Monday, January 16, 2017

Brown-Bag your Lunch!

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Recently, someone mentioned to me that she spends about 30 shekels per day buying food for lunch when she's at work. That's about 150 shekels weekly, if you work a 5-day work week! That's over 600 shekels monthly! 600+ shekels a month can be a really big chunk of your "disposable" budget. So today, I want to discuss ways to spend less on lunch.

While I can't promise you a free lunch, I can promise you that you will save significantly if you bring food from home.

It's much easier if your workplace has a microwave you can use to warm food - if they do, just put some of your leftovers from supper in a microwaveable container the night before (make sure you HAVE leftovers by purposely cooking enough to give you lunch the next day) and you're more or less set! But even if they don't, you can manage on a brown-bagged lunch - or a lunch in a thermal container, is more like it, for food safety reasons!

Here are some things to consider.

A wide-mouthed thermos (like this one) (or this one) - is your friend. This handy item will keep your food hot for hours (if you get a good one! If you buy a cheapo one, you will likely be very disappointed). If you warm soup to boiling point (use the leftover soup from the night before, that makes things easier) and fill your thermos before you leave home (don't put your thermos in the microwave, please), you'll have a hot soup for lunch. Round that out with easy to transport items, like a roll or pita, hardboiled egg (I boil a big pot of eggs on Fridays, and they get used over Shabbat and thru the beginning of the week), bananas, clementines, cucumber or carrot sticks (cut those the night before), or anything else you can think of that's easy for you!

You can use your wide mouthed thermos for foods like spaghetti, or any other hot food you like, too. I remember bringing macaroni & cheese in my thermos for lunch at school when I was a kid. There's no reason that you can't do the same as an adult (only now, you might not want that cartoon character thermos anymore. Or do you?).

Sandwiches are the obvious choice for your brown bag lunch, but you do need to make the time to assemble them. Or you could take the "fixings" with you to work and assemble your sandwich there (and you can share/swap with friends there too - my son says people at his workplace do this all the time, sharing salads and such). Easy sandwiches my family members take to work include: Tuna, Cheese, Egg Salad, Omelet, Chumus... each sandwich gets vegetables in it too. We usually stock up on pitot and freeze them for this purpose, but only when we can get them cheaper than the local bakery price. Otherwise, I make homemade rolls and breads, but even if you're buying bread, you'll still save money over buying food from a vendor.

Another idea I saw done once: Get together with a few like-minded colleagues and buy a large crock pot to keep at work. Each of you takes a turn (once per week?) making a filling stew or other crock pot dish to share during lunch break. You'll need to get to work early enough to put it all in the pot, and you'll need to let it cook on High for about 4 hrs (sometimes more, so be sure you get a crock pot that cooks in about 4 hours!). Save time and make sure your stew will be ready in 4 hours by using canned beans, parboiled potatoes, etc when filling the crock pot (consider pooling together to buy spices to keep at work with your crock pot). Downside: someone will have to wash the pot out each day. You may want to consider cooking in a crock pot bag to make it easier.

Remember, you need to eat lunch to get through your work day, but you do NOT need to splurge on a gourmet lunch every day! Yes, often there is a lot of peer pressure to pick up food from a restaurant or order in. But I recommend you keep your eyes on the prize - getting your work done and keeping as much of your money in your pocket as possible so you have it for the important things - and DON'T give in to peer pressure. Bring your lunch from home, knowing it cost you about 5 shekels instead of the 30 or so your colleagues are spending. You'll feel good about it, especially when you think of your bottom-line savings!

I'd love to hear how you save money on your work lunch! Please let me know in a comment below!

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