Food Squirreling...It's a Real Thing I Promise

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Food Squirreling...It's a Real Thing I Promise

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I spend my day working in a cubicle as a software engineer. I have many options for lunch including:

  • Eating at the company cafeteria
  • Visiting one of many fast food restaurants within walking distance of my workplace
  • Bringing my own lunch

As much as I enjoy (i.e., obsess about) the nearby Arby's, the cheapest option is to bring my own lunch. 

However, the day to day life of being:

  • A husband
  • Father of two
  • Homework helper/checker
  • Night time reading buddy
  • Late night blogger 
  • Laundry folder........

Doesn't leave much time for packing  lunches. Sure, the standard ham sandwich, baked chips, and apple can be thrown together in minutes, but give me a solid week of that diet and you'll find me sprinting to Arby's.

Sometimes it's not even about the time. It's a statement of my energy level. We've all had those kinds of days, right? The kind when after the work day is over, dinner is prepared, eaten and cleaned up, homework is completed and checked, it takes every bit of energy I have to throw on some shorts and a T-shirt and then collapse on the couch to blankly stare contentedly at whatever my wife is watching on Lifetime even though everybody knows that Modern Family is on at that very second. 

Just as long as I don't have to think about another thing that "has to be done," right?

Food Squirrling...It's a Real Thing I PromiseI tried taking the night's leftovers for lunch the next day. That works OK, but seriously, if I just had chili for dinner, do I really want to eat it again for lunch the very next day? Sometimes I do, but sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I pretend I do, but when lunch rolls around I lose consciousness for a few minutes and wake up in line at Arby's. How did I get here? Oh, I'll take the Beef and Cheddar combo to go. $7.00. Really? 

I had to come up with a better plan.

One hurried morning as I was committed to bringing my lunch and actually eating it, I was scouring the refrigerator for something that could be defined as a lunch. I found a grilled fish filet that didn't get eaten a few nights before, as well as some pasta from the night before that. I combined the fish and pasta, threw it in my lunch bag along with a bottle of water, a yogurt, a fork, and a spoon. Now THAT'S a lunch I thought to myself. 

This happened only by pure luck, but was there a way to have this sort of lunch available to me all the time?

As I was pulling out of the driveway, I noticed a squirrel climbing the tree in my front yard with a nut in his mouth, and my new lunch strategy was born. 

I was going to be a squirrel.

To be a successful food squirrel I only had to follow three easy steps:

  1. The first thing I did was to buy some storage containers. These will be my "nuts."
  2. Next, I planned to make leftovers on purpose. If I'm grilling any kind of meat, making chicken alfredo, chili, or anything I really like, I make extra. Vegetables, too!
  3. Then, I put the leftovers in containers, and freeze them. I have a special place in the chest freezer where I put my leftover containers..

It took a couple of weeks, but I gradually built up a supply of frozen goodness to use for lunches that are NOT last night's dinner. When it's time to get lunch ready for the next day, I look in my special place in the freezer and pick out whatever "nut" contains something that tickles my taste buds.

Additionally, on Saturday or Sunday I take a little bit of time and make a batch of pasta and/or rice to be used as side dishes for the week to supplement what I've got in the freezer.  

Following these easy steps leaves me with a stock pile of pre-made, inexpensive, and already paid for meal choices to bring to work for lunch.

Sorry Arby's-- I won't be visiting you anytime soon.

Related Links:

Lunch Box Planning Cheap and Healthy Eats

School Lunch vs. Lunch Box

Increase Your Income by Decreasing Restaurant Spending

Travis PizelTravis Pizel 

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis very candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Travis on Twitter @DebtChronicles

 

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  • That's a great idea Travis! I usually just bring dinner leftovers to work for lunch when I need to go into the office. I've never thought about freezing the leftovers from each meal to make lunchtime a little less...repetitive.

  • Thanks Jenny!  I think you've hit the nail right on the head - if your food is repetitive (ie, I just ate this yesterday) you're not gonna want to eat it, and the temptation to go out will start creeping in.  I like to look forward to what I'm having to eat.  What's for lunch today?  Well, we had steak and shrimp last week, and there was a little left over.  Not enough for a complete lunch....so I'm having steak and shrimp salad (had a head of lettuce in the fridge).  Come to think of it...it's lunch time right now!

  • This is a fantastic idea! I also just bring whatever I had the night before and pack the same for my BF. I don't mind eating the same thing, but he's complained a few times.

    I also recently started making more food on weekends to get us through the week. The added benefit is that we've saved money by not throwing out food that has gone bad.

    I think your approach of packing lunch and freezing it will keep us motivated to stay away from food courts and I'll try it this weekend.

  • Hi Jen, thank you for your kind words!  At least for me, it took a little getting used to in order to make extra "on purpose."  I had been in such a habit of trying my best to make exactly what we were going to eat to minimize leftovers.  But once I started seeing my food stash in the freezer start to grow, and experienced how much easier it was (at least for me) to bring my own lunch day after day because of the choices I have accumulated - it got much easier.  Good luck!

  • Oh good job.  This is something i've always done and it just never occurred to me that no one else did it. :) I always grill a little extra chicken, cook an extra pork chop, etc. and stash it either in the fridge or freezer for future lunches. I also make a pot of some kind of soup on Sundays that I can take to work with me over the next week. This week it's split pea soup (which is really good cold, especially important when you live in the South) that I'll eat with whatever else I have "squirreled" away.

  • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, kh!  I'm glad to meet a fellow squirrel.  :)  Sometimes the hard part for me is ensuring something really really good gets put away for a lunch in the future instead of just eating it just because it's there and it tastes good.

  • Great tips! And I totally agree with you about leftovers. I constantly tell myself that I'm going to bring a lunch I'll actually eat and then just end up running to the nearby In-N-Out. I like your idea of freezing food. I'll have to try it and hope that I actually eat it.

  • Thanks for the tips! I've been trying to make a huge pot of soup on Sundays, then storing it in individual containers for me to take throughout the week. But soup has been getting old, so I like the idea of making extra of whatever meal you're making and bringing that instead.

  • I'm glad you like the ideas, John Valenty....stop by again and let us all know how it works for you!  Good luck!

  • You're Welcome, Podiatrist In Charlevoix!   Making up a big batch of soup is a great idea (I've done it too), but what I do is put the soup into serving sized containers and freeze them.  That way I can mix in a soup lunch with other things as to give myself a variety.

  • You get a "thumbs up"!  But if I were you, I'd see sombody about your squirrel voyuerism.

  • Thanks, Danny, I appreciate your support. As for my squirrel voyeurism - admitting the problem is half the battle.  I'm not there yet.

  • Great article. I have been doing this for my hubby's lunch (I don't work) and it works well. Leftover chili, soup, pasta, whatever we have goes in the freezer for lunch later in the week or the next week. Breaks up the sandwich/chip thing. Sometimes when there's not a lot of something, I'll supplement with one sandwich and it becomes the "side dish".  He seems a lot happier with lunches!! And that makes me happy!  ;)

  • Thanks rmatt, glad to meet another food squirrel!

  • Hi there,

    I like your idea, and I might use it for when I travel abroad, but living at home - why doesn't your wife help you?

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