How Much Can You Save by Bringing Your Lunch to Work?

Lunch bag and apple to save you money when you bring your lunch to work

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The deli across the street from where I used to work charged $8.00 for HALF a sandwich. And that was for one of the least expensive sandwiches on the menu. Just for the sandwich.

Getting a small bottle of iced tea was another $2.00. Ugh. It killed me every time I had to run over there if I forgot my lunch on the kitchen counter! Welcome to life in Fairfield county, Connecticut.

At $8/day for the sandwich alone, that would be $40 for a week. And get this – $2,000 if I bought a sandwich every work day! (excluding 2 weeks for vacation)

Two. Thousand. Dollars.

Yeah. I had to check my math on that four times because I didn’t believe it.

I’ve seen CARS being sold for less than that!

So basically, if you buy lunch every day at work, you are buying the equivalent of a used car every year.

Alternatives to spending a fortune

Is there a microwave in the break room at work? If so, your possibilities are endless. If not, you can still find a multitude of options.

All you need is a bag – preferably an insulated one, a few plastic containers and utensils, and perhaps one of those little freezer packs to keep your lunch chilled.

TIP – Don’t throw those plastic utensils out after lunch! Wash them at work, or bring them home. The heavier plastic ones can go in the dishwasher.

At one of my jobs, I would carry my lunch in a kid’s metal Garfield lunch box – with matching Thermos. Yes, I was a real hit on the commuter train ride to the office.

To eliminate having your lunch stolen from the office fridge, pack your food in one of those little soft-sided 6-pack coolers.

What to pack for lunch

  • leftovers from last night’s dinner (if you have microwave access) This was always my go-to for lunch. I have microwaveable plastic containers that have sections like a TV dinner, with a snap-on lid. Some days I would have a lunch like sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, a vegetable and some cranberry sauce!
  • deli meat & cheese sandwich
  • tuna sandwich
  • soup (again if you can microwave it.) You can even just bring it in the can, and open that at work. Or use a thermos.
  • cheese, vegetable sticks and crackers
  • salad and put a little dressing in a small container (how to make your own Thousand Island dressing)
  • fruit
  • yogurt (you can make your own yogurt for pennies!)
  • and of course there’s always cookies or cake to add in there too!

Just think about how much you will be saving!

And while you’re thinking about bringing lunch…

Bring breakfast too!

If you are like me and can’t eat first thing in the morning, or don’t have time, consider packing your breakfast too. Those bacon, egg and cheese on a hard roll add up – such as $4.45 each at Dunkin’ Donuts. That’s $22.25 a week, $89.00 a month or $1,112.50 a year (taking 2 weeks off for vacation).

I used to pack pancakes and bacon, with a little container of maple syrup in my Garfield lunch box to have for breakfast at the office. My co-workers used to go nuts when I microwaved that! They’d all come back to the break room because the smell of bacon would drift out to the work area.

TIP – pancakes freeze well, so make a big batch on the weekend and freeze them. Frozen pancakes come apart very easily, so just pop them in a container with some pats of butter in between each one. By the time you get to work, they will be thawed.

Cook a pound of bacon, and keep the slices in the fridge wrapped in paper towel,kept inside a plastic bag. Pack a few slices with your pancakes, and watch everybody at work freak out. Don’t forget the maple syrup!

Other breakfast options are hot cereal (if you have a microwave). Or put dry cereal in a container and bring milk in a small bottle or jar. You could toast a bagel, add butter and cream cheese and wrap it in foil. It may not be hot and toasty, but it beats paying for one at the food truck or deli! Or maybe bring some homemade cornbread?

How much would you save every year if you packed your lunch?

What about those beverages?

Have you ever tallied up how much you spend a year on that quick cup of coffee you pick up on the way to work?

Since I don’t buy coffee very often, to get an idea of how much it would cost, I used this link to a website that has fast food prices.

I checked on the price for a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. One small cup is at least $1.97.

Rounded up to $2.00/cup, buying just one small cup of coffee every work day would be $10 a week, $40 a month and $500 annually.

$500 a year spent on coffee. And that’s at the low end of the spectrum! And who can stop for coffee and not get a donut. Or two.

The frugal alternative

Coffee travel mug and two metal water bottles

Instead, you can bring coffee you make at home in a nice big insulated, dishwasher safe “go” cup like the one pictured. (the Copco Insulated Travel Mug.) I have a couple of them just in case one is in the dishwasher.

My coffee stayed at the perfect drinking temperature for my entire 90 minute commute to work – even in the winter. The lid is designed so there is no splashing or dripping, and it fits tight on the cup so it won’t open up unexpectedly.

And to make that delicious coffee? I use a Bunn coffee brewer with a thermal metal carafe. Once I pour the water into the brewer, I have 10 cups of coffee ready in under 3 minutes. The brewer is fast!

Now, think about what you could do with that $500 you are going to save!

Do you buy water?

The only time I every buy bottled water is when I am at the airport. And even then I save the plastic bottle and refill it while I am at my destination, and use it right up to the TSA checkpoint where I have to toss it. 

For me, it’s not the cost alone, but the actual concept of buying. water.

From an environmental standpoint, there’s the issue of the privatization of water by companies like Nestle and Coca-Cola, which you can read about here: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/problems/corporate-control-water. And then there is the problem of the plastic containers themselves. You can read about that here https://thewaterproject.org/bottled_water_wasteful and http://www.container-recycling.org/index.php/issues/bottled-water 

So everywhere I go, my trusty stainless steel water bottle goes with me. Well, except for the airport.

The top is large enough to fit ice cubes into, so my water stays cold for hours, and I put a foam bottle cover on it to help insulate it too. The cover has a clip, which is handy for clipping it to a belt loop on my jeans if I am out shooting photos or walking around the flea market.

If you are looking for some nice stainless bottles, Amazon has some good ones. These come in a bunch of cool colours too!

What a win-win solution – save money AND the environment!!

How much can you save?

So if you are currently buying coffee, water and lunch at work or on your way to the office, how much can you save by bringing your lunch to work?

A few minutes on the weekend, at night or in the morning can save you a decent amount of cash!

What are your savings?


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