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Week long challenge: Don't eat out for breakfast or lunch

6/9/2017 in Goals and Challenges

Save $45 or more by challenging yourself not to eat out for breakfast and lunch this week!

It’s amazing how quickly the costs associated with eating out add up. With a little planning you can make your own breakfast and lunch and you’ll be surprised by how much you can save.

The Challenge:
This week’s Goals and Challenges series post is all about cutting out the high costs (both financially and for your health) associated with fast food for breakfast and lunch. Make it your goal to plan some meals ahead of time and eat them for breakfast and lunch this work week.

How should I prepare for the challenge?
The best way to start this challenge is to go into it with a meal plan. Since we’re starting this challenge easy by only having you prepare breakfast and lunch for 5 days, coming up with a meal plan will be very easy.

We recommend going and buying groceries on Saturday or Sunday and then using Sunday to prepare some of the meals ahead of time which will make it faster and easier to get out the door in the morning. Also keep an eye out for ways to save money at the grocery and find ingredients you can use for both breakfast and lunch. As you’ll see below, I buy dry black beans in bulk and get about 4x the amount for the same price.

A meal sample for the week:
In my example we’ll focus on some protein heavy meals which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer. You can certainly eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast but the high amount of carbs and sugar will leave you feeling tired and hungry after a couple of hours which could lead to snacking or buying more food.

This is the plan I follow but you can certainly alter it to fit your dietary needs. For breakfast I make a two egg omelette filled with black beans (about ¼ cup) and some cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and turmeric. I’ll top the omelette with a few tablespoons of salsa. If I know it’s going to be a late lunch I’ll also have a piece of toast with some butter and jam.

If you don’t have time in the morning to make breakfast, use Saturday or Sunday to prepare some meals so you can easily heat them up. Scrambling up a bunch of eggs with some diced peppers and onions and then stuffing that in a tortilla makes a really quick and easy meal to reheat in the morning.

For lunch, try to skip on the frozen microwaveable meals. They’re often times packed with sodium and focus on low calorie counts which will just leave you feeling hungry and unfulfilled after an hour or so. Instead, work on making a hearty sandwich or bringing leftovers from last night’s dinner.

I have access to a stovetop at lunch so I like to make quesadillas. I use whole wheat tortillas, cheese, spinach, diced tomatoes, lots of black beans (for that protein kick), onions and bell pepper in my quesadilla. I’ll also mash up half an avocado with a little salsa for a quick side of guacamole which gives a lot of healthy fats and will help keep me full. I’ll often bring an apple and some chips and hummus to snack on a little before or after lunch to help keep me from wandering out and buying a snack.

Rather than grilling up a quesadilla you could always opt for a filling sandwich. Buy some of the heartier bread (whole grain with nuts or seeds), throw on some cheese, tomato, red onion, spinach and any protein of choice.

As referenced above, when I go grocery shopping I try to buy ingredients that I can use for both breakfast and lunch. The cheese, black beans and salsa I use for my omelette and quesadilla are all the same. This saves me money and makes it less likely that something will go bad in the fridge from not being used.

Buying dry black beans and cooking them yourself is significantly cheaper than buying canned beans. It takes 2 hours and can be done while you’re doing other chores around the house. Add about 1 cup of dried black beans to a 3-4qt pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for an hour and a half. Drain the beans and store in the fridge for 5-7 days. No overnight soaking necessary. I don’t season the beans since I found that spoils them faster or makes them tougher. I rely on seasoning them when using them in a meal.

Mixing up what you eat is also important so you don’t get bored of cooking and then start thinking about eating out again. Stuffing the omelette with different ingredients, cheeses or seasonings will help a lot.

The amount you spend on food for breakfast and lunch for the week will probably be about what you spend in a single day on fast food if you eat out for both breakfast and lunch. These savings add up extremely fast.

The savings
Based on the assumption that eating out for breakfast and lunch will cost you $5 and $8 respectively per day, this means you're spending $65 per 5-day work week eating out. For about $20 you can easily buy all the ingredients needed for the meals listed in the example above which can save you around $45 during your work week. Other ways to help save are to make your own coffee instead of spending $3-5 per day to buy coffee out. If you buy soda, tea or juice throughout the day, try cutting those out and replacing it with water.

What next?
What can you do with all the money you’ve saved by making your own breakfast and lunch? We recommend applying it toward any credit card or student loan debt, an extra payment on your mortgage or savings / retirement funds.

After you see how easy it is to save money by making your own meals for breakfast and lunch, we challenge you to also try making all your own dinners for the week as well!

If you’ve successfully accomplished the challenge and have any advice for others on how you did it, please share it with us in the comments below!

This post is part of our Goals and Challenges series where we challenge you to try cutting back on your spending or to save more in certain areas.



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