Find Time to Save Money on Meals: Part 1

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

We all know that there’s a huge savings in packing your own lunch for work, avoiding coffee shops, and eating dinner at home. But in the day to day, it’s easy to let our hectic schedules give us an excuse to waste money on eating out.  I’ve fallen into this trap myself, and it happens most often when I  fail to prepare ahead of time and am too busy to prepare anything when the time comes. The best solutions I’ve found for this recurring problem are essentially a collection of many simple but effective steps to ensure I don’t have to fall into the excuse of spending more when I don’t need to.  Here are a few things that have helped me live more frugally and stick with my grocery and eating out budget categories.


  • Pack the night before.

I’ve consistently found that if I either pack my lunch the night before, or even “mentally pack” my lunch (go through my knowledge of what’s available and what I want to take), there are no excuses, no matter how slow I move around while getting ready the next morning. If I don’t have it packed or have a plan, I am more likely to rush around distractedly trying to throw something together, or decide I don’t have time.

  • Prepare foods as fully as possible ahead of time.

If you’re not just throwing leftovers into a storage container (a great lunch idea), your meal will take some preparation — a salad, a sandwich, etc. I find that if I can pre-package or prepare foods in portions I use for lunch, it’s much easier to assemble quickly, even if I fail to pack the night before. For instance, I try to cut up vegetables ahead of time so I can simply toss them onto greens, or cook up extra pieces of chicken for  salads and wraps while preparing dinner, and store them individually. Even something as simple as putting snacks in sandwich baggies ahead of time can make a difference in whether you can tackle a morning lunch prep. or give up the attempt.

  • Shop with on-the-go meal prep. in mind.

It’s difficult to pack a lunch if you don’t have anything convenient to pack. That’s not to say you can’t get creative, but having lunch-specific foods on hand will, again, leave you fewer excuses not to pack one, and make preparation that much faster. I buy individual yogurts, fruit, cheese sticks, salad add-ons, and even packaged lunch kits specifically for my noon meals. If you’re not used to shopping for your lunches, it may seem like you’re spending more on groceries, but in the long run, you’ll much more by not eating out or buying prepared foods.


Coffee can be a touchy subject, because (as I certainly know), it borders on a necessity. The problem arises, not in enjoying coffee, but in spending $5 on one coffee from a drive-through chain or local coffee shop. If you do that every day, it quickly adds up. If you find coffee necessary to fuel your day, plan ahead and brew enough coffee at home to allow you to take a travel mug.  Programmable coffeemakers are a wonderful invention! Find a few trusty mugs that won’t leak and hold temperature well, and you’re good to go.

If you’re a gourmet snob, grind your own brand-name beans (even this function is programmable on some models), and look up recipes for add-ins that come close to imitating your favorite coffeehouse drinks.

Following these tips and making lunch-packing a habit you actually have time for will enable you to save money daily so you can  appreciate occasionally eating out or ordering your favorite coffee without guilt.

Bonus Tip:

You can seriously cut your Internet and TV costs. Find a Verizon FiOS promotion code here and you might be able to spend less every month.

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