Friday, March 7, 2014

The Lunch Edition: Is Making Cheaper Then Buying?

So you have heard it before, one way to quickly save money is by making your own lunch throughout the work week. With this in mind, and honestly a bank account that wouldn't let me eat out everyday, I have been planning my lunches since I started working.

Ahhh... the golden days of being able to walk into a campus dining hall and swipe a "wonderful" card with your schools logo, that magically takes invisible money out of some random account that I don't think about has now caught up with me. So, I guess making lunch is the least I can do to help pay back my student loans and work towards ridding myself of those freshman...sophomore, junior, and senior pounds gained :)

I have been on a salad marathon for 2-3 months. Last week, I hit a wall!! I couldn't stand the taste of spinach! So I decided to revamp my lunch routine. I went into Cooking Lights March 2014 Issue determined to come out with something I wanted to eat for 5 days in a row. I came across a two-page spread for rice bowls.

Now I know that I am probably a bit more nostalgic when it comes to rice bowls then most people. When I was working as a server at a Mexican restaurant it became a staple of my diet. Most nights I usually got a bowl of rice with black beans (yup I was frugal even working two jobs). I use to top it off with shredded carrots, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, a nice spoonful of guacamole and a dollop of sour cream.  Mixed up it looked discussing, but tasted like heaven at 10pm :)

Okay back to the story, I can't seem to find an online link to this recipe, but I will check back and add a link later if they add it to their site. All of the rice bowls begin with 3/4 c of brown rice topped with roughly five ingredients: a protein, veggie, cheese, herb, and something extra. Looking through the many choices, I decided to go with a salmon based bowl. Nick is allergic to fish, so we made his with chicken instead.

The salmon was tricky. Since I normally don't cook fish, I did a bit of research in advance on the best method to cook a 3 oz  piece. I know that reheating fish isn't good, so I wanted to find an option that would let me cook it at work. I found a recipe that baked the salmon for 15-20 minutes at 350 degree- PERFECT I would use my office's toaster oven and eat a later lunch to avoid hogging the toaster oven :)

I took a 3 oz piece and topped it with salt and pepper some fresh dill and a slice of orange and wrapped it in a tin foil pouch. It tasted great, and I think the orange was imperative to the taste and moisture!

All of the other ingredients were packaged in separate containers on Monday to last us the week. Each day, once I cooked my salmon, I heated my rice, 1/2 c peas, and 1T of goat cheese.

Once heated, I added the salmon, parsley, dill, and 1/4 of an orange mixed with appx 1T of Greek yogurt. The citrus flavor mixed with the goat cheese gave this meal a very smooth taste.

So I think it is time to put the numbers to the test. How much is an average bought lunch, versus making a pretty decent home cooked lunch?

To buy lunch, a few options that I see around the office and being conservative with my cost estimates:
Lean Cuisine, at Costco I did see 5 for 10, so we will say:  $2.00
Subway Foot Long, lets assume you just get their deal: $5.00
Food by the Pound, popular in DC, I would say easy to spend $13, but to be conservative: $8-10

Okay, so this weeks lunch (Chicken or Salmon Rice Bowls):
Salmon, 11.99 for 8 servings =  $1.50 
Chicken, 8.99 for 5 servings  (Chicken was on sale this week!) = $1.80
Goat Cheese, 7.99 for 10 servings = $.80
Bag of Brown Rice (it does pay to buy by unit price, more on that in a future post) $5.99 and used 1/4 bag for 8 servings- so 1/4 bag cost $1.50 turn that into 8 servings and we have: $.19 
Dill and Parsley, 1.09 for each bunch and we used 1/2 for lunch, so .55 for 10 servings, $.055- since the parsley and dill are the same price dill will be $.05 and have parsley at $.06
Oranges, $1.20 each 4 servings = $.40 
Greek Yogurt, 32 oc container cost 2.99 or .09 per ounce, the serving size is 1T or .5 Ounces, rounding up= $.05

TOTAL COST for Monica's Salmon: $3.05     for Nick's Chicken: $3.35

So I may not have beat out Lean Cuisine in cost but maybe in taste :) At least now when I say it is cheaper to bring your lunch, and a complex lunch at that, I can be assured that it is not a lie.

What are you planning for lunch next week?  

I am thinking another round of rice bowls with a Mexican flair, can you say AVOCADO?! 

Happy Friday!

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