I've known the importance of budgeting pretty much since I got a job in my late high school years. I've known this but somehow managed to procrastinate creating an accurate and helpful budget. I've known this but somehow managed to float through my college years without following a budget consistently.
But now, I'm a real adult with a job and rent and bills and responsibilities. And yeah, that's kinda scary. But it's nothing I can't handle.
Over the last couple of months, I decided to get my eating out habits under control. Grocery shopping and packing lunch are annoying, so I ended up eating out almost every day of the week. This was convenient and all, but added up over time. Something had to change.
So I downloaded the app Mint (shameless plug, it's great) and set up a budget that limited what I would allow myself to spend on restaurants or fast food. Except that meant I had to start packing lunches.
And I'm sick of turkey sandwiches. I did my time. Twelve years of it (in school, not Azkaban) and then four more years in college.
So here's what I've come up with so far for lunches more exciting than turkey but also not super involved to pull together as I'm running out the door.
1. Pasta salad.
Make a big batch of pasta salad to keep in your fridge. I found some boxed pasta salad kits at the store that are pretty good. Sometimes I'll add turkey or chicken to the boxed pasta salad. You could also get fancy and create your own. My mom makes this pretty great pasta salad with bow tie pasta, grape tomatoes, cheese, ham and a light Italian dressing. Grab your favorite kind of pasta, a light salad dressing, some veggies that taste fine cold and your favorite kind of lunch meat to experiment with your own pasta salad recipe.
2. Build your own tacos.
Full disclosure, I'll still go out for Tijuana Tuesdaze. But also, if your office has a microwave, you can have tacos any day of the week. This will take some prep, but honestly, anything is worth it for tacos. Grab a taco kit at the grocery store or get fancy and find all your own ingredients. You'll need to pack this in two Tupperware containers—one for the hot ingredients and the other for the cold. Throw the meat that you cooked the day before in one container with some folded tortillas. In the other container, you'll have the lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream or anything else you'd like to add. Don't forget napkins and a fork to help create the tacos.
3. Quinoa salad.
Similar to the pasta salad idea, you can make this and leave it in your fridge to last all week. Start with a quinoa base and then add anything you'd like! Quinoa goes great with so many foods. I've made a few quinoa masterpieces. For example, I added peas, garbanzo beans, dried cranberries, turkey and squeezed lemon juice for a filling and easy lunch. Another time, I made chicken seasoned with Italian seasonings and broccoli, asparagus and red potatoes on top of a quinoa base. That was amazing. I microwaved it for two minutes and it was like eating a home cooked meal again. Quinoa can also be added to sweet things like fruit with cream. I'm not the biggest fan of this, but I tried it and it wasn't bad.
4. Hummus and veggies with lunchmeat.
I love hummus. I like the Sabra hummus with garlic or red peppers. It's great with pita chips, but also with veggies. I hate carrots, but I like them with hummus. I hate cauliflower, but it's my favorite veggie to pair with hummus. I get the mixed veggie package at the grocery store with carrots, cauliflower and broccoli and throw that in a Tupperware container with hummus and rolled up lunchmeat (my favorite is that honey roasted turkey from Boar's Head).
5. Protein smoothie.
I got this idea from @bewellbykelly on Instagram. It's the "Fab Four" smoothie. You add protein powder, a fat, a fiber and greens. I've done two variations so far (and to be honest, I've been adding fruit instead of greens but one day I'll work up the nerve to throw kale in my smoothie). My first concoction was made with a frozen fruit package from Trader Joe's (mixed berries, so I think strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries), vanilla whey protein powder, almond milk, coconut oil, and chia seeds. Sometimes I'll add applesauce. The other one I've done is made with frozen banana, peanut butter, and then the same almond milk, protein powder, and chia seeds.
So if you're like me and you need to spice up your lunch life every once in a while, I hope these tips have been helpful for finding new ideas.
Don't fall into the cliche of not being able to adult today.
Get your budget under control, go grocery shopping and ignore the Oreos (okay, only sometimes) and bring good lunches to work.