The “dieting” industry is worth billions of dollars these days – expensive books, DVD’s, programs that deliver food to your door, private trainers, etc., etc. And this is the time of year of course, when millions make New Year’s resolutions, many of which involve weight loss. But spending more money will not necessarily help you achieve this goal – in fact, there’s a way to lose weight and actually save money. I know – this sounds like an amazing “TV offer” where the announcer comes on and says, “But wait, there’s more!”
But it’s true – and it won’t cost you anything to do it – in fact, you will wind up putting money into the bank. And we’re not talking about a piggy bank where you store Lincoln pennies – we’re talking about that savings account where you put $10’s and $20’s.
So don’t make your New Year’s resolution “to lose weight” or “to save money”. Simply make your New Year’s resolution to “pack your own lunch”, and you will discover what many people already know: it’s much, much healthier, and it’s much, much cheaper.
With the price of an average unhealthy fast-food lunch somewhere between $5 and $10, a couple can save as much as $20 per day packing their own lunches for work. That’s $400 per month, and almost $5,000 per year.
And the “side” benefit? Your “sides” actually wind up getting smaller.
A few ways to get started:
- Pick up the right tools. Lots of different types of lunchboxes, bento containers, reusable water bottles, and lunchbox accessories like reusable snack bags, napkins, and utensils can be found in your local big box store or online. Try to stay away from disposable (and expensive) zip-top baggies and landfill stuffing paper goods. Greening your lunchbox saves the planet and your wallet in the long run. Investigate the many types available and decide what suits your needs and lifestyle before you purchase. If your lunchbox system is easy to use, easy to clean, and simple to transport, you’ll most likely be inclined to use it daily. Look for BPA-free, sturdy products that are built to last.
- Like anything done well, lunches do need thought and preparation ahead of time. Some folks like to plan out lunch menus each week, even writing them down. A weekly shopping trip to be sure that favorite food items make it into your pantry or fridge will ensure that your well thought out menu will actually make it to school or work.
- It’s easier to prepare lunches the night before, instead of during the morning rush. If you use leftovers from dinner, your lunches can cost less than a dollar. And if you use bento boxes or other containers that help you control your portion size, you will lose weight, simply by virtue of the fact that you have vastly reduced your caloric intake at the noontime meal. (A fast-food burger, without fries, by the way, can be over 1,000 calories – and that “healthy” salad from the deli counter can be even more.)
- If you have kids, don’t forget that “inexpensive” school lunch programs are often unhealthy, and are contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic. While some schools are trying to cut fats and sugars in the meals they serve, things are still pretty bad. And they really aren’t that “inexpensive”. Sources vary, but the average price for a High School lunch is around $1.90. If you (or your helpful teen!) prepare lunches at home, you will most likely save hundreds of dollars each year, especially if you have more than one child.
- Speaking of kids, there’s one more benefit you can get from the “pack your own lunch” resolution, especially if you do it with your kids: not only will they learn about nutrition and saving money, they’ll also have a lot of fun doing it. Kids love family activities, and most love getting into the kitchen and cooking. What’s in it for you? Well, after you’ve imparted the basics of good nutrition and healthy meal packing to your young children, as they grow, they’ll be able to prepare their own brown bag meals without your assistance. Check out Teens Eat – an inspirational blog written by a pair of inventive teenage twins. It chronicles their healthful adventures as they enjoy making their own meals, many of which include packed lunches of course.
Lose weight, save money and have fun?…in horse-racing they would call this a “trifecta” or, as it’s more commonly known, “hitting the jackpot.”
What resolutions have you made that will help make 2011 a jackpot year in your house?
Kelly Lester is an actress/singer and sometimes weary food cop. Really healthy stuff is found in her cabinets and fridge, but if her family could talk her into a dog she didn’t want, you know she gives in on occasion to pleas for junk food and ice cream. She lives in Los Angeles with her actor husband, three daughters, and the aforementioned dog. Kelly is the creator and CEO of EasyLunchboxes.com and host of the new musical web series: “Let’s Do Lunch!”