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 Americans spend each week on 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 ways to trick yourself into saving money 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 slice them yourself. With some practice, you’ll get sandwich-sized cuts of deli meats for a fraction of the cost.
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 some strategies to help you adjust to the change:
- 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.
- Be prepared to turn down co-workers who invite you to eat out with them by thinking of a response in advance.
- 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. Still getting a “break” with your lunch will make the transition easier.
You can easily save $1,300 a year by brown-bagging your lunches. Try it today!
YOUR TURN: What are your favorite lunchtime hacks? Do you have a process that gives you the energy you need to power through the afternoon? Use the comments to share your favorite mid-day meal solutions!