Monday, November 13, 2006


On my way out (yes, out--hang on! that's the point!) for lunch today, I ran into a co-worker in the lobby. She's the latest hire before me, and a really nice girl. Point is, though, we had the following exchange:

Her: You going out for lunch?
Me: I just thought I'd grab a sandwich at the deli.
Her: Me too. (Here, she waved her own cup of soup and half-sandwich at me. We looked ruefully at each other.)

We're the same age (23) and make the same amount of money ($30,000). And we both eat out 3-4 days a week. Given our similarly slim financial profiles, why are we both violating that Commandment of Personal Finance, Eat Out Less?

Well, I can't speak for her, but I also can't help but notice that I only used $40 of my $100 grocery budget this pay period, and that includes some dubious "grocery" items like premade sandwiches. Of course, at the same time, I'm running way over my "discretionary, mostly eating out" budget. I've been working a 9-5 job two months, and I'm exhausted when I get home. I can manage the energy required to make pasta or a stir-fry, but nothing interesting, or even particularly healthful. I eat a nice meal at my parents' apartment a couple times a week. I just can't get into a cheerful, grown-up routine of making dinner, packing leftovers, and grocery shopping regularly. Hopefully, I'll adjust to my schedule enough to consider more home-cooking possibilities, but until then, I'm thinking the thing to do is to realign my expectations so that they suit my actual life. It seems I'm not the only one who struggles with this sort of thing, anyway.

I think when next I do my budget, I'll rebalance the food part--bump up the "eating out" section and move the "grocery" number down. That way, at least I'll be working with my actual habits.


Anonymous said...

I've never brought packed lunches to work... earlier on I would buy a couple of things at a grocery/covenience store for lunch... gradually my budget edged up... When you think about the costs of the home-made lunch and then the hassle of making and bringing it to work, the difference in cost is pretty small unless you are going somewhere fancy to eat lunch. This is the kind of small frugality I can do without.

BTW I never have anything leftover when I cook :)

Jenn @ Frugal Upstate said...

Is there a microwave or anything at work? What about bringing in a stash of stuff to leave in your desk at work for lunches?

For my husband I send in a bunch of premade-shelf stable type things that just need to have water added and then be microwaved for lunch-ie bowl of soups, asian rice and/or noodle dishes, bowl of chili etc. Add a box of crackers and some of those cans of tuna fish that already have the spices etc all mixed in together in the can with the pop top. . . .

Well, it wouldn't be as cheap as making a lunch at home from scratch, but it is cheaper than the deli sandwiches.

You can also buy a 6 pack of soda and keep it in your desk drawer and then first thing in the morning stick it in the office fridge to cool down (when you stick a whole six pack in there they always seem to walk away don't they?)

What about actually buying a loaf of bread, some cold cuts, etc and leaving them in the fridge at work and then making a sandwich at lunch time? Or would that disappear? (or maybe you don't have a fridge)

Just a few ideas. Good luck.