A recent survey found that 66 percent of Americans buy lunch at work, spending an average of $37 per week. That adds up to nearly $2,000 per year! With a little planning, though, you can easily save that lunch money.
If you're burned out on soups, sandwiches and salads, steamer lunches are a great alternative. Not only are they budget-friendly, but they're healthy, delicious and super easy to make, too. All you need are two 10-pack boxes of Ziploc Zip'n Steam bags ($6); three to four small bags of your favorite frozen vegetables ($5); two to three packs of pre-cooked, microwave-ready meat or meat substitute ($10 to $15); and one bottle of a preferred sauce ($5). To make your meals more filling, buy a box of instant rice, as well.
To make your lunches, take one bag and add two hands of vegetables, one handful of meat, a little sauce and a half cup of rice. Repeat until you've used all of your ingredients, and then pop the bags into the freezer. They'll be ready to microwave and eat the next day. If you want to switch things up, buy a mix of different vegetables and/or different sauces. You can even invite your friends to make their own bags and swap a portion of them to give your daily lunch some variety.
Making these rice bowls will cost you just $23 to $30 for two weeks of food. If you're spending an average $10 per day for your takeout lunches, you'll save 70-80 percent off the cost of eating out. So, before you overspend during the workweek, try making these steamer lunches for a cheap and delicious option.
Best Fast Food Values
Lunch for Less -- Savings Experiment
Always searching for the best deal around, we asked our readers to name the fast food items they thought delivered the best bang for the buck. We tallied up more than one hundred thousand votes and come up with winners! So click through to see who WalletPop fans picked for the best meal deals...
What is your best bet for a buck? Our readers think it's Burger King's value menu burger choices, with 36%, just squeaking out a victory over McDonald's, with 35% of the vote. Wendy's came in third with 29%.
Whoppers may come from Burger King, but McDonald's had something of a whopping victory in the breakfast category, snatching up 61% of the vote for the heft and value of an Egg McMuffin. A faraway second was Burger King's Croissan'wich, with 17% of the votes, followed by Dunkin' Donuts egg white flatbreads (9%), Starbucks oatmeal (3%) and Cosi's croissant omelet (2%).
The coffee wars at fast food joints are constantly finding new battlegrounds. Our latest salvo: McDonald's being crowned best value, with 40% of the popular vote. Dunkin' Donuts was not far behind, with 33%, followed by Starbucks (13%), Wendy's (7%), Burger King (7%) and Cosi (0%).
When it comes to fast food fries, McDonald's usually has everyone beat, and this poll was no different: McDonald's scored 63%, while Burger King lead the runners up with 14%; Wendy's (10%), KFC (6%) and Hardee's and Sonic (each 4%).
While Burger King might have taken the crown for best burger on the dollar menu, McDonald's won the race for best full-size burger meal value with 39%, followed by Burger King (34%) and Wendy's (27%).
Chicken sandwiches used to be overlooked in tales of fast food competition, but there's a huge chicken surge happening lately as people are eating healthier. Who's on top for value? Our readers say it's Wendy's, with 24% of the vote, followed by Chick-fil-A (23%), McDonald's (21%), Burger King (16%), KFC (13%) and Hardee's (3%).
If you've got kids, where's the best place to take them to get them full for less? Our readers say McDonald's, as 48% voted the chain the best spot to get value nuggets (and a toy). Runners up: KFC (17%), Wendy's (14%), Burger King (12%), Taco Bell (5%), Hardee's (4%).
New Mexican fast-food chains are popping up all over the place, but it seems our readers prefer the value of the industry leader: Taco Bell. The chain garnered 65% of the vote, followed by Chipotle (16%), El Pollo Loco and Baja Fresh (6% each), Taco Bueno (4%) and Taco Cabana (3%).
Healthy items are some of the most expensive ones on fast food menus, so what is the best buy? Our readers picked Wendy's salads by far, with 37% of the vote, followed by McDonald's (30%), Long John Silver's (11%), Taco Bell (9%), Burger King (7%) and KFC (6%).
While Wendy's Frosty had the early lead, Dunkin' Donuts came from behind to win as best dessert value, with 33% of our vote. Wendy's ended up with 28%, McDonald's with 20%, Burger King with 12% and the bottom was filled out by Taco Bell (4%) and KFC (3%).