Frugal Eats For Our Workweek

As most of our readers know, we’re not yet financially independent, but we’re doing everything possible to achieve our goal. Everything possible includes making lunches for our workweek. I must admit, one of my biggest financial pitfalls throughout the years has been eating in restaurants. It’s not so much the food that lures me out to fine (and not-so-fine) eateries, it’s mostly the atmosphere and the social aspect that gets me. Hence, in an effort to reach our financial goals, we shun most restaurant meals these days. Contrary to our spendy past, we have become quite crafty in preparing frugal eats for our workweek. Let’s take a look! 

Our Weekly Menu

 

Salsa

Making fresh salsa

I must tell you that I am the only person in our household that commutes to a desk job outside of the home each day. Mr. MMM has the luxury of being able to work mostly from his home office. Therefore, he doesn’t need to brown bag any lunch. He is able to climb the steps out of the doldrums (I’m being overly dramatic here for entertainment purposes) of the basement to prepare a nutritious yet delicious lunch in our kitchen. This usually consists of tuna and refried beans. It’s what he likes. Don’t judge.

I, on the other hand, must plan a menu for my workweek if I am to stay on task and eat lunch at my desk instead of skipping out to the closest pizza joint or fast food spot. Both of which I am a sucker for with little willpower to guard against it when my tummy starts a churnin’.

Typically, I am able to plan on taking dinner leftovers for lunch the next day if we have a solid plan in place for dinner each night. However, when it’s obvious our planned dinner eats are going to be demolished, or we’re preparing something that isn’t good after reheating, I must make secondary arrangements. That’s where preparation comes in!

If you’re interested in how we spend our money, I suggest the following:

Frugal Eats Preparation

 

pizza - frugal alternatives

Delicious pizza – NOT in the workweek budget.

Unfortunately I don’t always succeed at preparing a fully-balanced lunch meal when I take my lunch to work – but it’s still better than pizza or fast food. I/we do, however, put a lot of focus on balancing out breakfasts and dinners – so not all is lost.

In some instances, I will prepare a week’s worth of food for the upcoming workweek. When I am fully confident our dinner menu won’t suffice for lunch leftovers, I plan to make a batch of food on Sunday that will (hopefully) last me the entire week.

Case in point, the other week I whipped up a batch of baked chicken with brown rice and green beans. I effectively stored this in a big container in the fridge and divvied out a portion each morning before leaving for work. And I failed to take a picture of it for my readers. Blah.

Another staple that enables me to stop spending foolishly at pizza joints and fast food locales during lunches at work is spaghetti and meatballs. I can happily eat a batch of sketties and ‘balls for the entire week without hesitation. And I LOVE it.

Fortunately, I’m not the kinda chick that can’t eat the same meal twice. I would have to eat the same thing for every meal for days on end before requiring a change. It just doesn’t bother me. 
smoothie

Fruit/veggie smoothie

Frugal Eats I Typically Take To The Office:

  • Pasta variations
  • Chicken, rice, veggies
  • Fruit and veggie smoothie
  • Sandwiches
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Dinner leftovers

Work Week Execution

 

Knowing I have a delicious lunch I can look forward to at work is vital to my success. I put a HIGH (I cannot emphasize this enough) priority on my break time at work. I have ZERO interest in working through lunch while trying to grab a bite of a sandwich here and there. ZERO.

For me, having a mental break means I can be a much more productive employee the second half of the day. And since I don’t define my entire being by the position I hold at my W-2, working through lunch doesn’t make me feel accomplished. Quite the opposite, in fact. It really does nothing more than tick me off.

The other thing I truly enjoy during work, is getting the heck out of the office. Hence, it is a struggle every single day for me to eat my lunch at my desk. That’s why I MUST have a plan and I MUST be looking forward to my lunch break and what I’m about to devour. To me my lunch is not just sustenance; it’s a break from the monotony and a chance for my to recharge for the second half of the day.

pb&j

Emergency food

Because it’s not just about filling my belly, I must also combine my work lunch with something that enables me to believe I am truly getting a mid-day break. And going out to eat satisfies every single desire I have – but that is obviously pushing us in the opposite direction from our financial goals. So what’s a hungry, tired girl to do when noon rolls around? I have solved this issue by looking forward to reading some blogs or even writing one! Truth be told, this very blog post was conceived while eating lunch at my desk at work. Productivity abounds!

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Preparing To Fail

 

Mad Money Cat

Mad Money Cat eats a 100% balanced diet. She never fails. Never.

No one is perfect. And we are quite far from that side of the spectrum. We do our best. That means we (mostly me since I work outside the home) must prepare to fail. Preparing to fail means I always keep emergency food at my desk to squash my hunger should I forget my lunch or fail to pack it in the first place.

My emergency stash consists of:

  • Peanut butter
  • Hummus
  • Crackers
  • Pita chips
  • Oatmeal (My. Last. Resort.)

It’s not my preference, but it is everything a girl needs to get through the workday until dinner. And did I mention there are FREE beverages at work? Free coffee, hot chocolate, and tea. Let me tell you, I don’t forget to indulge in these offerings each day.

Bottom line, we do the best we can. We’re not perfect. We do mess up. And I do occasionally go out for lunch. But I’m always mindful of how much money I spend and take care not to allow it to happen too often.

What about you? What does your lunch time look like during work? Do you brown bag it? Or do you still opt to spend money during work hours for a convenient lunch?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Laura Jul 24, 2017, 10:56 pm

    On Sunday, I make a big batch of roasted potatoes and veg (broccoli, cauliflower or mushrooms usually). I portion it out in containers right away so all I have to do each morning is grab one, add an orange for dessert and a yogurt for my morning snack. This works quite well for me. It’s fairly easy and I can change the vegetables and/or the spices if I want more variety.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 25, 2017, 8:33 am

      That’s such an awesome strategy! And such a money saver, too! I need to acquire more containers so I can portion my batches out right away. 🙂

  • Anonymous Jul 20, 2017, 7:38 pm

    I do pack my lunch, but will admit that 3x a week I buy a large cup of soup at work for $2. I love soup, and the ones they make are very good. My other family members don’t love soup the way I do, so I get my fix there!

    Sad to say I fall into the
    eat-at-my-desk-between-seeing-patients category. By doing that I can finish my day earlier and get home to my family.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 21, 2017, 4:10 pm

      Awe…sorry to hear you have to eat on the run. But you’re right, at least it allows you to be home with your family in the evenings.

  • David Jul 19, 2017, 9:58 pm

    My work lunch changes with the seasons. In the summer lunch is part of the job. I am a part time whitewater rafting guide and I guide ATV tours. Preparing a riverside or trailside lunch for the guests is part of the job and we bring enough to feed the guides. In the winter I pack a more traditional workday lunch. I spend my winters making snow at a New England ski resort. There’s no place to buy lunch at night so all of us bring our own. I usually bring a thermos of something hot with a lot of calories. Beans, stews and squash soup are some of my staples. Sometimes I bring a thermos of pulled pork and some rolls to make sandwiches on the mountain. A second thermos full of hot tea and plenty of snacks fills the lunchbox. Between maintaining body temperature and doing the work I burn over 6,000 calories a day making snow. Packing enough lunch is essential to enjoying the job.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 21, 2017, 4:12 pm

      Wow! I really wish I could change jobs with you! And it sounds like you have your lunches down to a frugal yet nutritional science. #jealous

      • David Jul 29, 2017, 10:18 pm

        None of those jobs pays enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. I worked for ski resorts and rafting outfitters in my 20s. I enjoyed the work but I wasn’t getting ahead so I went into construction and agriculture. 20 years later my mortgage was paid and my expenses went way down plus I had enough in retirement accounts that I didn’t need to be so diligent about contributing the maximum every year. As long as I leave them alone they keep growing nicely. That’s when I decided to get back into the rafting and skiing industries. Living a hard working frugal life in my 30s and 40s made it possible to enjoy a fun frugal life in my 50s. Don’t be jealous. You will get to a place where you can quit the daily grind and switch to a fun job. And you won’t care how little it pays.

        • Mad Money Monster Jul 30, 2017, 6:02 pm

          I cannot wait to be able to throw in the towel in my high-stress job for something a little less stressful and a lot more fun!

  • The 76K Project Jul 18, 2017, 9:23 pm

    We try really hard to bring our own lunches to work, too. I usually make dinners that are large enough to leave leftovers for the next day’s lunch, and then I supplement with granola bars, fruit, veggie sticks, and sometimes crackers or chips. It’s not always super fun, but I do love the money I save.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:24 pm

      Yeah, my ideal situation is to bring leftover dinner for lunch. But, alas, that isn’t always possible. Hence, Sunday meal prep is a great secondary alternative for us.

  • Cody @ Dollar Habits Jul 18, 2017, 12:46 pm

    Love this! I have been brown-bagging my lunch since elementary school and continue to do so today. In my opinion, it is one of the best things someone can do for both their wallets and their waistline. I also try to do most of the meal prep on Sunday. I’ve found this to work well since I can just grab and go each morning.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:21 pm

      Surprisingly, we recently incorporated the Sunday prep into our frugal routine. We’re loving the assembly line approach. It saves us way more time than we ever imaged!

  • Ryan @ Just Another Dollar Jul 18, 2017, 11:32 am

    We have become pretty disciplined with our food budget and about 90% of our meals are prepared at home. We pick up groceries and do the majority of our cooking on Sunday, saving us those valuable hours after work during the week. We have a solid rotation of meals and try to mix it up week to week. My office has the unfortunate culture where most people eat lunch at their desk, but I try to make a point of taking at least 10-15 minutes away from my work to eat. I find that it makes me so much more productive for the afternoons. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:20 pm

      My office has that culture too! I just don’t understand how people can just keep trudging through their workday without a real break. Having a bite here and there as I’m typing away at a keyboard does nothing more than irritate me and make me less productive. I guess that’s why I’m on FIRE 🙂

  • Dads Dollars Debts Jul 18, 2017, 9:55 am

    I have cutout buying lunches at work and it was the best decision I have made. The food is better and it is one less decision to make in an already hectic day. Plus I save $8 a day at $40 a week and $160 a month. That is real cash. I figure if I am going to spend money on food then it better be high quality.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:16 pm

      Great strategy! Buying lunch, even at a work cafeteria, can really add up to some REAL money if you’re not careful. I hate to think about how much cash I spent at my cafeteria over the years. #shudder

  • Lance @ My Strategic Dollar Jul 18, 2017, 8:10 am

    “Fortunately, I’m not the kinda chick that can’t eat the same meal twice. I would have to eat the same thing for every meal for days on end before requiring a change. It just doesn’t bother me. ”

    Loved this comment. I find that comment to be annoying and simply an excuse by people. Great job fixing generally healthy meals for the week! Pre-packing my lunch is a huge time and money saver.

    • Mad Money Monster Jul 19, 2017, 12:15 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, we do our best with blending frugality, nutrition, and our allotment of time. Sometimes we fail and make do with a less-than-balanced meal, but that’s okay 🙂

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