About a month ago I switched to having salad for lunch every work day. A Big Ass Salad. Nothing low fat or low cal here, just lots of veggies and some healthy fats. I was interested to see how this worked out money wise so I took the time to collect all the prices I’ve been paying and how much I use of each thing. We usually do our food shopping Sunday night, and after we get home I spend about 30-45 minutes chopping everything up and divvying it out. If I was good and bought home all my containers from the previous week, I can simply divide everything by 5 and have my lunch set for the entire week.
My big salad mix always includes:
$0.29 1/2 lb carrots (5lb for $2.89)
$2.49 12 oz cherry tomatoes
$2.07 3 small red bell peppers
$2.25 1.25 heads of lettuce
$1.49 8oz mushrooms
$2.80-3.73 1/4c-1/3c pecans
So this puts me at $11.39-12.32 for the week, depending on how heavy handed I am with the pecans. For arguments sake, we’ll just say I spend $12 for all of my salad ingredients for the week. That puts it at $2.40 a day.
I’ve been making my usual dressing; a batch usually lasts me the week:
$0.72 1/2 c olive oil ($8.99 on sale for 50 oz)
$0.54 1/2 c balsamic vinegar ($4.49 for 34oz)
$0.17 1/4 c honey mustard ($0.99 for 12oz)
$0.50? 1/4 c honey (we don’t go through honey very fast, and I can’t find my last receipt for it, so this is a WAG).
So that’s $1.93 for dressing, for a total of $13.93 for the week, and $2.79 a day.
Now, even for me, this sometimes isn’t enough, or I want some additional flavors. I usually add in cheese of some sort. Sometimes sardines. Occasionally salmon.
I often buy feta, generally in 1/2 lb containers, though I don’t think I always use the full 1/2 lb for salads. That adds another $4.39 for the week, or $0.88 a day if I do indeed use the 1/2 lb up.
The last three cans of sardines I bought ranged from $1.69 to $3.59. And I usually use a full can on the salad since they are a pain to store once you’ve opened a can. At most I do this three times a week, but sometimes not at all. The last can of salmon I bought was $3.49 and I split it between 2 days worth of salad.
We don’t get the greatest avocados up here, but sometimes I buy one and put half on a salad. They’ve been running $1.29 each recently.
So while I can spend as little as $2.79 a day for lunch, if I have say, a chunk of feta, a half an avocado, and a can of sardines, it can run upwards of $6.50. Granted, that $6.50 fills me up and I can’t even always finish it, that still is quite a bit to spend for lunch in my opinion.
All in all I think eating lunch this way has had two positive effects. It’s been saving me money by not eating left overs, this is of course assuming that what we make for dinner is usually more per meal, which I think is safe to say with how we eat. It’s also been cutting down on waste. I know exactly how much to buy for the week and I’ve yet to waste any of it. By trying to coordinate leftovers for lunch, things were often getting pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten, or I wasn’t in the mood for whatever leftovers we had, so expensive leftovers were getting thrown out.
Overall, I hope this is something I will continue. I probably should mix up the dressing a bit, but otherwise I don’t feel myself getting tired of it. Another added benefit is that it gives me all my vegetables in one meal. We aren’t always the greatest at making sure to serve a veggie with dinner, and I’m not good at remembering to eat fruits and veggies the rest of the day. But since I’m more concerned with having a balanced DIET rather than balanced meals, getting all my veggies in one meal is perfectly okay with me. I’m also hoping that once green plants are back in season here in WI, some of these things will be a bit cheaper and I’ll be able to add a bit more variety. But for now, this suits me just fine.