Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Save money (and calories) on snacks by planning ahead

Planning ahead can make a big impact on your bottom line
Packing a lunch is sometimes impossible. With so many cheap, convenient options on the road, who needs it anyway, right? I mean, if you're anything like me, it's tough enough to simply get up, get showered and dressed and get out the door with a cup of coffee most mornings. Besides, I have found a select few ever-present fast food joints that I can rely on to eat healthy in a pinch.

But snacking, ironically perhaps, is a bigger problem for me. Even if I do make the time to have some oatmeal or a fried egg sandwich before heading to work, that mid-morning pang in my belly will have me thinking of food long before the dreaded 10 a.m. meeting that's bound to stretch into lunchtime. And where I work, there just aren't any healthy options that I can grab during that always busy rush that seems to consume some mornings.

So if I don't want to have to rely on casing that nasty vending machine for my mid-morning snack, I know that I better think ahead. In the past, I have stocked up on my favorite snack ahead of time - 2% Greek yogurt with a bit of honey. But my brand costs about $1.70 for a single serving, and sticky fingers sometimes walk away with one or two of my stash, so it's just not feasible on my current budget to count on that five days a week at work.

Beware the evil vending machine!

Plus, I run into the same problem in the late afternoon as I do in the morning. Around 3 p.m., I wonder how I often lack the energy to finish the work day, let alone fight traffic for 30 minutes, greet two yipping dogs waiting at the door to be walked and get set to prepare a healthy dinner. So what's a guy to do?

The answer: plan ahead. If there's one thing I learned in Boy Scouts, it's be prepared. If you're interested in fit living, which I'd imagine you are since you're reading this blog, being prepared can help you stay healthy while at the same time being economical and being kind to the environment by promoting recycling and reusing, etc.,

So for healthy, pre-planned snacking, I buy the four-serving container of yogurt for around $6, which brings the per-serving cost of the stuff down by twenty cents. Not a bad start!

Then, I shave even more cents off the per-serving cost by adjusting my own personal serving size. I have always found that the serving size listed on the container is more than I need to eat as a snack. By cutting the serving size in half I not only save money - when one serving makes two I spend only seventy-five cents per serving - but I also save 85 calories, 2.25 grams of fat, while still getting 11.5 grams of protein.

To put this into perspective, by saving just one dollar per day on snacking, I'm saving $365 per year. That's a round-trip ticket to Miami. And because I'm snacking healthy, I'll look good in a bathing suit once I get there!

So at the beginning of the week I pre-portion all of my yogurt. One container makes enough yogurt cups for the first four days of the week. Then on Thursday I crack open another container and make enough portions to last through the weekend.

There are other benefits of pre-portioning my own yogurt cups, too. For one, sticky fingers stay away from my homemade yogurt cups. Plus, I find that adding my favorite local honey tastes way better than any of the pre-packaged yogurt and honey recipes I've tried. And, at the end of the day, I feel better about reusing containers so I'm doing my part to keep unnecessary trash out of landfills.

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