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Lean Lunch Ideas to Help Slim Down Your Food Budget

Without proper meal planning, work lunches can become a costly expense each and every week at a national average of about $12 per meal. Needless to say, daily trips to the grocery store or consistently ordering take-out can add up faster than you think.

To save cash on a weekly basis, it’s important to think ahead and shop smartly each weekend before Monday gets in the way. Luckily, by making this simple change to your weekly routine, you can start to see extra cash available quickly without much effort.

Here are four meal-prep basics you can use to slim down your work-day lunch budget.

Sandwiches
Bringing your lunch to work doesn’t have to mean five days of PB&J (which is delicious, but we all need variety). You’ve got options for days! Chicken salad or chicken Caesar wraps (both using leftover chicken), tuna salad, and pulled pork sliders are just as quick to put together and won’t leave you bored with your selection.

Salads
Time is a big barrier to making salads on the daily, so it’s a great idea to make many salads at once over the weekend and separate them into containers for each day. There’s really no limit to the type of salads you can make, so change it up from week to week. Leftover chicken or even roasted veggies make for easy (and tasty) add-ons.

Large-Pan, Instant Pot and Slow Cooker Meals
When you’re making dinner, the cost of making “more than enough” is pretty negligible compared to making a completely different meal. Meals like casseroles, baked pastas, and stews make for the easiest meal prep items the following week. Get those leftovers in individual containers and enjoy them all over again. Not feeling the same meal twice in one week? Freeze your leftovers and break them out when you’re in a pinch.

Multi-use Ingredients
This is where you get to be a little creative. Leftover asparagus and mushrooms? Make a quick quiche. Turn Taco Tuesday into Taco (Salad) Thursday. Toss roasted veggies with pasta, rice or quinoa to give them new life. The point is, taking what you already have and adding a little something extra cuts your time and cost investment in half.

If you’re one of those people who buys lunch daily, you could see your budget cut in half from $60 to under $30 per week. That’s potentially $120 per month! It does cost time, however, so be sure to block out some time to get ready for the week. Got kids? Get them to help by giving them ownership of their school lunches. It’s a life lesson, right up there with teaching someone to fish—only way easier.


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