Tip #12: Brown Bag It (even just once a week)

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I know this one seems pretty obvious, and many people do bring their own lunches to work all the time.  But you’d be surprised by how many folks don’t, and it baffles me because the savings can be quite huge in the long run.

Now, I understand that it’s mainly an issue of convenience for a lot of folks.  Most of us only have between thirty & sixty minutes for lunch, and access to a well-stocked kitchen in the workplace is pretty limited, if not completely unavailable.  Many people also have several after-work commitments that make it difficult to prepare something ahead of time for lunch the next day.  So, the common argument is that it’s much better to walk or drive somewhere to pick up a quick meal and be on one’s way.

But is it really?

Sure, it takes some planning ahead to make sure that you not only have the time to make lunch, but the ingredients as well.  However, the old addage of “time is money” couldn’t be more true when it comes to going out vs. brown bagging it for lunch.  On average, people can spend anywhere from $6-8 on lunch they pick up from quick stop or fast food restaurants.  A sit-down lunch at a nicer establishment can run anywhere from $15-25 when you factor in the tip.  If one were to make this a daily practice, one could spend a good $120 in an average month, and that’s at the most conservative level.  Multiply that by twelve months, and bam!  You’ve just spent over $1400 on going out to lunch.  Ouch.

And I’m not even factoring in the gas & mileage costs that you rack up getting to & from said eatery.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going out to eat just as much as the next person.  It’s nice to have some variety, and having someone do the cooking for you is fun, too.  But when times are tough, it’s not the wisest choice you could make.  However, even if you were to switch to making your own lunch just once in an average 5-day work week, you could save close to $100 per month!  That money could be put towards more healthy foods next time you go grocery shopping, or paying off the interest on a credit card, or many other bills.  It may seem like a tiny change, but all those little bits can really add up to big savings.

But Poor Girl, I just don’t have time to make something the night before.  Plus, I’ll get bored!

True… you could get bored if you were to stick with PB&J sandwiches or a can of soup.  But there are so many options for quick & tasty lunches that don’t involve a frozen meal in a box, many of which you can find right here on ye olde blog.  As far as not having the time to make something the night before, most work places do have a break room with a fridge & microwave at the very least, and that’s all you really need to make a quick lunch.  You don’t have to go as far as I do, bringing whole ingredients & spices to work so I can just whip something up on the fly; but it’s not that hard to toss a can of beans & some leftover veggies into your lunch bag to make a lovely salad like this one.  Or you can bring some leftover chicken, your favorite dressing or dip, and some pita bread, and in minutes you could be enjoying a tasty pita sandwich.

So give it a try sometime.  You don’t have to do it every single day if you don’t want to!  But try to think outside the proverbial lunch box and consider how much better it will be for your wallet, and heck, even your waistline (some of those “healthy” options at restaurants aren’t always what they seem…).  Just one day of brown bagging it can make a pretty big difference.

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singer. writer. artist. champagne taste, 2 buck chuck budget. good cook. kooky. chocoholic. patron saint of cats. talker. listener. thinker. sometimes to a fault.

9 Responses to "Tip #12: Brown Bag It (even just once a week)"

  1. hawkeyejlp says:

    I'm a teacher with 20 minutes for lunch…I brown bag every day. That is what leftovers are for! I've enjoyed reheated sweet potato/black bean burritos topped with salsa and sour cream several days this week, a ham and cheese sammie with a side salad the other, and tomorrow will be leftover roasted chicken with a side of broccoli. Not boring at all.

    Reply
  2. nancy@skinnykitchen.com says:

    Great idea. Not only does packing a lunch save you money, it can also be healthier too!

    Reply
  3. Jessie Bea says:

    I totally agree with you. It just baffles me that people that make a modest salary go out to eat every day! When you're making say, $10 an hour and you eat out, your lunch just negated an entire hour of your work day.

    Plus, I think making my own lunch (or bringing leftovers) just tastes better, usually.

    Reply
  4. Bev says:

    I actually bring my own lunch most days of the week. I use leftovers from a weekend dinner, or a crockpot stew, or I make a couple of different chicken breast dishes specifically for lunches. I used to eat Healthy Choice frozen dinners every day! I think I am 'healthier' without the Healthy Choice. I can't remember the last time I had a cold.

    Reply
  5. Sac-Town Health says:

    If you really want to do yourself a favor, you can take the money you save not going out to lunch, and spend it on a CSA box delivered to your house.

    Reply
  6. Adam says:

    I brown-bag all the time; whenever I'm cooking something for dinner, I'll make it jumbo-size so I can get a few leftover lunches out of it. I save money, and I get to choose what I eat. Heck, last night I made four meals' worth of chicken stew in the crockpot for $12.

    Reply
  7. Sheila says:

    If you don't have time to make lunch every day, you could make it once a week. I used to make soup once a week and divide it into five containers for lunch each day. As long as it was a really good soup, I didn't mind the lack of variety! Now I pack my husband's lunch, and I just plan for it along with dinner — I deliberately make extra so he can take the leftovers.

    Reply
  8. Allison M. Garrett says:

    These are great tips! I'd love some more recipes or ideas from yourself or readers on what they bring to work

    Reply
  9. Floofy says:

    Invest in a Bento box and you’ll find “brown bagging it” a lot more fun. You can find them for as little as $5, in every design under the sun and everything is portion sized for you. They’re great for not wasting food because you can only pack so much. I love them! It also cuts down on the use of plastic sandwich baggies and whatnot. Good for the earth, good for you and pretty stylish. I mean, have you seen all the Bento lunch blogs out there? Food just looks more appetizing when it’s presented in a fun way.

    Reply

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