How to Eat Affordably When You’re Never Home

eating affordably

Saving money on meals during a long nursing shift

The average American household spends $3,008 a year on dining out. Our fast-paced lifestyles are partly to blame, as nurses and doctors well know. Groceries are much cheaper than prepared food, but shopping and cooking isn’t always an option when you’re at the hospital for twenty-four hours at a time. Sometimes it seems easier to just pick up something from the hospital cafeteria, even when we realize it’s turning into a real financial drain.

It’s not that healthy to eat prepared foods either. Experts say that meals prepared by a restaurant likely contain about 40 percent more calories than similar meals prepared at home. Worse, they tell us that the calorie count for restaurant meals is often about 20 percent higher than the amount posted on the menu. You can blame poor estimates and inconsistent preparation for the errors, but it’s downright discouraging if you’re trying to eat healthy.

Luckily, with a little planning it can be easy and affordable to eat well, even if you’re spending most of your days and nights at the hospital. It sounds hard, but you don’t have to be a life-style blogger to master a thrifty lunch routine. The key is to use some super simple meal prep and planning strategies, so that even with your hectic schedule you always have quick cheap meals on hand.

Never buy your coffee

Nurses need their caffeine fix – and they need it again two hours later and again two hours after that. All those small purchases add up. The quickest way to save twenty bucks a week is to bring your own coffee to work. Of course, you’ll need a travel mug that can make it through a twelve-hour shift. This one has thousands of five-star reviews on Amazon and the double wall vacuum of insulated stainless steel will keep your coffee hot for hours.

Freeze individual portions for quick lunches on-the-go

It’s hard to pack balanced lunches every day. It’s easy to keep some fruit or yogurt on hand, but with a little planning you can have a more satisfying meal. Cooking and freezing food is cheaper than buying prepared food at the grocery and gives you an easy to grab lunch. You can put individual portions of shredded chicken, homemade soup or mac n’ cheese in the freezer in small food storage containers.

Prep your vegetables once a week

This trick gives you easy snacks and simplifies dinner prep on the days you are home. Take a hour on your day off to chop and wash all your veggies for the week. You can roast them in the oven after a long day of work, add them to pasta, or put a handful raw in a plastic bag for a snack during your shift. It’s a great way to grow your bank balance and shrink your waistline at the same time.

Create an emergency snack kit

When you’re starving it’s easy to make an impulse food purchase. Don’t let hunger drive your decisions about when to eat out. Instead, pack a small box with your favorite non-perishable snacks and keep it in the car or your locker at work. That way you’ll always have something on hand when you start feeling ravenous and you can give the vending machine or the drive through window a pass.

Get an insulated lunch box

While there’s nothing wrong with a brown paper bag, having a lunch box can make packing lunches easier and allow you to bring perishable items. Having a one that’s food-safe and roomy can make lunch a pleasure to prepare.  This one from L.L. Bean has a mesh pocket to hold an ice pack, and it’s insulated and BPA-free. It can even be monogrammed so that there’s never any staff refrigerator mix-ups.

Be a smart spender when you need to buy

Purchasing food is unavoidable sometimes. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about what you’re spending. For special events, like a colleague’s birthday, you will probably want to enjoy your restaurant meal without worrying about the cost. On the other hand, if you’re just thinking about buying lunch, consider how you can save. Perhaps you can grab chips from your emergency snack kit and tea from the nurse’s station instead of buying a side and a drink. Small choices add up to big savings eventually.

And remember you’ll feel less guilty about your next panini when you’ve saved a bundle on your scrubs. The Uniform Outlet can help you save on essentials every day, with premium women’s and men’s scrubs and accessories at outlet prices. Visit us in person or check out our online store and start saving money today.

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