supermarket while grocery shopping. First, bring your headphones! Listening to upbeat music makes you shop faster and buy less of what you don’t need.

Second, do a pre-checkout audit of your cart. Grocery stores design their checkout lanes to discourage people from returning items to the shelves. Don’t be afraid to pass off any items you realize you don’t need to a nearby employee.

2.) Think DIY 
In the land of lunch, sandwiches rule. One thing that can change, though, is pre-sliced deli meats, which can get very expensive. There are a few alternatives.

First, you can order large cuts from the butcher counter and have the butcher trim it for you. You’ll get sandwich-sized cuts of deli meats for a fraction of the cost. That can save you about 30 percent compared with buying everything pre-cut.

Second, think barbecue. Most proteins cooked in barbecue sauce are delicious; a slow cooker makes it easy. Drop your cuts of meat in the pot, cover with sauce, and cook on low for a few hours. You can shred them with a fork for delicious barbecue sandwiches all week long.

3.) Plan ahead 
When you’ve finished your economical shopping, you’ve still got to make and eat your lunches. After your first few bagged lunches, you may start missing your old going-out-to-eat lifestyle, but stay with it. Luckily, there are money saving strategies to help you adjust to the change: 
  1. Pack ahead. Prepare the pieces for all your lunches at the beginning of the week and store them in the refrigerator for easy grabbing at a moment’s notice.
  2. Double your dinners. Doubling recipes and making larger dinners is an easy way to ensure lunch for the next day. This tip will save you time and cut down on food waste. 
  3. Be prepared to turn down co-workers who invite you to eat out with them by thinking of a response in advance. 
  4. Still getting a “break” with your lunch will make the transition easier. Brown-bagging your lunch doesn’t mean being chained to your desk. Weather permitting, you can eat in a nearby park, or sit in your car. 
You can easily save at least $1,300 a year by brown-bagging your lunches. Try it today! Have any money saving lunch tips of your own? Share them below.

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