Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day Nine -- Lunch Idea

Sunday I mentioned both here and on Facebook that I had spent the afternoon cooking up meals to freeze so that Sam and I could have lunches. Imagine my surprise at the amount of response I received from various friends and family over on Facebook and via email. The most common response was something to the effect of "Wow, that's amazing! How did you do that?"

Well, as I'm planning to do more cooking along those lines tomorrow, I thought I'd share my escapades, and the reasoning behind them.

Back in the day, I used to make large dinners and then use them for leftovers, but lately that hasn't worked out so well. With Sam starting up classes this week and living so far from campus, there's no way he can duck back to the apartment and get lunch and/or supper between classes and rehearsals. This means Sam's choices are either coming up with food to take to school, buying a meal plan, or eating out.

To be honest I do not know what the cost of a meal plan would be for Sam. However, most of the research I've done postulates that the average lunch costs someone $5, and that if you bought it five days a week on average you'd be eating out 260 days a year. This means you'd spend roughly $1,300 in the course of a year. Now, the average "brown bag lunch" costs about $1.50 to make. This means if you did a packed lunch those same 260 days you'd spend $390. That's a savings of roughly $910. For one person. When you consider that there's two of us, that means saving $1,820 in the course of one year.

Now, admittedly we're only talking about one semester right now (no telling what his schedule will be like next semester) so we're only looking at 17 weeks. That's still 85 days. If we only do lunches, and he did lunch every day, that would still be a savings of $297.50 for just Sam. Double that for the two of us and it's nearly $600 (and two days of week he has to take supper with him too!).

Six-hundred dollars? That's a pretty rocking Christmas present!

So with all of this in mind, I decided to get back into the habit of packing lunches for the two of us. However, because trying to cook extras for leftovers isn't working out, I decided to do batch cooking and freeze everything. After Sunday, my inventory of frozen food for lunches was such:

5 servings of Cheeseburger Mac
2 servings of Stir Fry Pasta (Rotini with grilled fajita chicken and mixed veggies)
2 servings of Fajita Chicken by itself
2 servings of mixed veggies by itself
5 1 cup bags of cooked rice
2 servings of green beans
2 servings of broccoli

The reason why I had some of the stir fry sets mixed together with pasta and some separate is that Sam has issues with foods that have "pieces and parts." If it's just rice/noodles with meat, he's fine. But mix in veggies with different textures... yeah, no deal. So I left some of them separate so he could mix and match as he wished, and left other veggies in little containers so we could add veggies for main dishes as we wish.

We've also packed various drinks (sodas, juices, Capri Suns, etc.) and little snacks (like grapes, raisins, cereal bars, crackers, or Cheez-Its) to flesh out the packed lunch, so that if we have a break and want something to drink/munch on we're not popping $2 into a vending machine. Other extras that have made their way into the lunch boxes are little containers of soy sauce/Italian dressing for the stir fry (yes, I like Italian dressing instead), made from little medicine measuring cups covered by press and seal wrap.

My goal tomorrow is to cook up a batch goulash and maybe some additional veggie choices, as well as freeze some sandwiches. We'll see how it all turns out! Maybe I'll also do a post tomorrow as I go along, describing my freezing techniques, inventory system, and so on, in case someone out there becomes inspired.

I know I'm a dreamer. But I have fun!

"The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket."
--Kin Hubbard

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