Are the kids swapping out their lunch at school? Are you sick of that soggy tuna sandwich? Is the entire family tempted to dump their lunchboxes and buy restaurant food and snacks instead? It’s time to stop throwing money away.
It’s no secret that a great way to save each week is by packing a lunch for yourself and your family. Eating out includes the marked-up cost of food, labour, tips and often the cost of transit to and from the eatery. By bringing your own lunch, you choose the menu, portion sizes and ingredients. Waste-free packaging helps reduce litter, and you get to reclaim those extra minutes at lunch that you’d normally spend waiting for food. Sounds pretty good!
But for many, the idea of brown-bagging it has needlessly lost its appeal. Done right, packing a lunch doesn’t have to feel like you’re giving up anything and can instead be a meal you look forward to eating. Here are some money-saving lunch tips that will help keep everyone happy.
• Plan ahead: A little forethought goes a long way. Save money by making (and sticking to) a grocery list of what you need for the coming week. Buy regularly used items in bulk, chop vegetables yourself instead of paying extra for pre-chopped, and take advantage of sales. Use strategies such as meal planning, price matching, coupons, and loyalty programs (such as earning and redeeming PC Optimum points at participating stores). Then, make enough food ahead of time to carry you through the week, whether by making extra food for dinner or cooking additional meals to freeze. Prepack lunch-sized portions in reusable containers and store them in the fridge or freezer so they’re easy to grab each morning without the excuse of being too tired or busy to prepare good food.
• Love your leftovers: There’s no need to pack the same lunch every day (unless you want to, of course!). Find new ways to spin leftovers with ingredients you have on hand. That roast chicken you made on Sunday can turn into shredded chicken and vegetables, chicken salad and soup for successive meals. The internet is brimming with a variety of lunch ideas to save money, so get out of that rut! The more appealing and exciting your lunch is, the less you’ll be tempted to spend on eating out.
• Invest in packaging: What’s the point of packing a lunch from home if it doesn’t survive until lunchtime? Make sure your food stays properly protected and preserved by buying a quality lunch bag, ice pack and reusable containers that suit your personal style. There are a wide range of attractive and functional options out there that also cut down on garbage, including bento boxes, reusable beeswax wraps, insulated bags and soup containers, easy-open glass or plastic containers and reusable straw and cutlery sets. (Pro tip: A quality travel mug filled with home-brewed coffee is a big money saver.)
• Get your children to help: Little hands can easily help prepare lunches. Give them age-appropriate tasks, such as helping to select a menu, bake, package up portions and more. They may be more invested in eating their lunch, too.
• Enlist co-workers: If restaurant lunches are part of your company’s culture, it might be awkward or even career-limiting to be the only one sitting out. Try suggesting that everyone bring a packed lunch for even a couple of days a week as a team exercise. Encourage others to get out of the office instead of eating at their desk by going to the park or for a walk.
• Save on snacks: Avoid being tempted by vending machines or the coffee truck by bringing tasty snacks and treats to munch on, such as mixed nuts, dark chocolate, fruit, veggies and dip. Individually wrapped or snack-sized treats are typically more expensive, so it may help to purchase full-sized packages and pre-portion them at home.
Now, crunch the numbers to find out how much money you’re saving by bringing a lunch instead of making a food run every day. You may be surprised to see how much can accumulate with relatively little time and effort. What will you do with the savings?
General information not about PC Financial products is provided for your reference and interest only. The above content is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and is not a substitute for, and should not be construed as the advice of an experienced professional. PC Financial does not guarantee the currency, accuracy, applicability or completeness of this content.