Tips for Sticking to a Budget: Bringing Your Lunch to Work

Budget Living

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When I was growing up, it was understood that, as a family, we were not to entirely devour whatever had been made for dinner that evening. Obviously we ate our fill, but there always had to be a lunch-sized portion for my mum to take to the office the next day. I was raised with an understanding that "leftovers" and "lunch" were synonyms, which has served me (and my monthly food budget) well as an adult.

In fact, when I graduated and started working "proper jobs", it surprised me that not all my co-workers brought their lunch to work; suddenly, I understood what all those sandwich chains and takeaway salad places were for. And while these days I appreciate my local Pret a Manger as much as the next busy worker bee, I've still not strayed too far from my roots. Here are my tips on preparing, carrying and enjoying bringing your lunch to work.

Plan ahead. Shop and meal plan with all the meals you'll need in mind; dinners and lunches. Sometimes this means simply making larger meals, and sometimes it means cooking slightly different foods. I'd recommend looking at your usual evening plans during the week, too. If you're usually out on Wednesday night, maybe make an extra big portion of dinner on Tuesday, so you have enough lunches to "cover" the next two working days.

Cook bulk. If I know I have a super busy week ahead of me, I'll try to make a big batch of something on Sunday afternoon, to cover lunches for the whole week ahead. In the winter I like hearty, freezable options like calzones, and in the summer, a nice chickpea or bean salad will keep me happy for days.

Pack smart. Obviously a ziplock bag will do for a sandwich, but if you're going to be bringing more involved or delicate lunches, you're going to need to think about packaging. I love my collapsible silicone lunch box, but there are a myriad of lunchbox options out there. If you're bringing a salad or something with a sauce, be sure to use a separate container to avoid sogginess. I use one of those tiny jam jars you get from hotel breakfast buffets!

Plan social. Sometimes, bringing your lunch can be a drag. If your co-workers like to eat together in the park, you don't always want to be chained to the office microwave. This is where portable (and room temperature) options like sandwiches and hearty salads come into their own. I often allow myself one bought lunch per week, which keeps things interesting and means I can join in any office fun that might be on the cards.

Do you bring your lunch to work? What's your favorite dish to eat at your desk? Any other tips to share?

P.S. Think the sandwich above looks delicious? Find the recipe on The Kitchn!

(Image credits: Faith Durand)

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Eleanor is a interior designer and freelance writer, embroiled in a love affair with everything glamorous, retro or delicious. This expat Canadian calls London, UK home but escapes to Paris whenever humanly possible.

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