Stretching the Lunch Dollar

IMG_3011One of the first places I looked when needing to save money was what I was spending to eat out every day at work. Since I was having to pinch pennies and stretch a dollar I started to take my lunch to work instead of eating out to save some money. And save it did. And since I do not have to have variety in my meals and have no issues eating the same thing everyday I just ended up getting what ever was cheapest at the grocery store and committed myself to eating it. As long as I was not going hungry it was fine by me.

The typical cheap food most people get is Ramen Noodles. There was a period of time I lived on them and egg sandwiches. At twenty cents a package it can stretch your grocery dollar a long way. I would reduce the water and add lunch meats and or cheese and it made for a little variety. Best part is I could eat for a week on just a few dollars. But then I got a bit conscious of what I was putting in my body and decided to eliminate MSG. The Ramen Noodles contain MSG so they were no longer an option for me any more. I also decided I did not like all the salt they contain. But because they are cheap I do have several bulk packages of them stored in case something happens economy wise. Though they are not ideal they are cheap and easy to store and would keep me fed for several weeks. If I am in a position to have to eat them, the salt and MSG are going to be the least of my concerns.

tuna (1)We went on a Tuna kick for a while. I like Tuna with potato chips and again, it was cheap. I also thought I was eating petty healthy but I came across information about the Mercury that was in Tuna and decided to back off eating it. From what I have read, there does not seem to be a problem eating it a few times a week and I still enjoy it for lunch on occasion. I even keep several cans at work in case I forget my lunch I have something there so I will not have to eat out. Again, because it stores well I usually purchase several cans when it goes on sale and it is here in the house in case there is a need. I do try to watch the dates on the cans and will eat them before the expiration dates.

The next cheapest thing I found for lunches at work was the Banquet dinners. They run a dollar a meal and have meat, potatoes and a veggie. They heat up fast and make for a complete meal. For $5 a week I had my lunches covered. But then I started to get concerned about all the preservatives and also had to admit they were a bit bland. So I decided to start  making home cooked meals in bulk on the weekend and have the leftovers frozen for a quick grab meal for the coming week at work. I watch for sales on meat then buy enough to make a weeks worth of lunches. Recently chicken legs went on sale and I got two packages. I got 16 legs for $4.81 and stuck them in the freezer.

IMG_3010Since I had a few days off we thawed out the chicken and fried it up. I had been saving the crumbs of potato chips you get when you are at the bottom of the bag. I don’t get chips often but when I do I save that last bit in a plastic storage container. I blended them into a fine powder and mixed them with flour, salt and pepper, and some of my dried herbs. This is what I rolled half of the chicken legs in. The other half I use a mixture of flour and some Parmesan cheese. Again we added dried herbs, salt and pepper.

IMG_3013I beat two eggs together in a container I could lay the legs in flat. The legs were then rolled around in the egg then put into the flour mixtures and rolled around until completely covered with the mixture.

IMG_3017Out came two large frying pans. We added oil then the legs. the legs were placed so they were not touching each other and fried until done and crispy. I took a bit of time and made a bit of a mess.. but we ended up with eight meals of two legs each.

Today I will make up some stuffing to add to some of the meals, and for the others will just add a bag of chips to go along with them. The eight pairs of legs cost about sixty cents for each meal. Add some stuffing or the bag of chips and we may be at .75 per lunch. Not as cheap as the Ramen Noodles.. but cheaper than the Banquet meals and my meals taste better. I also feel my home-made meals are much better for me. Sure it takes a bit of time but I have come to the conclusion that I am worth that time. As I age I am getting concerned we pay a price for prepared foods and I am wanting less and less to do with them.

When you need that dollar to go a little further take a look as what an afternoon in the kitchen will do for you. Sometimes all that is needed to stretch that dollar a bit further is time.

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