Eating out accounts for almost half of the average food budget. If you make $20K, you might spend $2600 annually on food (according to the typical 13%). 46% of total food budget for eating out comes to $1196. That is a hefty amount for any budget and waistline!
Personally, I never eat out—unless it is a quaint coffee shop with yellow siding, handmade pottery, and “valet parking” which simply must be experienced by me and my sisters. Or perhaps a family-owned little sandwich shop with organic ingredients, a peaceful setting, and reasonable prices for the occasional splurge.
We all know how to make coffee; it’s not hard. I could show you how to make virtually any coffee drink at home, in less time than it takes to wait in line, pay, and find a table. So consider it a dare on this on this fabulous Money-Monday: Bring-your-own-lunch, and save-your-own-money.
- Coffee: Make your own to enjoy and share. Healthier, cheaper, and every bit as deliciously as what you will find at your local bistro. (Tip for the amateur: Use good cream!)
- Work lunches: How much time does it take to run over to a restaurant or drive-thru on your lunch break? You can pre-make a salad or sandwich at home in about 10 minutes. That saves you at least 20 minutes to call Mom or read the paper.
- Family/Friends get-togethers: Just because you want a “neutral” setting doesn’t mean you have to eat out. Go to a park with a picnic, potluck, or even just dessert; or agree to meet for a different activity such as bowling, dancing, or a museum. You will find your dollars enrich you and your friendships more by engaging in a memorable activity, rather than centering the encounter around food.
- Track the money saved. Do this meticulously, or it will fall through the cracks. Put it first toward debt, then savings, and finally toward a goal like a kayaking trip, a car, or a garden.
Bring-your-own-lunch: Can you do it? You bet. You already read this article, which shows you have the want-to. And that’s really all it takes, want-to and persistence. Go get ‘em.
Here are a couple ideas for lunch on the go. What home-made recipes do you rely on?
Egg Salad Sandwiches
(the easiest, nutrition-packed option I know of)
Make enough to last 2-3 meals for the whole family, so count out one egg per sandwich.
- 1. Boil eggs and water 10 minutes
- 2. Peel eggs while still warm
- 3. Add mayo to taste (homemade mayo is the best!)
- 4. A squirt of mustard
- 5. A dash of Cayenne pepper
- 6. Add whatever else you want… diced onions, celery, spinach, pickles, you name it.
- 7. Store in an air-tight container in refrigerator. Make sandwiches fresh.
Make sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, or spinach leaves to separate the bread from the egg salad, avoiding “soggy sandwich” by lunchtime.
You can adjust this recipe for tuna, chicken, or grape salads. As a variation to the sandwich, you can add to a bed of fresh greens for low-carb salad.
Chicken Pasta Salad
(When making hot spaghetti or macaroni, plan to make extra pasta to save time on the salad.)
- 1. Grill or bake chicken; cool and cut into thin strips.
- 2. Mix chicken with cooked, cooled pasta (2 parts meat, 1 part pasta)
- 3. Add fruits and veggies (3-2-1; so, three parts fruits and veggies) Use grapes, apple, diced celery, onion, bell peppers, peas, black olives, black beans, etc.)
- 4. Mix is blender ½ clove garlic, salt, and equal parts balsamic vinegar and extra vigin olive oil. Add to salad and mix well.
Store in individual serving-sized containers for a quick lunch. Bring an apple for a healthy dessert, and to clean your teeth.