Monday, May 18, 2009

Cooking on a Budget: Lesson 4- Lunches I

Ok, so one of the obvious keys to cooking on a budget is transitioning to eating mostly things you actually cook. Eating food other people make, whether its at a restaurant or its a frozen dinner, is just more expensive. And, most of the time, it is not that healthy- frozen food tends to have huge amounts of sodium and preservatives, and all of that kind of icky stuff. And, I love to go out to restaurants for dinner, but you might as well save it for places you really like and food that is really interesting, not just something to fill you up on the way home from work.

One of the meals that most people most commonly buy is lunch. This is because there is this myth that packing a lunch is a giant pain because it means you have to make stuff in the morning, and you'd have to be June Cleaver to accomplish it on a regular basis. The thing is, buying lunch is expensive- if you spent just five bucks on lunch every day (and that is not going to buy you a particularly delicious lunch) that is already almost $2000! Yikes!
1. exhibit A- a prime example of what I do not look like in the morning.

So, what are you supposed to do if you don't want to wake up at 5am to cook something for lunch, but you don't want to go broke either? The answer? DON'T cook it every day- be lazy! This tip is the best one anyone ever gave me. Basically, in addition to your groceries, you're going to need to go buy some packages of those disposable tupperwares in individual portion size. Buy more than you think you need, once you get going on this habit, you'll want more. On the weekends, or whenever you have the energy, make a big batch of something you like. Pretty much anything I've posted on, I've done this with. After you make it, eat however much you want to eat for dinner. Afterwards, immediately separate the rest into individual portions in the tupperwares. When its cool, put the lids on, and stick them in the freezer. Like this:
2. exhibit B- some of the contents of my freezer

What have you just done? You've just made your own frozen dinners (or lunches). This won't only be cheaper, it'll be healthier because you'll know whats in them. Just grab one from the freezer in the morning, take it to work, and microwave. Then wash the tupperware and re-use. This can also be dinner when you just don't feel like cooking anything. Once you've done this a few times, you'll end up with a couple different things in the freezer, and you'll actually have some different options to choose from. The other reason this is awesome is that if you make a big recipe, the thought of eating it for every meal until you run out of it is a little overwhelming. This is a good way to eat what you want, and then just save the rest for later- its actually the main thing that made me feel like I could learn to cook "real" recipes even though I live by myself (not that Charlotte doesn't like my cooking, but she flat our refuses to take her lunch to work).

Try it! Next, we'll talk about things you can actually make to put in these tupperwares!

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