Meal Plans

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When we don’t have a meal plan, food costs more.

Our regular plan is to build a menu for the week and go to the grocery store on Sunday.  This allows planning, instead of scrambling for a a meal after work each night.   It also give us a chance to plan for leftovers so we have something to eat for lunch at work.

We work until about 5 every weekday.   When we don’t have the meal planned, it’s usually chicken nuggets or hamburger helper for dinner.   Not only is that repetitive, but it’s not terribly healthy.  It is, however, convenient.   If we plan for it, we can get the ingredients ready the night before and know what we are doing when we get home, instead of trying to think about it after a long day of work.

If we don’t plan for leftovers, we tend to make the right amount of food for the family.   When this happens, there’s nothing to bring to work the next day, which means I’ll be hungry about lunchtime with nothing I can do about it except buy something. Buying lunch is never cheaper than making it.   I can get a sandwich at Subway for $5, but I could make a sandwich just as tasty and filling for less than half of that, using money that is meant to be used for food.   All during wrestling season, we make 30-inch sandwiches on meet nights for a cost of about $5, feeding ourselves and at least a couple of others who didn’t have time to make their dinner before the 5:30 meet.

No leftovers also means no Free Soup, which is a wonderful low-maintenance meal that leaves everybody full.  Nobody ever gets bored of Free Soup.  (Hint:  Don’t ever put a piece of fish in the Free Soup, or the flavor will take over the entire meal.)

Unhealthy, repetitive food for dinner.  Over-priced, low-to-middle-quality food for lunch.

OR

We plan our meals right and have inexpensive, healthy food that doesn’t get boring for every meal.

It seems to be a no-brainer.   Except, I don’t have lunch today because we didn’t plan our meals and used the last of the leftover hamburger helper for dinner last night.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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Brown Bagging Your Way to Savings

Today’s post is written by Mike Collins of http://savingmoneytoday.net as part of the Yakezie Blog Swap in which bloggers were asked to share their best day to day money saving tip.

Do you buy lunch at work every day?  Have you ever actually sat down and added up how much money you’re spending?

I did once…and I almost fell out of my chair when I saw how much I was spending!

Back in the day I used to buy lunch at the office almost every single day.  It certainly didn’t seem like I was spending much.  A chef salad here, a cheese steak and fries there.   But every day I was spending about 7 dollars and change.  That’s $35 a week, which adds up to a whopping $1820 over the course of a year!

I started thinking about all the things I could do with that extra $1820, like paying off some of our debt, increasing my 401k contributions(ed: but staying with your 401k contribution limits, of course!), picking out a new big-screen tv, or enjoying an extended family vacation at Walley World.

I immediately starting bringing my lunch to work 4 days a week (I do treat myself once a week) and I’ve been saving money ever since.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  It costs money to bring lunch from home too right?

Yes, of course it does…but nowhere near as much as eating out every day.  Let’s do some basic math to prove the point.  Say you swing by the grocery store to buy some ham and cheese so you can make sandwiches for the week.  You pick up a half pound of ham for $3 and a half pound of cheese for $2.  A loaf of bread on sale runs you another $2.  That means you just spent $7 for a week’s worth of lunches.  Even if you only bring lunch 4 days a week you’ve still saved yourself $21.  That’s over $1000 a year!

And here’s a tip to save even more:  If you have extra food from dinner, just bring the leftovers for lunch the next day.  We always try to make just a little bit extra so I can have free lunch the next day.

So the next time you’re sitting around complaining that you don’t have enough money for so and so, think about how much money you are spending every day on lunch, or coffee, or cigarettes, etc.  You might just find that you have plenty of money after all if you just shift your priorities a bit.

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