If you work out how much you’re spending on work lunches in the average work week, you might be surprised to know just how much money is being frittered away. You can save money by taking your own lunches to work and depending on what you’ve previously been grabbing in your lunch break, it might be a lot healthier too. Here are some tips on making it work for you.
The Benefits of Bringing Your Own Lunch
You control the contents. Most of us are pushed for time when we head out on our lunch break so if you’re anything like most people, you probably just grab a sandwich or something else that isn’t necessarily as healthy as it may first appear. By making your own lunches, you’ve got complete control over what goes into the meal and can avoid high calorie counts.
It’s quicker than you might think. Never have enough time to put a packed lunch together in the mornings? Do it in the evening instead. Get into the habit of putting together a sandwich in the evening so that you just need to grab a few other things in the morning. If you’re after something more substantial, cook a bit extra when you prepare your evening meal the night before and pack this up to take to work with you in the morning. This doesn’t require much more effort than what you were already doing and is perfect if you’re always pushed for time in the mornings! This is what we do and it works great.
It’s cheaper. Even if you’re “only” paying a few dollars a day for lunch, this quickly adds up and can easily set you back hundreds of dollars per year. By making your own lunch, you can cut this figure quite considerably, especially if you recycle leftovers from the night before so that you’re cutting down on food wastage.
It’s more environmentally friendly. It may not seem like it at first glance but if you’re used to regularly driving to and from the office to pick up lunch, you can do your bit for the environment by making less trips in your car and you can also save on gas by ditching the extra mileage.
Packed lunches are often seen as dull but that doesn’t have to be the case. No matter how much you like certain foods, you don’t want to be eating them all the time. If you take the same lunch every day, chances are that you’ll be bored to tears within a couple of weeks and this obviously increases the probability that you’ll find yourself slipping back into your old routine.
Packed lunches tend to bring to mind images of boring sandwiches but you can go far beyond this. Keeping things varied means that you’re less likely to fall off the wagon and lets you come up with interesting and appetizing creations. If you have access to a microwave at work, you could heat up leftovers or even a ready meal (homemade is the best option if you can spare some time at the weekend to knock a healthier one together to bring in). Even if there isn’t a microwave available, it doesn’t necessarily mean that hot food is off the menu altogether. Things like soup can be stored in a thermos flask so that they stay warm enough.
Taking your own lunch to work may not seem very glamorous or exciting but it can save you a lot of money over the course of the average year and is often a lot healthier than grabbing a sandwich or fast food. Contrary to what a lot of people assume, it doesn’t need to be any great effort to put together and there a lot of ways to mix things up so that you don’t get bored and go back to spending more.
So, do you bring your own lunches to work and if so, what kinds of things do you bring? Or, if you buy lunches every day, have you looked at what this is costing your wallet and your health?
Eating out everyday adds up. Packing lunch is one of the best ways to get started on saving money. For a little bit of effort, that’s good change in your pocket.
I agree. Learning to brown bag it is one of the first easy things you can do to make adjustments in your budget. And once you get in the hang of it, you usually like it better.
I do this for heatlh reasons, but I would be silly to ignore the economic impact of bringing my lunch. It adds up. Pure and simple, this is just another example of the “latte factor.” Great advice!
Guess it does relate to the lattes. I am glad you have found incentives to brown bag it. I too like the health benefits. Plus I find what I cook tastier than what I can buy on the go.
It’s a nice idea in theory, but I have noticed some problems that can occur, which I went into detail on a couple month back in a post called Brown Bagging Lunch Has Just As Many Drawbacks As Benefits. Among them are the fact that if you choose to cook a weeks worth of food at once, you are essentially wasting an entire day (or a majority of it); the fact that you must remember undercook certain foods to avoid them being ruined upon reheating, and the for those who make a lot of one thing to finish throughout the week it can get boring and repetitive.
I also just remembered something that I left out of my post which could be a factor too–having appliances in the workplace. Not having an oven or at least a toaster to heat food can be a little hampering especially if the food will be horrible in a microwave. I’m all for saving money, and I try to bring my own lunch when possible, but doing so at the cost of a good-tasting meal just doesn’t work for me in some instances, and at those times I’d rather spend a little money and enjoy my food.
You bring up some interesting points, some of which I haven’t thought about. I guess for me, if I didn’t have a microwave or a way to heat up food I would bring cold lunches or use a thermos. For us, we freeze individual portions of the meals we cook for dinner in our freezer. We always end up with a variety so we never have to eat the same thing two days in a row. And as far as reheating we have never had an issue using a microwave.
Guess you never tried to nuke shellfish 😉
Yes shellfish would be tricky. Maybe save the crustaceans for dinner at home only.
I have been doing it for a very long time. It vairies from leftovers from the night before to just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In the past, I have taken salads and soups too.
Good for you. I personally find the home cooked food tastier than on the go options myself. I would much rather brown bag it.
Ah, yes! This is one of my favorites! I recently went a whole year without eating out for lunch at work. I’m a huge fan of leftovers, actually, so that helped a great deal. I do go out to dinner about once a week, too, so I convinced myself that my money is much better spent on that rather than lunches. I feel like lunch options are usually lower-quality and less expensive, too.
Good for you for completing your one year challenge. That is great. I would agree about dinners. At least those can be social and fun and last a while. Lunches are so rushed. They aren’t worth the money.
About two years ago I did the calculation – I was spending about $500 per month on coffees and lunch (not very good lunch at that). So, I decided to change – no coffees (except form my coffee maker) and a take lunch from home. Wonderful! I save loads and eat very well. I mainly freeze soups and stews and then take these in my lunch box. Look a bit like the character in Working Girl (I wish)!
Awesome. It is amazing to see how much it adds up to when you actually sit down and calculate it. I am glad you made some changes and have been enjoying the benefits. Have you been feeling healthier too? I find I always feel better when I eat home cooked meals.
We cook extra for dinner and I take the left over for lunch. I like it much better than buying lunch in the cafeteria. The food is expensive and doesn’t taste all that great.
I agree. The food you buy is more expensive and half the quality. I much prefer home cooked meals. I think this is why we barley eat out in general. We just like our home cooked meals too much.
I’ve been bringing my lunch to work almost every single day–except on teh days where i have work events and my lunch is paid for. I have no idea how people afford to go out to lunch every day, like a lot of my co-workers do. It is just SO much money.
I agree. I have often wondered the same thing. It really does add up. I am always amazed too at how they feel physically. I find when I eat out for a few days I feel awful. I crave my healthy home cooked meals.
Great was to save money! We often try to cook a little extra each meal so that we can bring the leftovers to work. I only have 30 minutes for lunch so I don’t have a lot of time to cook frozen foods for lunch.
Glad to hear you have found a way to make it work and haven’t just cop out and bought lunch. My hubby and I don’t have long for lunch either so we need quick dishes as well. Leftovers work great.
I too, have been doing this for some time. Both my wife and I try and do this at least 3 times per week, if not more.
We only use glassware at work for our lunches. Less chemcials leaching into our food and easier to clean as well 🙂
Good post. Will include later this week in my Weekend Reading roundup!
Thanks so much for the inclusion. I really appreciate it. Glad to hear you use glassware. That is really important. They have linked BPA to all sorts of health problems now including prenatal health issues.
Take your own, or buy occasionally, I definitely agree with this thrifty approach. Also, never eat alone. Lunch is a networking opportunity…every single day.
Agreed. You can make some great relationships over the lunch hour. I try to mingle with different groups at work so I get to know everyone better. It works really well.
I started doing this and I was quite happy that I ended up the week with extra money to go out for dinner on the weekend. I’m even happy with just PB and J
It is awesome when you start to see other money freed up from making this change. We personally would rather spend our money on other things than lunch, like vacations for example. And yes, PB&J is good and more nutritious then it is let on to be.
I have always brought my lunch to work. Usually leftovers! I look at eating out as a luxury to be enjoyed with my husband or friends.
Us too. Eating out is for recreation and down time after a long day or long week. We usually use it as part of date night if we plan on going out.
I tend to go in spurts and end up about half the time bringing lunch and half the time spending on lunch. I could stand to do a better job and increase that ratio.
Well at least you have part of the habit down pat. It’s good you do 50% right now but you are right, you could improve. Being aware is half the battle so good job.
I used to bring frozen lunches (like Healthy Choice) to work each day. Easy to fix, tastes great from the microwave, not AS expensive as going out to a restaurent and most importantly, saved me time.
That’s great. We tend to bring left over meals we cooked previously that we froze.
We have been able to save so much money by taking lunches to work. There was a time that I would spend like I was entitled to the Starbucks coffee…just because I had worked so hard that day. A nice treat once in awhile, but definitely can suck all the money out of your account.
Don’t get me wrong. Treats are good. I have them too. The idea though is to keep them as treats. That way you enjoy them and your wallet doesn’t take a beating. I find when you have things less often you appreciate them more anyways.
We always cook extra for dinner, so I take it for lunch the next day. I can’t tell you how many people want to know what I’m having each day, they usually want the recipe too!
Lol. This also happens to my husband. His coworkers always want to know what he is eating too. We take it as a compliment.
Taking your own lunch to work just makes good sense. You get to ensure its healthy, within your budget, and something you feel like eating on that particular day.