Quite a few of you have been asking for some ways to stick to your budgets and save money. Today I’m sharing one easy trick that can save you money and make you healthier. Today’s post is #tbt (throwback Thursday) all the way to elementary school: save money when you pack lunch!
Sometimes we forget that small changes every day can add up big time. Lunch is one of those potential changes. On a day-to-day basis it doesn’t seem like going out for lunch does anything to your budget. But all of those take-out salads can add up pretty quickly over the course of a year.
Let’s do a quick comparison. Lunch varies depending on where you live, but I’m going to estimate it’s about $10 per day to eat out. If you work in the suburbs it might cost a little less, but you have to pay for the gas to get there, and if you’re in the city it might cost a bit more. So let’s make it easy and stick with $10 per meal.
I used Peapod to calculate the costs of a few typical lunches you could pack. Here’s what it likely costs to pack these lunches:
Again, let’s make it easy and say you average about $4 for every lunch you pack for yourself. That means you save $6 every day you pack lunch! Yes, $6 is not a ton of money on its own, but we’re talking about changes that add up over time.
I get that you have friends and a social life at work, and going out to lunch with people is probably a big piece of that. So I’m not going to suggest you pack lunch every day.
But even if you just switch from eating out to packing your lunch twice a week, you save $12 per week. And assuming you work 47 weeks per year (52 weeks minus 5 weeks for vacations and holidays) that’s $564 per year.
Packing your lunch twice a week? Not a huge deal. Getting an extra $564 dollars? Awesome! That’s the kind of budgeting I love – easy swaps that add up to something much bigger. And if you can pack lunch every day, you’re looking at an extra $1,410 per year.
While I’m pretty good about packing my lunch, I’m also pretty bad about putting thought into it. If I’m lucky and have leftovers I’ll take those, and if not I throw something together in the 2 minutes before I leave in the morning. For those like me, here are some easy (and healthy) lunch ideas I rely on since I can throw them together quickly:
- Yogurt or cottage cheese with cut-up fruit
- Leftovers (when I cook dinner I often make a little extra so there’s something to take for lunch the next day)
- Turkey sandwich
- A salad with whatever protein and veggies you have in your fridge (my staples: avocado, tuna, or deli turkey)
- Sweet potato topped with Greek yogurt and cinnamon (can bring this raw – when you get to work stab the potato a fork a few times and microwave it for 7 minutes)
Lunch design is clearly not my forte (honestly, I find lunch to be a very boring meal) so you can read more interesting lunch ideas from Buzzfeed and Shape. Courtney at Sweet Tooth Sweet Life posts a lot of great looking lunches, particularly monster salads, so you can check out her blog for real-world and easy examples.
I also keep a few snacks (like mini bags of microwave popcorn) and a jar of peanut butter at my desk so I have extra things on hand if I realize I didn’t pack enough for lunch. Takes some of the stress out of lunch prep :).
That’s it. Easy but effective budgeting. Do any of you have go-to lunches you’ve been packing? Let me know, would love to hear (and copy…) your ideas!