Back to Basics: More Money Saving Meals

Pack a Lunch. You’ve heard this before. But ask yourself - what’s more satisfying? Buying lunch every day or having enough money at the end of the year to take a week long vacation? Bringing a lunch ($3) from home versus grabbing a sandwich and soda with co-workers ($6.50) can save you approximately $850 a year. Even brown bagging lunch two to three times a week can help you save more than $400 a year – which can come in handy during holiday shopping and entertaining.

Overstuff Your Lunch Box. Pack enough for a midday snack so you won’t need to make a trip to the vending machine later.

Bring Your Own Water Container. Avoid the soda machines. Besides being free, water also increases mental performance and allows for proper digestion. Having water with a meal versus soda, beer or wine may also help you feel fuller and prevent over-eating and, thus, over-spending.

If you must eat out…

Ask for a Doggy Bag. Ask for it before the meal arrives. Popular eateries like Applebee’s (STOCK QUOTE: APPB), Olive Garden (STOCK QUOTE: DIR), The Cheesecake Factory (STOCK QUOTE: CAKE) and Chili’s (STOCK QUOTE: EAT) often serve portions that are two to four times bigger than the government's recommended serving sizes. Instead, share the entrée with a friend or save the rest for lunch the following day.

Order Appetizers for Dinner. It’s another way to control portion sizes, and will save you about 50% off the cost of an entrée.

Wait For Restaurant Week. Several major cities hold “Restaurant Week” or some sort of discounted dining event where gourmet restaurants offer prix-fixe lunch and dinner courses or cheaper eats. Sometimes you have to make a reservation and often the discounted menus during these events are limited to just certain foods. But, the savings can be significant. Here are some of the major cities with periodic dining deals throughout the year.

Baltimore. baltimorerestaurantweek.com
Denver. Denverrestaurantweek.com
Indianapolis. Indyrestaurantweek.com
Hudson Valley, NY. Hudsonvalleyrestaurantweek.com
Long Island.
longislandrestaurantweek.com
New York. nycvisit.com/restuarantweek
Philadelphia. centercityphila.org/restaurantweek
San Diego. sandiegorestaurantweek.com
San Francisco. sfvisitor.org
Washington, D.C. washington.org/restaurantwk

Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8 p.m. 

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