Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cafeteria Challenge

For the first time in far too long, I connected my checking account to and started really looking at where my extra money is going. I was a little shocked at what I was spending on food in the cafeteria at work, especially considering that I buy plenty in groceries each week. My sodas alone were costing me about $3.50 a day (eek!) and I don't need that much soda anyway. It's rare to get out of the cafeteria with an entree for less than $7, unless I have a salad, and even then, salads here are for more expensive than they ought to be. And so, I made a mid-year resolution. My challenge for the next 30 days: no more cafeteria.

First, I went to Costco, and stocked us up on drinks. For 3 days worth of my cafeteria soda habit, I bought a 32 pack that should last me three work weeks, assuming 2 a day: on in the morning, and one with lunch. Comparable cost in the cafeteria: $56. Eek. I also stocked Dan up on Monster Energy drinks and Gatorade G2s. He drinks one Monster a day and 1-2 G2s with electrolytes to keep hydrated in the heat, so that should last him 2 weeks or more, as well. Savings to him: about $38. So if we're diligent and dedicated to drinking only from our little stockpile, we stand to save ourselves about $80 every 2-3 weeks. Scary.

On to the cafeteria food itself. It's convenient, but it comes with a price. It's expensive, first; and secondly, unless I get salad, I don't really know what's in it. And let's be honest, I don't want salad every day. I have some cafeteria favorites, but for the next 30 days at least (oh, panini bar, I love you), I'm challenging myself to eat only lunch that I bring in. The exception: I'm grilling chicken tonight for my own salads and I'll use the cafeteria's salad bar for some of the toppings. For $1.49 I can fill a small cup with egg whites, sunflower seeds, and olives. In comparison, a full salad would probably run me $5. I figured out that I can spend, on average, an extra $8 a week to make a large enough dinner to have lunch leftovers, and therefore save myself $6 a day. It's easy when put in terms like that.

Now of course, this is all stuff I knew. It's not like it's big news that I'll save by bringing in my own lunches compared to buying them. But it's a matter of setting a goal for myself and sticking with it. Amanda over at It's Blogworthy is doing an eat-in challenge - as in NO retsurant food - and, along with the evidence in my account, inspired me to challenge myself to something similar. Not to mention, the extra money in my bank account will be nice. My goal is to save an extra $150 a month, and this challenge will go a long way in getting me there.
Wish me luck!


BrownEyedGirlsMom said...

that's the best part about the cafeteria over here being on the other side of the building - I don't go there! Good luck!

Dee Stephens said...

I stopped eating out for lunch many moons ago.
Here in Uptown Charlotte --eating lunch out is going to run you around $10 a day.
That's A LOT! Even, now that Brad, is working Uptown too I cook during the week to make sure we have enough leftovers for the next day.
Even the days where I don't cook --I bake/grill a few chicken breasts for salads.
We, overal, rarely eat out. Even on the weekends.

Amanda @ It's Blogworthy said...

Good luck to you! This is a great plan. Its so hard. I actually do way better at work than at home bc our cafeteria is quite a walk...and its just way too expensive for this cheap ass. Writing abt it also helps. I realize sometimes WE think abt going out but I don't want to have to write abt we stay in. :)