Cheaper daily lunch with a slow cooker

Eating out can be a pricey prospect. But turning to a slow cooker to make your meals can save you some money at lunchtime. 

Steve Marcus/Reuters/File
Using a slow cooker can save money at lunchtime.

It’s pretty easy to understand the desire to eat out in the middle of a workday. It can be really inconvenient to prepare a meal before you go to work, after all, and many of the meals you can throw together in a minute in the morning are pretty bland.

The problem is that eating out for lunch can be expensive, even if you eat at an inexpensive place every time. If you spend only $5 on lunch – and that’s a pretty cheap lunch when eating out – that’s $25 a week.

That leaves us with the idea of taking leftovers to work, which is something that people often don’t like to do because it means eating more of what you already had the night before (or the night before that).

Thankfully, there’s a pretty simple approach that solves all of these problems. All you need is a slow cooker and a small pile of freezer-ready resealable and reusable dishes. One good solution is to just buy a bunch of them in bulk, like this set of 50 containers for $18.

All you have to do is turn on your slow cooker on a Saturday or Sunday morning, toss in the ingredients for a particular slow cooker recipe, and let it cook all day long. If you wish to have that food for dinner that night, you can do so, but it’s entirely up to you.

When the food is done cooking, simply fill up as many containers as you can with whatever you prepared. Then, on each container, stick a piece of masking tape. On that masking tape, write what the food is and the date you prepared it.

Then, just stick all of the filled containers in the freezer.

Each week, do this with a different recipe. One week, you might make chili. Another week, make beef stew. Another week, make slow cooker lasagna. Another week, make chicken tortilla soup. Just find recipes that sound good to you (and, ideally, recipes that revolve around ingredients that are on sale at the store that week).

Each day, before you go to work, just open the freezer door, grab a container, and take it with you. Put it in the fridge at work so that it will thaw a bit in the morning, then microwave it and enjoy a warm lunch that’s not just a repeat of what you’ve had recently.

During the first few weeks, you won’t have many options in the freezer, but by the third or fourth week, you’ll open the freezer door and see containers of several different types. You’ll be able to choose between three or four or five different meals for lunch each time you open the door, so you won’t have to repeat the same thing over and over again.

(One good way to get started is to do two batches of food on the first two or three weekends, then cut back to one batch every weekend or every other weekend as needed.)

Not only that, if you’re making a slow cooker meal at home, the cost per meal is going to be relatively low unless you’re intentionally choosing recipes with expensive ingredients. This makes lunches quite cheap.

If you don’t eat lunches in the workplace, this is still a good idea because it can provide convenience meals for you. You can just open up the freezer, grab the meal you want, and heat it up to have a low-cost, tasty, homemade meal.

One tip: you should generally eat these meals within two months of freezing them. The longer you let them sit in the freezer, the more likely they are to get “freezer burn,” reducing their quality. Meals are generally still edible after the two month period, but they’re best if you eat them within a reasonable time frame.

This simple method makes eating a homemade lunch significantly easier, and since homemade lunches are often far less expensive than eating out, this can be a powerful money saver for busy people.

The post The Slow Cooker Lunch Cycle appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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