One of the most common-sense ideas for saving money is this: make your own meals and take them with you. Restaurants, coffee shops, and vending machines all charge a hefty markup on food, for both the service and the convenience. These temptations are plentiful around my office, but oddly, it’s not my appetite that leads to me spending too much money there. No, I overpay for food, because my lunch is sitting on the counter at my house, getting licked by my cats and growing room-temperature bacteria.
I’ve always been this way. In elementary school, lunch forgotten, I’d walk the two blocks home and my mom would cook for me and let me watch a little TV. In college, I was perpetually broke and could usually only scrape together enough change ($1) for a Wendy’s baked potato to replace whatever food I had meant to bring along on my marathon school-work-meeting days. It was only at my first real grown-up job that lightning struck:
Getting something for lunch delivered to the office was the ideal solution. I couldn’t forget it at home if it was delivered directly to my desk. My office has a sink, a microwave, and a fridge, so if I could find something that doesn’t require a lot of cooking, is preferably shelf stable, and doesn’t contain too frightening of ingredients, I would be set. I shopped around until I found something that seemed like a good deal. Annie’s Homegrown White Cheddar Microwavable Mac & Cheese: you get 6 boxes of 5 packets each, and the price has generally always fluctuated between $18 and $27 for me. That’s 30 lunches for as little as $0.60/each! They are shelf-stable and “made with organic pasta” so you feel a little less guilty than you would with ramen cups or Kraft Easy Mac. These have been my staple for years now.
I started ordering the mac & cheese right around the time Amazon introduced Subscribe & Save, in 2007. Subscribe & Save gives you a discount when you set up a standing order, 5% off 1-4 items in the same delivery, and 15% off 5 or more items. (These have to be set up for the same delivery month and address.) Amazon also offers Subscribe & Save coupons.
When I started to tire of Annie’s, I tried Campbell’s Soup at Hand. Although the container is supposed to be microwavable, it makes these slightly scary popping sounds in the microwave. I would end up pouring the soup into another bowl to warm it, which made me wonder why I wasn’t just buying regular cans and splitting them.
Another variety purchase was Betty Crocker Bowl Appetit. It’s a bit salty and powdery and freeze-dried, but gets the job done. I don’t order anymore because I decided to look for slightly more nutritious/healthy options, which has led to some gluten-free and vegan choices. I was also inspired by Mark Bittman’s VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good. If that’s not your cup of tea, rest assured, you can absolutely buy Pop-Tarts or Pringles on Amazon. Or, you know, tea.
I decided that almonds would be a great snack to have on hand. Amazon hooked me up with a fantastic deal- Blue Diamond Almonds Whole Natural, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 3) for $18. As you might have guessed, that one didn’t last! Blue Diamond bowed out of the Subscribe & Save game. Now I get Spicy World Almonds Whole (Natural and Raw), 4 Pound instead. And for a change, Planters Deluxe Whole Cashew, 18.25 Ounce.
Another healthy snack I tried was Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Cacao Nibs, 8-Ounce Pouches. It… is bitter. I didn’t order again.
This bean salad was pretty good, and even came with its own spork: St. Dalfour Gourmet On The Go, Ready to Eat Three Beans with Sweet Corn, 6.2-Ounce Tins (Pack of 6). But it too is currently not available in Subscribe & Save anymore.
This tinned cheese was about a 3/5 stars for me, cheese lover that I am: GoPicnic Copper Cowbell Asiago Gourmet Cheese Spread, Portion Cups, .75 oz, 10 Count.
These noodles are tasty–a little messy–and I actually looked forward to lunch when I had them: Annie Chun’s Udon Soup Noodle Bowl, 5.9-Ounce Bowls (Pack of 6). No longer available as Subscribe & Save, at the time of this writing.
I got hooked on Odwalla Choco-Walla 2oz Bar, (Pack of 15) years ago. They go in and out of Subscribe & Save quite often. Currently out.
I felt a bit like a little kid eating Annie’s Homegrown Variety Snack Pack, 14 Ounce, but they were tasty and convenient. Currently not available in Subscribe & Save.
These gluten-free, non-GMO bars are still available: Enjoy Life Decadent Bars, Chocolate Sunbutter, 1.2 oz., 5 Count. They also have a very weird aftertaste. Not a fan. THESE gluten-free cookies are much better, in my opinion: Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookie, 0.9-Ounce (Pack of 12).
Speaking of weird aftertastes, there’s Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Pistachio Citrus Quinoa Salad Made with Organic Quinoa and Couscous, 2.3 Ounce (Pack of 6). I’ve tried using only half of the seasoning packet, but it’s still rather tart.
Some of my other current subscriptions, spaced out over a few months for variety:
- GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals Sunbutter & Crackers 3.6 ox boxes (Pack of 6)
- GoPicnic Ready-To-Eat Meals Black Bean Dip & Plantain Chips 4.0 oz boxes (Pack of 6)
- GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals Hummus & Crackers, 4.2 Ounce (Pack of 6)
- GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals Tasty Favorites Variety Pack – Gluten-Free, Vegetarian (Pack of 6)
- Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Vegan Miso Ramen, 1.9-Ounce Cups (Pack of 6)
- Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Vegan Tortilla Soup with Baked Chips, 2-Ounce Cups (Pack of 6)
- McCann’s Artisan Collection Instant Oatmeal, Black Currant, Almond & Cream, 8-Count Packets
- Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Vegan White Bean & Pasta Soup, Light Sodium, 1.8-Ounce Cups (Pack of 6)
- Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods Asian Entree, Pad Thai Noodle, 2-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6)
- KIND Healthy Grains Granola Bars, Dark Chocolate Chunk, 1.2oz Bars, 15 Count