Work Lunches: a new strategy

Some times you have to spend money to save money. It’s a hard, cruel fact. One that I’ve ignored for far too long. Today I broke the bank with pyrex, but it should save us a bunch of money in the long run!

Now that we’re doing Your Money or Your Life step 2 (part 2)–which involves tracking every cent that comes into and goes out of our lives–I’ve realized just how much money is being spent on food outside the home. Lots! One area where we have fallen down is in organizing my partner’s lunches at work. When he doesn’t bring something from home, his lunches out can easily cost around $10 per day. And that doesn’t count the $5 afternoon Starbucks run. Fifteen bucks a day adds up quick, and my partner is the first to admit that the food is crappy and not worth it.

Now that the baby is eight and a half months, things are beginning to stabilize a bit in our household, and we can start building some systems again, start re-organizing. So we had a chat about the lunches, and came up with a strategy for reducing his food costs at work.

Basically, the plan is to have five lunches ready and waiting in the fridge or freezer at the beginning of each week so that there will always be something to grab each day and he won’t end up needing to buy lunches any more. The specific strategy points are as follows:

1. Try to do better with leftovers. I always “intend” to make sure there are leftovers to take, but too often I forget to actually allow for them in my cooking. Leftovers will be priority #1.

Spaghetti lunches, ready for the freezer

2. Make big-batch home-made “frozen” lunches. This is where the pyrex comes in. I finally broke down and bought five glass freezer containers suitable for a decent portion of food for my partner’s lunch. My idea is to do just like the frozen dinners do and have a bed of noodles or rice dumped over with a good helping of sauce. Only this version will be home made, and it will be super duper cheap!

So, today I did a big batch of spaghetti. We ate a good helping for dinner, and then I made more noodles and packed up five yummy portions for frozen lunches. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I’m planning to make big meaty saucy stewy meals every Sunday from now on to stock up the frozen lunches for the week. These home-made frozen dinners will be priority #2.

3. Buy enough frozen meals to last a week. My partner doesn’t mind the President’s Choice frozen Indian dishes, so I will try to make sure there are at least five in our freezer at the start of the week. That way, if we fall down on #1 and #2, at least he has those.

4. Make cookies. What can I say? My man likes my cookies. I figure for the cost of maybe two cookies at Starbucks, I could make a full batch of cookies at home. If I make them, he’ll eat them. And we all save money.

So there you have it: the new plan. It involves a lot of Sunday cooking and shopping, but I think we’re ready for it. There is a lot to be said for getting ready for the week on the weekend, instead of playing catch-up the rest of the days.

I also wanted to add that today I shopped at the Isabella Loblaws and found some great sales. First off, the PC frozen meals were on sale for $3 each, so I bought enough for two weeks. There were also all these bread products, reduced to 50% off. Due date: June 15! I don’t know who is getting fired over this, but I got a loaf of bread, a bag of english  muffins, and two bags of bagels, each for between $1 and $1.50.

So we are really really really well stocked at the moment. It feels good. But MAN my freezer is full!


5 thoughts on “Work Lunches: a new strategy

  1. Where did you get your pyrex containers? I want to make the switch out of plastic so I’d be interested in hearing if yours don’t leak and if you were able to find them for a good price.

    1. I got them at the Home Hardware in the Glebe, and they were $7 each. Not cheap! But cheaper than lunch out 🙂

      However, they definitely will leak. The lids are not leak-proof at all, which we will counter by 1) freezing, and 2) placing inside a big ziplock baggie. Pyrex does sell ones with leak-proof lids but I haven’t seen them around, and they might be more expensive.

      Let me know if you find a good alternative!

  2. I love having left overs to bring in. I do need to get more pyrex small containers for mine though. For the longest time I was cooking extra and when I would go to put it away it was gone, so now when it comes out of the oven I put one serving in a pyrex and put it off to the side, this indicates to DH “NO I didn’t cook more so you could eat more than you need, its my lunch for the week”. Then if there are additional left overs I put them away as well. I find its best to freeze it, because then it doesn’t go bad while waiting.
    Something else to consider is have your partner take in a couple of cans of soup to keep in his desk. I do this, so that when I forget to grab left overs (which happens often) I have no excuse to go buy something. Around here its about $7 for a lunch and I would rather not spend it.
    My issue at the moment is a lack of inspiration menu wise. Both of DDs are insisting they want to go vege, not surprised with my little one as she has never been a big fan of meat, DH told her when she buys the food she can make her own decisions, I told him being vegetarian is not only healthy its cost effective, and since I was a vegetarian for years, I don’t mind. New changes, he is the only one who is going to be eating meat, and at least 3 meals a week will be strictly vegetarian. Not vegan, we like out eggs, cheese and other dairy.

  3. We’ve been doing this for years! Peter used to cook up a storm on Sundays … dinners and lunches for the week. I would do the baking for the week. Although the logistics are changing, the result stays the same. Once, I counted 10 single home-made meals in the freezer. At his old office, Peter had a fridge freezer, so he would transport a week’s worth of lunches at once.

    Warning: The same meal five times in a row gets old really fast. You are on the right track if you make larger batches of regular meals and freeze the leftovers. We are at a point, with two teenagers, where there are no leftovers no matter how hard we try!

    Container tricks: I save a lot of jars, especially the wide-mouth jars. They are great for all kinds of snacks like muffins, cookies, veggies. I bought two stainless steel lunch containers at Arbour: they are expensive and one has gone missing, but they are great. Will I replace them? No, it is way too discouraging.

    The problem with litterless lunch is that when you have kids, the containers won’t necessarily come home. Peter buys those awful disposable sandwich boxes that last about three meals. The pyrex is a much better idea.

    The other great thing about homemade frozen meals is that when you are totally frazzled, dinner for the family is pretty easy.

  4. This was our problem when I was pregnant with the boy. We weren’t organized and so I was always buying my lunche. Now I try to make sure the husband always has leftovers or something from the freezer he can take. Can’t wait to hear how it works!

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