Unless you work from home, you probably eat about 20 lunchtime meals each month outside of the house! That's a lot of opportunities to save or waste money.

Your noon meal can have a big impact on your budget. It can also affect your weight, health, mood, and .... You get the idea.

Don't overlook lunch when you're trying to trim costs or improve your health.

Leftovers

What's the easiest, most time-efficient way to get lunch in your belly? By eating leftovers, of course! And if you're making an effort to save money while grocery shopping, the cost of your dinner serving is usually more reasonable than the dollar menu at the drive-through window.

I always prepare a little bit more than we typically eat, and package any leftovers in meal-sized portions in microwave-safe containers.

Be sure to rotate leftovers in the refrigerator the freshest foods belong in the back, so that you'll eat older foods first! When leftovers seem to multiply faster than you can handle, declare a "leftover" night for dinner.

Takeout

I go out to eat with co-workers once or twice a week. We go to the company dining hall, where we eat together and unwind after our weekly meeting. It's a great way to socialize and solidify our relationships.

There's nothing "wrong" with going out to eat, of course. I greatly enjoy the treat and it's become an important part of my Wednesday routine. The catch? Those weekly burgers are expensive! I couldn't imagine going out to eat each and every day.

How can you keep the perks of shared meals without breaking your budget? Keep the socializing lose the cost.

If your co-workers tend to go out every day, try starting an "eat-in" day. Let people know that you're trying to save money (being frugal is SO cool right now!), and you might find that your friends are more interested in conversation than going out to eat.

Or suggest a less expensive place for takeout. The buffet may be your favorite place to eat, but is it really the best choice or the most cost-efficient for lunch? Save pricey meals for a special treat.

The "traditional" lunch

We all know what a normal lunch looks like, right? A sandwich, perhaps a piece of fruit or a salad, and a sealed drink. It's simple, portable, and easy to prepare.

Know your family's wants and needs before buying food for lunch. Don't buy an entire pound of lunchmeat for just one sandwich if you throw half the package away, it doesn't matter that you've gotten a great price on a bigger package.

Tired of the same old lunch? I know I was! I could barely look at a sandwich without having my stomach turn. Simple substitutes can help to keep lunch fresh and appealing you'll never keep up a lunch routine if eating your browned bag meal is a chore. Try swapping plain bread for a wrap or bun, or make new creations by alternating sandwich toppings or filling. When "the same old" is new again, you won't mind packing your lunch!