Y’know, for someone who is constantly complaining about being broke, I spend a LOT of money on food.
What can I really say? I love eating out, I like to cook with high-quality ingredients, and, in general, I just love food. So it’s a pretty natural place for all my cash monies to flow to, right? Granted, I’m spending less on food now than I was when I was regularly shoveling $17 worth of Taco Bell’s finest offerings down my gullet, back in my not-so-glory days, but still. With quite a few things in the works that have begun to seriously cripple my spending habits (a stellar vacation, starting classes and needing a new car, just to name a few), I’m trying desperately to tighten my proverbial belt.
Of course, with my history of being a bit of a spendaholic, this is easier said than done. I’ve since eradicated the credit card debt that had shamefully plagued me since graduating from college (w00t!), but I’m still not very good at saving. I mean, sure, I contribute to my 401(k) and I’m not literally living paycheck to paycheck anymore, but my savings account is still rather sad, really. The few dollars I do have in there are probably quite lonely. It’s not that I haven’t tried! I’ve created numerous budgeting spreadsheets, reconfigured my Mint.com account at least a dozen times, and have subjected myself to lectures from my frugal sister. After months of continuing to fail at putting any significant chunk of my paycheck into savings, however, I think that some of the lessons are finally starting to sink in.
One of the biggest things that has been saving me money over the past few months has been bringing my lunch to work. Obviously, I’m a huge proponent of this for health and weight loss reasons, since it’s a lot easier to count your calories when you’ve brought your edibles from home. Beyond that, though, I am saving SO much money. The savings come two-fold:
First of all, I was easily spending anywhere from $8 to $12 (or more!) on lunch when I was buying it. On the low-end, maybe I was just picking up a sandwich from the deli downstairs, but if I was getting something from the weighted hot bar, or going across the street to Potbelly’s, Roti, or Au Bon Pain? Double digits, my friends. So, on my worst weeks when I was buying my lunch every single day, that’s at least $50 that was going straight down the drain. $50 a week adds up fast, and before you know it, that’s hundreds and hundreds.
The second way that bringing my lunch helps save me money is that it actually discourages me from eating out for dinner so often. See, I actually am not the biggest fan of your average lunch fare. Sure, I get the occasional craving for a turkey-on-white, but for the most part, I would much prefer to see a repeat of dinner come noontime than have to scarf down a PB&J. I LOVE having dinner leftovers as my lunch the following day. So knowing that I’ll need something to bring for lunch helps ensure I’ll be cooking something delicious for dinner. When it’s time to pack up the leftovers, I just portion them out into the appropriate Tupperware (okay, well, technically it’s Rubbermaid), and then in the morning I just grab a couple of containers out of the fridge, toss ’em in a bag, and voila!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t do very well with trying to follow a specific set of rules. You know, things like “Only eat out once a week!” or “$100 a week on food, and that’s it.” For whatever reason (my brattiness, most likely), I’m just not very good at sticking to ’em. So I just try to set myself up for success as much as possible by being proactive: I don’t wait until I’m hungry to go to the store, because by the time I do, the likelihood of me caving and purchasing 3 boxes of Velveeta Shells & Cheese is like, 450% higher. Instead, I go grocery shopping on my way home from work. I cook more than one or two people could (should?) eat, so that I know I’ll have plenty of leftovers to last through lunch.
I’ve been doing really, really well with bringing my lunch almost every day for the past couple of months, and I can already tell the difference. The burden of my credit card bill each month is just that much lighter, you know? Hopefully, this new(ish)found initiative to budget, save, and finally start moving forward with my sort-of-grown-up-maybe life will stick. I like the feeling of having money in my savings account, after all. It makes me feel much more prepared for
the inevitable zombie apocalypse that is right around the corner the future. I’m sure I still need to work on being a smarter grocery shopper, because I’m probably leaking all sorts of unnecessary money when it comes to that, but progress is progress, right?
What are your tips for curbing your food spending?
PS: Episode 3 of the Reach the Beach video is up! Check it out: