Lunches for Less

lunchEven before I started this New Year’s Resolution, I was aware that the #money we were spending on lunches was adding up.  I had stopped eating at the cafe at work months earlier – I was getting tired of paying $7-$11 every time I grabbed a salad or sandwich and soft drink.  And, with two growing #teens at home, both of who need to school lunches packed each day, our grocery #budget was taking a hit.

One problem, we were buying tons of #expensive #deli.  I started taking note of the price – about $5 a pound for ham to $6 a pound for turkey, and $7 or $8 a pound for the more expensive cuts.  Then, there was the temptation of throwing in 1/2 pound of smoked gouda or maybe a pricey havarti….I’d easily walk away with $15 – $20 in packaged deli for the week!  Never mind the inevitable lines at the deli counter that extended my grocery shop by a good 15 minutes or more. And, let’s not even #talk about the the high levels of sodium and preservatives in the meat – this habit was not just costly, it was unhealthy!  Happily, our lunches have evolved!

Never mind the inevitable lines at the deli counter that extended my grocery shop by a good 15 minutes or more. And, let’s not even talk about the the high levels of sodium and preservatives in the meat – this habit was not just costly, it was unhealthy!

Here are seven ideas for lunches that you can #PackForPennies.  First, however, you’ll need a few items on hand:

  • A MICROWAVEABLE @THERMOS:  Invest in a microwaveable thermos.  I used my @AmazonPrime account and bought two of these for $18.99.  They are, admittedly, a bit bulky, but are #reasonably priced, and go from fridge to microwave.  These babies are worth their weight in #gold! I can use them for anything from leftovers to tomato soup, and can fill them the night before, saving time in our morning routine.
  • PRE-COOKED CHICKEN OR BEEF:  Broil a bit of chicken or beef on Sunday night and you will have prepared protein all week to add to lunches. Use it to top salads, make skewers, or put over #rice.
  • WOODEN SKEWERS:  Buy a package of wooden skewers. @Walmart sells a package of 100 for $1.56 which will last you for weeks to come.  You can skewer fruit and cheese, chicken cubes and pepper slices, veggies, or a variety of other tempting treats for a fun lunch for the kids (or you!).
  • FRUIT AND/OR VEGGIES:  Instead of filling ziplock bags with Cheez-its or chips (yes, I was guilty of that…last year), keep some fresh veggies on hand for sides to any lunch.  Healthier and, yes, cheaper than the expensive bags of junk food that we used to buy every week.  Carrots, broccoli, and sliced peppers are some of our go-to veggies.  For fruit, I like to buy apples – they last longer than most fruit and the kids love them.
  •  HARD BOILED EGGS:  Shout out to my mother for turning me on to this idea.  Each week, I try to have some hard boiled eggs on hand.  I eat them for lunches, slice them in half as a side for lunch, or chop them and sprinkle over salad.
  • BOTTLED WATER:  I buy a case of water a week, and this is what we all bring for beverages.  Far less expensive than soda and far healthier.  Enough said!


  1.  Tomato Soup, hard boiled eggs cut in half, and apple slices.  My kids love tomato soup (mixed with milk, not water) and at just under $5.00 for a four pack (or less if you have the room to buy a case), it makes for an inexpensive, healthy lunch.  Mix it up the night before, put it in the thermos, and round out by adding a few hard-boiled eggs cut in half, and a sliced apple.  For what boils down to #pennies, the kids have a great lunch to keep them going at school.
  2. Lunch Skewers.  I have a package of wooden skewers on hand that I can fill with chunks of chicken, veggies, cheese, fruit, or whatever I have on hand.  This is a fun lunch for the kids and there are plenty of ideas on @Pinterest to get your creative juices flowing.
  3. Rice Bowls.  When I took stock of my pantry several weeks ago, I realized I had two big bags of rice in the pantry.  We are trying to incorporate it into our weekly meals and it always seems we have some left over.  To use it for lunch, get #creative. Yesterday, I had a bit of meat sauce left over from our spaghetti night, so I used that.  You can also top it with some broiled chicken or beef, a bit of soy sauce, and some chopped green onion.  Or, if you really want to get creative, do an Internet search for “rice bowls for lunch” to find tons of ideas.
  4. Tuna fish sandwiches on whole wheat bread.  Cans of tuna are relatively inexpensive (you can pick up an 8 pack for less than $8.00) and they keep forever.  We always have some in the pantry and it takes only a few minutes to mix it with some mayo.  Add some fruit or veggies in a zip lock bag to round it out.
  5. Mac ‘N Cheese with Apple Slices:  We have tons of pasta on hand, and it takes next to nothing to boil some water and throw in some ziti or macaroni.  I have cheese sauce in the pantry or, if you are a bit more industrious, make your own with whatever cheeses you have on hand and a bit of milk.  Let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese?
  6. Salads.  Okay, so my son is not a fan of this, but my teenage daughter and I #love our salads. Last week, I bought a huge #organic salad mix at @BJ’s for under $5.00.  There is more than enough for dinners, so I plan to pack a few large salads, topped with broiled chicken or chopped hard boiled eggs, shredded carrots, and whatever other veggies I have on hand.
  7. Leftovers.  Once you begin to plan and cook, you will be #amazed at the #leftovers you have in the fridge.  Do not let them go to waste and throw money away!  If you made a casserole or slow cooker meal, use your new thermos.  Or, you can use a plastic container. I have #Bento box that I picked up on a whim at @TJMaxx and yesterday, I filled it using the leftover black bean quesadillas, sliced peaches, and fresh orange peppers.

Spread the word – help others cut their food bill by sharing this post on your social media and following for tons of ideas on how to slash #thousands off your food bill!


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