One of my biggest expenses is food. We all have to live, but by not meal planning and buying prepared meals or fast food, the costs can really add up. It’s why I always try to take a packed lunch to work. Sometimes this might be a meal I heat up at work, sometimes it might be a sandwich. When I am at home it is easier to cook from scratch, but at work there are limited options. There is also limited time and space. Lunch at work is a kind of a non-event, yet why does it cost so much? I realised by spending less I could make it more interesting by planning and batch cooking! A cheap lunch would also allow me to spend money on other more interesting things as well as put more money into savings! It’s a win win!
Where I work there is also a lot of choice. Whatever I fancied for lunch, I could get within a 5 minute walk from my office. Whether it was a sandwich, a jacket potato, a salad, fast food…. you name it, I can get it all near work. That might sound great – but it meant I had become really lazy with regards to meal planning and taking my own lunch. The availability of contactless payments and payments using mobile devices also mean it is easier than ever to lose track of what you are spending.
For a couple of weeks I recorded what I was spending on food whilst at work and I was horrified! You really do pay for the convenience factor, but I can have a much healthier and cheaper lunch with very little effort.
On one day I spent £5.65 on my lunch – and I had a sandwich, crisps, soda, fruit and a chocolate bar, and yet it didn’t really fill me up. That’s over £28 a week, and over £115 a month for food, that’s not healthy or filling. Some days I did spend a bit less, and some days I would spend more.
A meal planned week
For an example week of meal planning my lunches I went shopping and purchased:
Loaf of bread – £1 (would do sandwiches for a week)
Margarine – £0.89 (lasts about a month)
Packet of ham – £1.50 (would last a week)
Multipack packet of crisps – £1.50 (for 6)
Box of cans of Diet Coke – £7 (for 24)
Bananas – £0.80 (for 5)
Multipack of chocolate bars – £1 (for 4)
That means my daily spend would be £1.44 a day for an almost identical lunch!
That’s a saving of over £4 a day, £20 a week and £80 a month!
You probably won’t want the same lunch every day for a year, but you can save over £800 by doing this. Would you rather be lazy and eat processed and expensive food, or would you rather have more money in the bank for something fun like a holiday, vacation or a fancy trip?!
Ideas for your cheap lunch
I’m no gourmet chef, and I tend to stick to just a few recipes that I like and which are easy and cheap to make. There are however so many amazing bloggers who talk about meal planning on their blogs. You should really check these out!
Frugal Cottage wrote about how to start meal planning when you don’t know where to start!
Savings 4 Savvy Mums has shared a meal planning and shopping list template as well as meal ideas!
My Money Cottage has shared some great meal ideas as well as how to integrate them into your schedules!
You can also check out my Pinterest page for ideas of recipes to cook on a budget. I tend to bulk cook and freeze things so there is always a selection of things in the freezer if I run out of time or can’t be bothered to make a sandwich in the morning.