Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cheap 15 minute packable lunches to fit into your 100/week grocery budget

We have a weekly grocery budget of 100.00 a week if we buy our lunches out, or 120.00/week if we pack our lunches. (If your interested in dinners- the dinners that we rotate through are also listed in this blog- just check my archives). This is the lunch database that we use to choose our lunches. I'm currently pregnant and my doctor has advised me to stay away from sandwich meat that isn't heated, so there are plenty of options on here for me. If your stuck working in a car while pregnant may I suggest thinking outside the box to bring heatable lunches (for instance the Wegman's that I use has a microwave that you can use for free, and I bet if you ask nicely a local 7/11 will let you use their microwave).
When we were eating our lunches out, we had a budget of 40.00 per week for lunches, which we both never stayed within. I normally spent about 50.00 per week and my husband spends about 80.00 per week (I'm convinced he goes to Ruth Chris Steakhouse every day but he can get away with it because he's adorable).
When we switched over to packed lunches, we saved about $110.00 per week and it made our days much easier. For instance, I can now eat a little bit of my lunch every hour or two so that I don't get sick like I do when I eat a full meal. I can also take my lunch break to run errands (like the bank, or picking up a redbox movie, or just taking a walk around the grounds). Plus, your eating the same amount of food but ingesting significantly less calories. Although our options could certainly be healthier, they are much healthier than what we were eating. Our goal is to continue to improve our healthy options while staying in budget and avoiding the temptation of fast food (except for the occasional Chipotle run- but we're only human.)

Just a quick note- If you have trouble staying within budget during your grocery runs- encourage your partner to join you as an enforcer. They can be in charge of ensuring that you're sticking to your list and choosing the cheapest unit price (as long as you both still like the taste). After a few hilarious arguments in the middle of the grocery store about a 10 cent difference in price or why the lastest issue of Cosmopolitian is an absolute necessity, you won't even need your enforcer.

CHEAP, QUICK, AND EASY PACKABLE LUNCH DATABASE

Takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and fits into my 120.00/week grocery budget for breakfast/lunch/ and dinner daily.

IF YOU HAVE ACCESS TO A MICROWAVE AT WORK:

**Also appropriate if you’re pregnant and would like to avoid luncheon meats**

All of these meals can be combined. You can make them for dinner one night and make a double batch so you have extras for lunch. The idea is to make your life easier and to have a lunch that’s tempting enough to keep you out of the drive thru!

**Choose three items off of the snack options at the end of this article to accompany**

1.    Pizza: You can make your own using Boboli (or an off brand) pizza shell, or order one for dinner the night before. We ADORE Wegman’s Large Pizza for 11.99, they have a pizzeria in the store. Wegman’s pizza is pictures below. Their large is enormous and gives us dinner that night and about two lunches. Pizza freezes really well too, and tastes just as good when you reheat or thaw and eat cold. If you make your own, make two. Then you can have one for dinner, slice up the second and wrap in wax paper and then aluminum foil. Stick tomorrow’s lunch slices in the fridge, and place any leftovers in a Gallon Freezer Bag. When you pack this in your lunchbox, you can fold up a cheap paper plate to include making it easier to eat or just heat in the wax paper and eat off of that.

COST:  11.99 FOR DINNER FOR TWO AND TWO LUNCHES FOR TWO. 1.99 PER PERSON PER MEAL AT WEGMAN’S.

2.   Macaroni and Cheese:  Cook the night before, separate into small Tupperware containers (or even bowls, covered completely in saran wrap and then aluminum foil- I know, I know, I love aluminum foilJ)

COST: $.39 FOR LUNCH FOR TWO (ASSUMING YOU HAVE BUTTER AND MILK ON HAND) AT WEGMAN’S. $.19 PER PERSON PER MEAL.

3.   Frozen Dinners: This is my standby, I keep a few favorites in the fridge so that if something unexpected happens during the evening and I can’t prepare our lunches for tomorrow, I have an easy back up to toss in. This is especially effective when you grab a bunch when your favorite brand is on sale. I’m partial to healthy choice, mostly because they have dessertJ

COST: $2.50 PER PERSON PER MEAL AT WEGMAN’S (CURRENTLY ON SALE)

4.   Leftovers: Leftovers from last night’s dinner. Hamburgers save particularly well, just put a plain burger in a plain bun, wrap with wax paper and then aluminum foil. You then heat for 40 seconds. You can take a small plastic Tupperware container and add Ketchup, Mustard and Mayo (I like to mix them all together to make “Orange Sauce”, but I’m kind of weird.)

COST: TECHNICALLY FREEJ

5.   Broccoli Cheese Soup: I found this ridiculously quick and easy recipe in taste of home and now it’s a staple in our house.  Mix 2 cans of condensed cheddar cheese soup with 3 cups of milk, 3 cups of frozen chopped broccoli, 1 cup frozen potatoes o’brien (Ore Ida and Wegman’s store brands both sell frozen potatoes Obrien. Sprinkle with a ½ teaspoon of salt and boil for 5 minutes. Done!!! Separate into tupperware containers (I wouldn’t use plain bowls for this- you need a tight seal). While you’re making your soup, preheat the oven to 350, and pop in enough frozen crusty dinner rolls (I use Rhodes Brand) for each person to have two. When the rolls come out, Wrap in aluminum foil. (You can also split in half, butter, and wrap in aluminum foil.

COST: $7.76 AT WEGMAN’S FOR 4 SERVINGS. TOTAL COST PER SERVING IS $1.94

6.   Breakfast Burritos: Heat a frying pan to medium, heat up banquet sausage patties, throw the sausage patties on a cutting board and chop up (big or small- your preference), scramble some eggs in the sausage pan (I use about 5 eggs),  put a scoop of egg, a scoop of sausage, and a small handful of cheddar or mozzarella cheese in a burrito wrapper, roll up a ’la Chipotle (fold one half over, tuck each end in, and continue rolling. Wrap in wax paper and then in aluminum foil. When you go to reheat at work, take off aluminum foil, and microwave for 30-45 seconds in wax paper. Remove and eat! If you have extra time and you feel like channeling Julia Childs, try adding baked tater tots, or sautéed onions and green pepper, you can even put a little salsa in there.

Cost: $7.26 at WEGMAN’S FOR 6 SERVINGS. TOTAL COST PER SERVING IS $1.21

7.   Pasta Chicken Alfredo: Boil Rotini and drain, microwave Tyson’s frozen grilled chicken and dice it up. Mix chicken and a jar of alfredo sauce into pasta. This should make enough for four lunches. Seperate it into either 4 tupperware containers or four bowls completely covered in saran wrap and then aluminum foil.

COST: $3.51 AT WEGMAN’S FOR 6 SERVINGS. TOTAL COST PER SERVING IS $0.58

8.   Italian pasta salad with chicken: Boil rotini and drain, microwave Tyson’s frozen grilled chicken breast, and chop up. Chop up green pepper and an onion. Mix green pepper, onion, chicken and classic Italian salad dressing into the pasta. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. You serve this cold, so just separate into 4 containers and wrap up.

If you’re not a green pepper and onion fan, you can mix in a tin of olives, broccoli, red pepper, carrots, celery, squash, zucchini, or whatever floats your boat.

COST: $9.98 AT WEGMAN’S FOR 6 SERVINGS. COST PER SERVING IS $1.66

9.   Pizza Pasta: Boil Rotini and drain, add in a jar of spaghetti sauce and ½ of a bag of pepperoni. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Separate into four containers. Microwave for 1 minute when ready to eat.

COST: $6.36 AT WEGMAN’S (PLUS YOU’LL HAVE A HALF BAG OF MOZARELLA CHEESE TO USE IN ANOTHER DISH) FOR 6 SERVINGS. COST PER SERVING: 1.06











IF YOU NEED COLD LUNCHES (NO ACCESS TO A MICROWAVE):

**Choose three items off of the snack options at the end of this article to accompany**



1.    Ham and cheese sandwiches. Lettuce, tomato, and pickle optional. (Use whatever you have left from your dinner ingredients to top.)

COST: $4.99 AT Wegman’s makes four good sized sandwiches. Cost per sandwich: $1.24 (Plus you will have extra bread).



2.  Turkey and Muenster Sandwiches with pickles, mayo and ground pepper.

COST: $5.99 AT Wegman’s makes four good size sandwiches. Cost per sandwich: $1.49



3.   B.L.T. Sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato): For an easy way to make bacon, line bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet, bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Toast the bread before layering the bacon, iceberg lettuce, and tomato. You can also add cheese if your into that.

COST: $8.76 AT WEGMAN’S MAKES 6 GOOD SIZED SANDWICHES. COST PER SANDWICH: $1.46



4.   Peanut Butter and Jelly, or one of the gazillion variations of this childhood classic. (Peanut Butter, Banana and Honey sandwiches, Peanut Butter and Fluff sandwiches etc,)

COST: $5.38 AT WEGMAN’S MAKES 8 GOOD SIZED SANDWICHES (plus a ton of extra peanut butter and jelly) COST PER SANDWICH: $0.67



5.   Roast Beef and Provalone Sandwiches. Lettuce, Tomato and Pickle optional. (Use whatever you have left from your dinner ingredients to top).

COST: $6.97 AT WEGMAN’S MAKES 4 GOOD SIZED SANDWICHES. COST PER SANDWICH: $1.75



6.   Italian pasta salad with chicken: Boil rotini and drain, microwave Tyson’s frozen grilled chicken breast, and chop up. Chop up green pepper and an onion. Mix green pepper, onion, chicken and classic Italian salad dressing into the pasta. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. You serve this cold, so just separate into 4 containers and wrap up.

If you’re not a green pepper and onion fan, you can mix in a tin of olives, broccoli, red pepper, carrots, celery, squash, zucchini, or whatever floats your boat.

COST: $9.98 AT WEGMAN’S MAKES 6 Servings. COST PER SERVING: $1.66



7.   Grilled Chicken Salad: Mixed Greens in a bowl, add Italian dressing (I actually like to mix the dressing and lettuce because I love drenched lettuce, but you can put it in a separate dressing container if you would rather not have them soaking all day. Microwave a Tyson’s frozen grilled chicken breast (or Wegman’s makes their own version), and chop up. I also put a little bit of mozzarella cheese in a plastic baggie, and add bacon bits, and McCormick’s salad topping.), if your just using a regular bowl and not a Tupperware container, wrap plastic wrap around entire bowl, then cover bowl with aluminum foil.

COST: $10.29 AT WEGMAN’S MAKES 2 Servings. (Cost includes mixed greens, 1 chicken breast, Italian dressing, cheese, and salad toppings… But you will have enough leftover ingredients to make future servings for about 2.50 by adding another chicken breast and another bag of salad)  COST PER SERVING: $5.14



8.       CHICKEN, CORN, TOMATO, AND CHEDDAR CHEESE WRAPS WITH RANCH DIP.

Microwave 2 breasts of Tyson's grilled chicken fillet's and dice up, chop up a beefsteak tomato, fill burrito tortillas with diced chicken, canned corn, diced tomato, and cheddar cheese. Serve with ranch dressing and a salad. Makes about 4 wraps. If you have leftovers, wrap in wax paper and foil and take to lunch the next day.

Total Cost at Wegman's: $8.01 (but you'll have extra ranch dressing and burrito tortillas to use another day) for 4 servings. TOTAL COST PER SERVING: 2.00





               

SNACK CHOICES:

1.    Whole Pickles – 2.99 for Jar (about 12 servings)

2.   Baby carrots separated into baggies- 1.29 for bag (about 6 servings)

3.   Celery separated into baggies – 1.69 for bag (about 4 servings)

4.   Cuke slices with rice vinegar (an acquired taste but it’s my favorite!) 2.69 (about 3 servings)

5.   Peanut butter & jelly crackers- 1.99 for box of crackers (using peanut butter and jelly leftover from sandwiches) (about 20 servings)

6.   Fruit snacks- 2.69 for a box (about 10 servings)

7.   Granola bars- 2.29 for 12 servings.

8.   Beef jerky- 4.99 for about 5 servings

9.   Dark Chocolate Squares with sea salt (We use Lindt’s)- $2.49 for 6 servings

10.  Cookies- $2.50 for 12 servings

11.   Apples- about $.60 per apple (1.69 a pound- We love fuji if your not sure which is best for lunches)

12.  Bananas- about $.14 per banana ($.49 per pound)

13.  Potato chips- 1.99 for 8 servings (separate into individual baggies)

14.   Yogurt- $.45 per container

15.  Brownies or cookies (Make a batch on the weekend, then separate into baggies for each day. (*** Warning- We make these from a box mix- so it obviously takes more than 15 minutes. We make them on the weekend and then use throughout the week. Cookies freeze very well too!***) $1.49 for 15 servings (assuming you have canola or vegetable oil and eggs on hand).
Things to have on hand to help you pack your lunch:
1.   An insulated lunch box for every member of the family (They are responsible for ensuring that they bring the box home at the end of the day).
2.  Cooler Packs (Or reusable ice bags)- 2 for each lunch box. You need to make it a routine so that when you bring your lunch box in at the end of the day, you immediately empty it out and put the ice packs back in the freezer.
3.  Aluminum foil- I buy the GIANT rolls from Costco (If you don’t already have an account though- don’t get one just for that- just head to walmart, buy the off brand and grab a few).
4.  Wax Paper
5.  Sandwich Bags
6.  Snack Bags
7.  Quart Freezer Bags
8.  Gallon Freezer Bags
9.  Napkins
10. Plastic Forks and Plastic Spoons (unless you’re ok with your husband’s gross yogurt spoon touching everything in the bag because I’ve been told it’s actually impossible for men to clean a spoon used during work).
11.  A water bottle for every member of the family.


4 comments:

  1. Great Blog! Here is an idea for the BLT (or bacon,egg & cheese or any bacon dish) - use precooked bacon. It costs about $6 for two packages, each one has 15 slices. It's much lower in fat & calories and it cooks in a microwave in 30 seconds or less. Best of all, it tastes great.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much, my husband works 12 hour shifts at night and does security so we are VERY limited on lunch options! He needs two meals to take with him and I draw a blank on what to make on our budget, these are perfect! Thank you again.

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  3. Mike... You're a genius! Not only is it just as good as regular bacon, but it saves you a ton of time and a really greasy pan!
    Cassie, James, and Mckensie... I'm glad you liked it! I'll be posting a second group of 15 minute dinners next week. I know how hard it is to work on a schedule like that. Kudos to you guys for making it work!

    ReplyDelete
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