Taking the same tired bread and ham combination out of your Tupperware at lunchtime can be pretty uninspiring. So when the urge to head to your nearest café or to buy a posh sandwich happens it can be tempting to splurge.
But this moment of weakness can have a far bigger effect on your bank balance than you may realise. If your lunch costs you £5 a day, that’s £25 a week, £100 a month and a whopping £1,200 a year!
Don’t worry though, help is at hand - there are plenty of ways to stimulate your lunchy taste-buds without busting your budget…
The real deal
No matter how well we plan, there will always be a day when we leave our lunch at home, or sleep through the alarm and have to rush out. Happily supermarkets and other high street shops are here to help with their lunchtime meal deals. These special deals mean that, if you shop wisely, you could net a tasty lunch for around £3-£4!
Supermarket meal deals usually comprise of a sandwich, a drink and a snack (a packet of crisps, a chocolate bar or a piece of fruit). Here are a few examples of some of the meal deals out there and the surprising amount you can save when compared to the actual price of the items in the deal.
Food for thought
If you’re after something hot at lunchtime, why not take a tub of last night’s leftover lasagne or pasta for lunch? If you plan your meals ahead, you can ensure you cook a little extra to use the next day. “A lot of people tend to buy out every lunch hour,” says Kelly Eroglu, frugal food blogger from the Reduced Grub Food Club. “But if you’re organised you can make a delicious lunch in minutes. Try preparing a week’s worth of couscous and mixing different leftovers in each day. Leftover roasted vegetables, some chicken, tuna – almost anything works!”
Make a date
If you’re not sure what to pack, try playing the ‘best before’ game! If you have items in the fridge that are nearing the end of their shelf-life, why not test your inner chef and see what you can concoct? Mixing ham with a little pasta and those cherry tomatoes from the bottom of the pack or creating your own sandwich flavour sensation will keep your taste buds tingling, while ensuring you avoid waste.
“Try mixing the food you need to use up with pasta. Everything goes with it, and you can make a hot dish or a cold dish,” suggests Kelly. “Alternatively, make a rice dish, by mixing with sweetcorn, passata, a bit of cumin, oregano and spice for a delicious Mexican taste.”
If you don’t have the time or energy to prepare lunch each day, share the load! Clubbing together with four colleagues and pooling your resources for lunch can cut down your workload, as office lunch pools can save time and money, while ensuring you’re not tempted to go to the local deli come 1 o’clock.
Each colleague should have a nominated day where they bring in lunch for the others – and cooking in bulk is often cheaper (and definitely easier) than preparing five individual dishes. To keep things fresh, challenge each other by creating something special for the others to try.
“If you decide to form a lunch pool, I’d advise you choose a Tuesday. You can see what someone else brings, then enjoy the rest of the week once you’ve done your turn,” says Kelly.
An easy work lunch to make is bruschetta, according to Kelly. “Try toasting any leftover bread at home and adding a bit of garlic olive oil. Then in another tub, put chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, rocket, balsamic vinegar – and anything else you fancy. A really versatile tasty dish that lets people mix and match.”
Look for lunchtime offers
Lynn Burns, a financial advisor at Suddenly Single Money suggests, “use online sites such as Wowcher to look for special offers. There are so many sites out there with vouchers, deals of the day or information on what’s new.”
“And while eating a good diet is important, everything is OK in moderation,” adds Kelly. “Take advantage of a 99p deal from McDonalds, or a sausage roll from Greggs. You can always make it up to yourself by eating a healthier choice the next day!”
When it comes to getting the best lunchtime deal, it’s always worth being flexible. Lynn says, “Keep your options open and although there may not be such a thing as a free lunch, there’s definitely a tastier cheaper one!”
*Prices correct as of 11.05.18