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While eating out with co-workers is a great way to bond, daily lunches out can take a bite out of your wallet. Packing your own lunch isn’t just beneficial for your health, it can save you quite a bit!
USA Today cited research from Visa a few years back that indicates Americans could redirect approximately $1,043 into savings each year simply by brown-bagging it, rather than eating an $11.14 lunch out twice per week! That’s a lot of money.
That doesn’t mean you have to lose precious weekend hours of meal prepping. It can be the opposite, saving you time over the long run since there’s no need to “beat the rush” each day getting out of the office for lunch. With a few tips under your belt and the right products, you can save money — and time.
Buy In Bulk
Shopping weekly discount flyers and buying in bulk will help you stash away extra cash over the long run. The key is to only buy things in bulk that you already know you like, such as your favorite brand of nuts, granola bars and oatmeal.
Items that have a long shelf life are good bulk buys because you don’t have to rush to consume them. Dry goods like beans, pasta, rice and assorted grains also work well since they are easily adaptable bases for meals and are simple to prep.
Make A Meal You’re Excited About
Create lunches that you’ll be excited to eat. Good low-cost options are salads with hard-boiled eggs or sandwiches with a side of fruit that’s in season. Other meal ideas, like curries and pasta salads, can help you use up what’s in your fridge without having to run to the store.
When cooking dinner, think about doubling the batch and using the leftovers for a few days of lunches. You can also create freezer-friendly meals that can be individually portioned out for grab-and-go convenience.
Don’t Miss Out On Hot Meals
You may think that cold meals like salads and sandwiches are the easiest ones to bring to the office with you, but you’re wrong! For example, soup with a slice of bread is a great inexpensive meal to bring with you to work during colder months.
To keep food warm until you can eat, you may wish to invest in the best soup thermos. A thermos not only helps you practice portion control, but it helps you enjoy a home-cooked meal on the go. Some vacuum-sealed thermoses can keep liquids hot for up to 14 hours! Wide-mouth varieties help make it easy to eat directly out of the thermos while narrow-mouthed options might require a lid that can double as a bowl. Some even come with a foldable spoon, eliminating the need to pack any extra utensils.
If your thermos is looking worse for wear, check out our best soup thermos selection that’s been vetted by a team of experts.
Ditch the tin foil and sandwich baggies and opt for reusable food wraps and bags instead. Look for organic cotton wraps coated in beeswax to cover your cheese, fruits and bread. Reusable sandwich bags keep your meal fresh (and stylish!) while also preventing you from producing single-use plastic waste daily. Both options are washable, either by hand or by machine.
You could also opt for a bento box or other lunch container that keeps your food safe and suits your lifestyle. Lunch boxes come in so many types these days. — you can find cute ones, functional ones and even self-warming ones, if you prefer. And of course, getting one of these can save you some money too, since you won’t need to buy and dispose of so many single-use items.
If you still want to eat out with friends now and then, that’s OK! But investing in a few items (like the best soup thermos) and spending some time preparing meals so you can pack your lunch for work will keep you on a routine, encourage a healthy lifestyle and keep more money in your pocket. That’s a triple win!
This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money. Checkout Don't Waste Your Money for product reviews and other great ideas to save and make money.