I will admit at my last job, I made a point of going out for lunch each day. Granted this was 2 ½ years ago, I was earning 25% less than I do now, and I only worked 3 ½ days a week, which meant I ate at McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell often. Though I always ordered from the dollar/value menu, it was $2-4 dollars a day for my lunch habit. Over the course of the year, that lunch habit cost me approximately $430. That’s nearly 2 months worth of grocery budget now!!

Now I eat out for lunch once a month, twice if I forget or didn’t have enough leftovers planned. My eating out budget for lunch each month is $10. I can break it down any way I like, but I’m not allowed more than that. And it is so gratifying. As I sit here eating my homemade sandwich of an English muffin ($.17), 2 slices of ham (free), and an egg scrambled ($.05), banana ($.16), and some Cheetos ($.10), it hits me. I’m depending on me.

Before I started getting serious about meal-planning, I was stressing about what to make for dinner, I called my DH once to ask what he thought of grilled cheese sammies for dinner. He responded that he wasn’t really excited about that idea, why not pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home? Why not, I sputtered. We have a house full of food, healthy, well-balanced meals shouldn’t be all that difficult to come up with, could they? And I hate paying $5-$7 for a small, sometimes overcooked, chicken that doesn’t even come with any side dishes! I’d still end up cooking.

While my reaction was instantaneous (the voice in my head screaming, Uh, no or something a tad more colorful along those lines), the solution took a little more work than that. I admit I now cook enough meat (or entrees) for 2 dinners plus lunch leftovers for each meal I prepare. Right now I have 5+ lbs. beef stew meat in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner. Looks like a huge batch of beef stroganoff. I have a chicken to roast for tonight. And you can bet I didn’t spend $5 for it. I only spent $3.07. With all that leftover money, my chicken will taste even better and I can afford a side dish. And hello, leftovers – here I come!
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