Several years ago I was trying to hit upon a sane solution to the Lunch Problem, as it didn’t make sense to spend ridiculous amounts of money going out to lunch at work or picking up fast food. Fast food may be billed as cheap, but it’s really not, when you consider you’re still spending five bucks or more for one meal. Often I’d drive home for lunch and eat leftovers, but I found often I was eating prime leftovers that should be reserved for dinner, effectively pushing the problem back a meal.
So I began picking up cans of soup, at first from the grocery store (but only in winter), and later from Sam’s. During “soup season”, grocery stores always have decent sales on canned soup, which off-season can be rather pricey for what it is. So I stock up when it’s cheap and on average can bring lunch in closer to a buck a day.
It’s actually worked out rather well. Give me three or so varieties of soup to rotate out and I won’t get sick of one. I try to stick to the low-salt soup options out there, as there an absurd amount of salt to be had in canned soup. Other than that, it’s fairly nutritionally neutral. The other upside is I’ve found that my afternoons are more productive eating a lighter midday meal.
The odd side effect though, is that I’ve developed a bizarre soup ritual. I now keep cases of soup in my office, along with sleeves of saltines and a bottle of tabasco. One can + 4 shakes of tabasco + 4 crushed saltines = cheap, efficient lunch. There’s even a set pattern I use everday to maximize my time efficiency. Part of it involves staging the tabasco and saltines while the soup microwaves, and it’s wholly uninteresting. I’m also saving a ton on gas by not going home for lunch.
I’ve calculated my savings on just lunch versus eating out or driving home is about $1000 over the course of a year.