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July 23, 2008


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People will probably go back to eating out for three reasons.

1) Laziness. Face it, its easier to buy a lunch than to make one.

2) Quality. If restaurants make a better lunch than you do that's an incentive to eat out.

3) Preference for immediate gratification. If you make lunch for a year you save a nice chunk of money that can be spent on something else, but most people would rather have the lunch now than the big ticket item later. If they use credit they can get both![SIC]

I've been brown-bagging to work for about 6 months now and it has done wonders. In a recent blog post I've been writing, I found that I spend $200 less on things like eating out than I did one year ago. And honestly, I think the quality is actually better. I can't stand fast food anymore which is also helping my health. I eat fast food about once per month now and each time I do, I feel sick afterward. Try it out and see what happens.

Yep, once people have money to spend again, they will. Personally, I like brown bagging. Been doing that for years because I tend to gain weight when I get out more than twice a week.

I try to do this but there is one thing that I cannot make and that is a really good salad. I have tried and failed. Unfortunately, the place 35' from the front of my building makes IMO the best salad I have ever had that is good for you.

I use a reward as a motivational tactic. I look at the coffees, muffins, bagels, fruit and lunches I would have bought in one week. It is about $70. Then I track what I do spend...the remainder goes into an earmarked savings account for future vacations (or in the case of an uber emergency and my emergency fund gets tapped, as a backup backup savings). It is fun to go on a vacation that was pretty much paid for by putting forth a minimal amount of effort in making a quick lunch, throwing in a snack or two and making my own coffee.

Summary: try the carrot method.

I brown bag almost every day, but the biggest challenge for me is finding a good variety of things to eat without overspending on groceries. After all, what's the point of bringing your lunch to save money if you end up spending more of it at the grocery store at the beginning of the week?

Does anyone have any good recipes or websites they could share that have ideas for cost-effective lunches?

I've been brown bagging for years. My wife gives me leftovers from dinner plus a few extras. She's a really good chef. It's totally healthier to bring it yourself, plus you don't have some teenager who could careless preparing it. On a health note, if you brown bag it, try and eat several smaller meals throughout your work day at your desk or whatever. It keeps your metabolism and energy levels up and running longer than one big meal which could make you feel sluggish.

I make enough at dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day. If I don't feel like eating it again, I just freeze it and thaw it for another day's lunch. To keep it cost-effective, make sure the ingredients you buy are too (my typical grocery cost per week is around $15-20/person and includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 7 days). Stay away from processed foods if you want to keep costs low and make everything from scratch. Try for recipes, and you can search by ingredient too.

I think what keeps me content with bringing lunch is that I pack them in portable Pyrex/glass storage containers. Eating out of a plastic container is somewhat depressing, kind of like suggesting that what you're eating is cheap like the container. Eating out of a glass dish feels like I'm eating at home and makes lunch more enjoyable.

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