There you go again, heading for the snack machine instead of eating a healthy lunch that will fuel you through the rest of your workday. But stuffing your face with chips and cookies – or eating out at quick-service restaurants – is going to make you pack on the pounds and cost you more than you really need to spend. Not only that, but you’ll be denying your body the nutrients it needs, and that can affect your productivity and overall success.
If you’re in need of a way to improve your lunchtime routine, here are some helpful tips.
1. Create a weekly meal plan
You can cut a lot of costs and hassle out of your life by simply spending time meal planning. Aim to shop just once or twice a week, and come to the store armed with a list of all of the ingredients you need to get you through the week. Start a file or a bookmarked tab on your computer into which you store all the recipe ideas you have, and then sort through them during your planning time to find inspiration for the week. You might have your old favorites after a time, but try to bring in at least one new recipe each week so you won’t lose interest and start hitting the snack machine once again.
2. Buy ingredients that can be used different ways
During your planning, look for recipes that call for similar ingredients to help you cut down on costs. You might boil eggs one day to make egg salad sandwiches, for example, and then stash one egg away to add to a Cobb salad the next day. Noodles you cooked for spaghetti one night could be used again for a cold Chinese noodle salad for lunch.
3. Skip the convenience foods
To save money, start learning how to make things from scratch and prepare them yourself. That Thai peanut sauce you love as a dipping sauce can cost a pretty penny in the bottle, but learn how to make it yourself and you’ll save a lot on your favorite sauce. As a general rule, whole foods that look like they came straight from the farm or garden are cheaper than the prepared versions – not to mention being a lot healthier. As a general rule, buy the majority of your food from the perimeter of the store where the fresh fruits, veggies and meats are stored. Anything that comes in a box is going to be less healthy, even if it takes less time to prepare.
4. Use a slow cooker
When you’re trying to save money and eat healthy, leftovers are your best friend. Start a hearty soup in the slow cooker before you leave for work and you’ll have a delicious dinner by the time you get home from your long day at work. Make enough so that you’ll have some left over for the next day’s lunch. Sure, you’ll eat the same thing twice, but it will be a healthy, home-cooked meal that will nourish you. Soups, stews, sauces, and even a roast can easily be cooked in a slow cooker, and that long cooking time means you’ll have a deliciously-flavored lunch and dinner.
5. Find a lunch buddy
Even when you’re totally motivated to create your own healthy and cheap lunches, you might lose inspiration from time to time. That’s where having a co-worker with the same mission can really come in handy. You don’t have to share lunches every day, but you might get someone to agree to share the load one day a week. You make something delicious one day, and then your buddy makes something the next. Not only will you get a day off from preparing lunch, but you’ll also get to try some new recipes that you can add to your own repertoire.
See also: How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
It can take a little time to learn to eat healthy and inexpensively during the workday, but you can reap the rewards of a healthier body and mind – and an increase in productivity – in return. Now who’s hungry?