Friday, February 3, 2017

A week of Bargain Lunches

I was already noodling this post before I read this post from Penniless Parents, Tips to Drastically Lower Your Family's Grocery Bill. After reading her ideas, my lunches seemed down right decadent. She has some great ideas for those that want to radically transform, or even tweak  their grocery budget while still eating relatively healthy. (I have to try the mock tuna salad with chick peas at some point.) I thought it was a good time to take a ponder at what meals have made their way into my lunch bag this week. Not a one even hits the cost of a child's Happy Meal, and I'm really pushing the added fruit and vegetables. Few of the items were rock bottom prices so savy shoppers can do better.

Slice of meat loaf .55, ¼ bag frozen mixed veg .25, orange .25 homemade muffin .25 Total: $1.30

2 slices deli ham, .58 1.5 ounces cheddar, .30 ¼ sleeve crackers, .13 orange, .25 carrot sticks .10  Total $1.36

Tortilla .25, 2 slices deli ham, .58 1.5 ounces cheddar, .30, orange .25, carrot sticks .10 Total $1.48 (plus my pudding cup-smile)

Can tuna* .69, apple* .67, 2 clementines .80, bargain pretzels .08  $2.24

Bowl of chicken  wild rice soup,  .80, apple .67 slice toast .15 Total $1.62

My lunches for the whole week, based on my estimates was exactly $8.00.  My moment of madness trip through McDonald's on Monday night, exceeded $8.00. It doesn't take a mathematician or an economist to figure out the wiser choice. I put an asterisk next to my tuna and apple so I would remember to share the new to me way I enjoyed the meal. I've still not grocery shopped, other than the items DH couldn't pass up on Sunday, and the quick items I picked up, so packing lunches has been a bit like foraging. 

As DD was finishing up in the bathroom this morning, I quickly opened a can, drained the water, added back pepper and a squirt of mayo.  Into my bag it went with the pretzels and apple. I also threw a couple clementines in, as I had not left enough time for breakfast. The apple was on the large side, and I hate biting into big apples, so at lunch I cut it up in little wedges, then dipped one into the tuna salad. Not too bad a taste, so I decided to cut up in chunks a few of the wedges, and stirred into the salad.  Even better.  In went the whole apple, and my rather sad little canned  tuna salad was transformed into a tangy, crunchy, and sweet meal. I proved my point to myself again of low stock piles leading to creative culinary outcomes. This may be added to my top five lunches of choice. 

 I've a new impromptu goal for February of no week day lunches out, take out, or a Target run from the deli. Added to the challenge is to keep it at or under $8.00, for five days, even my day off or working from home days. A final twist to the challenge, fitting at least two servings of fruit and veg in each lunch. I made that this week, actually exceeded, as the apples were large enough to count as two servings. If you have ideas to share on your favorite packed lunches, help me out and share! I'll update you all periodically in the weeks to come.


  1. Sometimes a Mom has to buy a happy meal for sanity sake :) You are doing so well. We work from home so lunch for me is usually a weird leftover (like plain rice with soy sauce) or a fruit smoothie which is my current favorite (frozen mango, large orange, small amount of yogurt and milk, mango is the only expensive ingredient but I buy them in very large bags once every few months, way cheaper than smoothies out). I keep cans of premade soup on hand for hubby when there aren't leftovers. My freezer is not big enough to have a zillion frozen soups for him so at $1-$1.50 a can still an option that fits our budget. If I had more space for a freezer likely I would invest in a larger one but not an option in this house. It is wedged between the dogwashing sink and washing machine.

    1. Little treats, on occasion, sure! I tried to figure the leftover cost, like my meatloaf. those little dabs combined make a terrific lunch. I like to stock up on the pre-made soup for my desk drawer when on sale. It's a time thing for me as well, as by the time I either walk to the store/restaurant or drive there, and back, I've not disrupted a significant portion of my day, and I try to keep my office days in that 9-9.5 hours max.

  2. I truly believe that we need to enjoy life as we travel through it, so an occasional trip to McDonalds is fine. It is the daily trips that I find overwhelming. I have a couple of indulgences I allow myself each week. Every Wednesday morning before class I grab a large cup of coffee from McD's. I figure the 1.62 beats 5.00 at Starbucks, plus I really like the coffee better at McD. (plain black coffee) and once a week we eat out. (There are wacky weeks where we do take out but it is not the norm)
    I am also an eater of leftovers for lunch. It really doesn't matter what sounds delicious or goes together, it just becomes lunch.

    1. someone posted, about setting aside those small portions for lunch at the beginning of the meal, helping to not only have a meal on another day, but also good for my waste line as I tend to overeat if there is food left to dish up! The Big Mac was an over the top indulgence-cost and size. A $1.00 McChicken should have done the trick to kick my junk food mood, but oh was it good..

  3. I get free lunch at work, so I eat lunch at home on Fridays (typically work from home) & on the weekends. I eat a strange combination of whatever leftovers are available (like Cheapchick).

    If there are no easy leftovers, I typically have homemade chicken taquitos in the freezer, single servings of soup in the freezer, etc. Worst case, I'm happy with a PB&J or grilled cheese. I always have fruit as a side.

    1. I remember you talking about this perk-excellent. I find a good PB and J makes an excellent break in the day.

  4. I read that post by Penniless Parenting and boy I have a LOT of room for improvement! Great job on the lunches this week! =)


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