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Thursday, October 23, 2008

10 Tips for Cheap Eats at Work

No puede faltarImage by Roberto_Garcia via Flickr
This post has been chosen as part of the Festival of Frugality, #141, Monster Mash edition at Living Well on Less. Muhahahahah....
This post at Clever Dude got me thinking about how I save money on food. It shocks me that where I live it can easily cost more than $7 per day for lunch. Stop off for a bagel and a cup of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts, and you may be paying over $10 a day. At an average of 220 working days a year, we're talking about $2200! Ouch!

I do not have that kind of money any more. So here's what I do:

1. Keep a stash of instant oatmeal packets
in my desk drawer. I'm not an early riser, so I generally don't have time to eat breakfast at home. I get to work, nuke a cup of water, and Voila! hot breakfast. It would be cheaper to put some rolled oats, raisins and a little brown sugar in a baggie at home, but I don't always have time for that.

2. Don't buy coffee out. There's a reason Starbucks is closing a bunch of stores. That $2-5 a cup for caffeine treats is low hanging fruit. (Actually, I don't drink coffee, so I don't have to worry about that expense. A few herbal tea bags in my drawer is all I need.)

3. Pack a doggie bag when you are cleaning up after dinner. It's pretty close to free, since you probably would have just thrown the leftovers away anyway.

4. Pack a sandwich or salad if you don't have leftovers.

5. If you don't have time in the morning, keep a bulk pack of microwavable soup in your desk drawer. That with a roll from the supermarket makes a satisfying emergency meal. You can get the soup at a discount at BJs or Costco or other warehouse clubs.

6. Another good buy from the warehouse clubs is 4-packs of microwavable frozen light meals. They are usually edible, and at 4/$10 they are much cheaper than the cafeteria or sandwich places like Panera or Fresh City or Au Bon Pain. Some of them come with plastic dishes--I wash those and reuse them--for my oatmeal and as saucers for the plants on my desk.

7. Drink water from the cooler, not soda from the machine or deli, and save $1.50-$2 or more a day. Ahhh, refreshing.

8. Save lunches out for entertaining clients (which can be expensed or deducted) or social events (birthdays, new employees).

9. When eating out, order an appetizer and a bowl of soup for variety, small portions, and cost savings. Skip the alcohol.

10. Keep some veggies and crackers on hand so if you get stuck working late you don't starve and splurge on unhealthy, expensive, and high-packaging fast food on your way home.

You could certainly save even more money by making all the lunches from scratch at home, but families with two working parents are often strapped for time, so while these tips may not be the absolute cheapest possibility, they still save me a bundle.

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1 comment:

Polly Poorhouse said...

I forgot one other thing: I buy 6-packs of individual-sized OJ cartons at the grocery store and grab one on my way out the door in th the morning. Saves a bundle over buying an individual OJ from a fast food place