One easy way to cut costs whether you work outside the home, are spending the day out running errands, or traveling is to pack food for your meals. For one person it can save $5-$10 per meal. Add up all your family members it could save you hundreds of dollars every month and thousands each year. Packing food from home will not only reduce your food spending, but you’ll also reduce food waste at home.
When we recently went on an airplane trip with our family of six we prepared by having muffins on hand for the kids for our 4am (!) wake up call and juice boxes to have on the way to the airport. I also packed a bag with sandwiches, fruit, and snacks for lunch. We ate it on the way to our hotel.
1. Brown Bag your Lunch
The most common way to save big bucks on eating out is to brown bag your lunch. While it may not be as much fun as going out to eat, it doesn’t have to be boring.
Brown bag ideas:
- Dress up your sandwich with upscale ingredients on a budget, like pesto or sprouts, to make a plain lunch a little more exciting. Sample idea: Leftover roasted chicken from dinner with chipotle mayo and vine-ripened tomatoes on a baguette.
- Skip the sandwich and go with crackers or tortilla chips and dips like hummus or my easy to make guacamole. Sample idea: Tortilla chips, celery sticks, and carrots with a side of hummus. A piece of fruit for dessert.
- Use leftover meat to make salad-like chicken salad or turkey salad. Sample idea: Chicken salad with walnuts, and olive oil mayo on choice of bread with an apple on the side.
- Skip the bread and make a wrap out of lettuce. Sample idea: Lettuce wrap with slices of turkey and cheese topped with mustard.
2. Pack Energy Food
Include high-protein snacks like nuts or seeds for lasting energy that gets you through a long day whether you’re at work, at the park, or on a long road trip. Look for high protein bars for a snack or meal replacement as well such as Think Thin bars.
Some ways to get extra protein for your day:
- Nut mix
- Trail mix (just watch that there aren’t a ton of sugary dried fruits)
- Sunflower seeds
- High-protein bars
- Granola bars
- Peanut butter packs and crackers
- Hardboiled eggs
- Hummus and chips
- Yogurt cup or yogurt ‘squeezer’-especially Greek yogurt
- Cheese sticks or cubes (or dairy-free cheese if you can’t eat dairy)
3. Snack on Veggies and Fruit
Include fruits and vegetables to make your packed meals more complete, or as simple snacks. Try:
- adding a side of fruit
- making a fruit salad
- adding sliced veggies to your sandwiches
- put a side salad in your bag
- make a side of veggies
- slice veggies in containers or bags in your fridge to grab them when you go out
4. Make it Fun
5. Pack up Leftovers
Leftovers make a perfect meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Double up your dinner recipes or cook extra on the weekends to make packing meals easier.
- Try using perfect chicken leftovers to make a chicken sandwich, chicken salad, or add them to a lettuce wrap.
- Make tortilla wraps with leftover taco beef and guacamole.
- Pack up soup and reheat it.
- Make a quiche to eat for any meal.
- Make a big salad for the week to use as a side or meal.
6. In a pinch buy it at the store.
If you are short on time you can buy items for less than at a restaurant by shopping at the store. Consider ideas like:
- baked goods for breakfast
- sliced deli meats for lunch or dinner
- stock up at the salad bar
- prepared grocery meals that will cost less than a restaurant and be healthier than fast food
- get some staples like a baguette and cheese for a picnic lunch
- purchase a roasted chicken to eat for dinner and use leftovers for chicken salad or soup
- buy prepackaged veggies and fruits that are ready to eat
- look for boxed snacks and meals like Go Picnic snack boxes
We’ve used all these ideas for packing lunches on the go, a quick breakfast, and even dinners. We pack meals for work and school, but we have even packed meals for road trips, airplane rides, day trips, and so much more!