Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bringing lunch from home for the lazy

Here is my very best frugal tip for Frugal for Life (I know I'm months late!). Everyone knows that you save tons of money by bringing your lunch from home instead of buying it every day. But this requires work. Lots of work. Lots of work every day. I've finally perfected the system of bringing healthy inexpensive lunches from home with minimal work for even the laziest of us (I prefer to use the term efficient). The key is having a compact refrigerator at work. Sure, this costs money up front, but with this system, it could pay for itself in as little as a few months. I actually bought this cute Kenmore with a 15% coupon so it cost me about $120 when I got it.

What I do is when I go shopping on Sunday, I buy up all the ingredients to make breakfasts and lunches at work. Deli meat, sandwich wraps, potato salad, apple, oranges, grapes, cheese, mustard, mayo, India relish, olives, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, english muffins, cream cheese, butter, and an occasional Lean Cuisine or frozen bowl from Trader Joe's (whew! I finally did inventory while at work). When I unpack the groceries, I set aside a shopping bag to bring into work and leave it in my fridge at home. Monday morning, I bring the bag in and unload it. This takes little or no time, just the ability to sort and remember to bring the bag once a week. I make up my sandwiches fresh everyday at lunch, which tastes better than pre-made soggy sandwiches. This also saves time and gas from having to go out for lunch. If there is a free lunch, no problem, the lunch hasn't even been made, so it can still be made fresh the next day. I've been doing this for nearly two years now and it's been great on my convenient food expense column.


Bigqueue said...

Gee....don't you have a refrigerator provided at work? We have one in each wing of each floor of each building.....right next to a microwave and the coffee maker.
(We have one in each lab too)

Yea, some people hate to put their lunch in a community refrigerator, but if you are that concerned, I suppose you could get a small locking lunch box.

I suppose it might be hard to get the company to foot the bill for one, but if you pulled together say 5 people, it might cost you less to buy a full size fridge and share.

I see one at Sears that is $474...and I bet you can get a better deal at a scratch-n-dent place....a local sears store perhaps!

Just a thought.....

Angela said...

The whole point is that you don't have to bring lunch in everyday. It is not possible in most cases to put a week's worth of lunches in the communal fridge. And just remembering to bring in one day's worth of lunch everyday is TOO MUCH WORK for me!

This method also saves in the hidden costs of packaging a lunch every day in terms of tupperware and baggies. This takes time to prepare, time to clean and cost for the materials.

I've had too many headaches dealing with communal fridges and having large quantities of food like 1/2 gallons of milk of juice. Ours are packed everyday and emptied every weekend. The food that I've lost from not remembering to take extra food on Friday completely ticks me off. If there is no chance of losing food either by pilfering or policy and there is enough room for a whole week's of food (I easily take up most of a shelf on that Sunday evening before I bring my bag in), then I would by all means use the communal fridge.

Anonymous said...

You must be working in a very progressive workplace! :)

In most of my corporate experiences, the cubicle nazis would have come for your refrigerator in the dark of night, left ominous, threatening messages to your entire report to chain. Implied that *you* were going to be directly responsible for a) burning the building down b) killing all of your co-workers c) bankrupting the company electric bill d) sowing dissent because since you get a fridge, they will want their fish tanks e) all of the above.


Or at least, that is what it was like when I worked for the phone company. Nowadays I work from home, and may just get me a little fridge for under my desk.

Still haven't quite started drinking while working yet, but there are definitely days when I think about it! Ha!


Angela said...

Progressive? You must be joking... This company has as many blocked sites as China (OK, maybe not that bad, at least I can get to Blogger). I have many snickers from people about it, but my response is that they are free to bring in their own fridge. There is however a strict policy against toaster ovens and microwaves in the cubes as obviously that is a fire hazard. I haven't heard of a fridge burning down a building yet!

Tina Ann Forkner said...

Great blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Great idea.
I used to have a small fridge in my classroom and leave some fruit in there...but I still ate Wendy's for lunch...Ugh.

Thanks for visiting me too.

Bigqueue said...

But I'm a bit confused.....the small fridge is about 1.7 cu ft. (from Sears) and then the regular refrigerators are something like 16.7 cu ft (for the cheap freezerless model) or 18.2 cu ft (for the top freezer model)

This would be between 9.8x and 10.7x the size of your mini-fridge. If you split the cost with 5 people and allocated the space equally, you would end up with twice the space! (am I missing something?)

Maybe I'm not familar with the $120 fridge you refer to.

Angela said...

OK, my fridge is 4.7 cu ft, 0.9 amps and fits pretty unobtrusively in my cube. It appears that Sears doesn't sell this model any longer. Buying a larger one to split means that it would have to be placed further away from my cube so I can't just spin around and grab a cup of yogurt when I please. We are talking lazy engineer here! And you would have to hound people to keep it clean. Been through that in dorm life. I do let few people store stuff in there, but 90% of stuff is mine.

Bigqueue said...

Yup...I saw a fridge like you described at Home Depot tonight.....4.? cu ft....and you got a better deal as it was $139.

The tiny 1.7 cu ft fridge was $79......totally different animal. (and small)


I see the benefit.