Taking your lunch to work is healthier, easier and the easiest way to save money. In fact, you can save over $4,800 a year in many cases.
Each day, I see a mass of people get up from their desk and make the pilgrimage to the local cafes, restaurants and food courts for lunch. I however remain seated, content in eating lunch at my desk. If I were American, I would call it ‘brown bagging it’ but I am Australian, so I call it ‘eating lunch at my desk because we don’t need a silly name for everything’.
I do this for a multitude of reasons, the most important of which is it saves me $4,800 every year.
What are my reasons for eating lunch at my desk?
- I save money
- I eat a healthier lunch that is home-made, not heavily fried or processed with extra calories
- I spend my lunch time reading websites and doing work that I enjoy doing
- I feel proactive in that I have a solid hour to accomplish tasks (like paying bills)
How am I saving $4,800 a year?
The maths are quite simple. In a 52 week year, on average I will work 48 weeks of the year (4 weeks annual leave).
Of those 48 weeks, I would on average spend $20 a day on lunch (which includes coffees, soft drinks, bottled drinks, snacks and lunch itself). $20 a day over 28 weeks equates to $4,800 a year on food spending at work.
Stop buying lunch, save $4,800 a year. Simple; it’s like getting a dramatic pay rise over night.
Don’t spend $20 a day on lunch? See the below chart on how much it costs you per year based upon your daily food budget.
- Spend $5 a day on lunch = $1,200 a year
- Spend $10 a day on lunch = $2,400 a year
- Spend $15 a day on lunch = $3,600 a year
- Spend $20 a day on lunch = $4,800 a year
My thoughts on how to save money by not buying lunch
Utilise leftovers. Stop food wastage, save more money. Anything you don’t eat at home, whether it be dinner from the night before or fruit and veggies that run the risk of going off, bring them to work and eat them. See yourself as a human vacuum to eat up all the leftover food that would otherwise go to waste (but be careful not to hoover up too much). Reducing waste is as good as saving money, as you don’t need to outlay even more money.
Have lunch at the same time every day. Routine helps you save money. If you eat lunch at different times of the day over the week, your body does not get into a routine and can leave you starving at different times. This in turn makes you more vulnerable to simply get up and join the masses exiting the building for a takeaway lunch at the food court.
Use your savings for good, not evil. Work out your daily lunch and food spends. Once you know the figure, ensure you save the money and use it to build wealth, pay off debt and general get ahead. No point not eating lunch to save $3,000 a year only to pick up a lottery ticket hobbit of equal value. Consider making a separate high interest savings account that is dedicated to your lunch savings, or alternatively, make micro transfers to your bad debts (like credit cards and personal loans) to pay less in daily interest.
Stock up on long life and healthy ‘desk draw’ foods. Go to ALDI, buy a heap of tuna and 4 bean mixes. They are super healthy, high in protein and nourishment and will survive an atomic bomb blast. Stock up on items like this and other long life canned goods (be careful to not buy soups that are high in salt content). Having items in your desk drawer means that if you ever forget your lunch or feel tempted to eat elsewhere, you have food on hand ready.
5 minutes the night before = weight loss and saving money. This may be just me, however in the morning I am too rushed to bother making lunches. In turn, if I don’t spend 5 minutes the night before preparing my lunch, I will often spend $20 a day and eat food that isn’t as healthy as home brought. Take the time to prepare, save and get ahead.
An investigation into the costs of buying lunch VS making your own lunch
Our on the ground reporters went to the supermarket and did a cost analysis of whether it is indeed cheaper to make your own lunch at home instead of buying it.
Here are the results:
This mighty staple forms the backbone of the Western lunchtime diet. Tuna, lettuce and mayonnaise has always been a favourite filling of mine, usually on a wholemeal or grainy bread, and my local CBD café charged $7.90 for the privilege. Could that be beaten if I brought it from home?
If I was to eat tuna, lettuce and mayo sandwiches for lunch every day, that’s a pretty significant saving! Of course, the full value of the ingredients is not achieved if I then proceed to leave the remaining lettuce in my veggie drawer to rot, a typical downfall in many Aussie households. Similarly, if you are one of those people who takes a sandwich, then forgets they brought it, only to buy lunch anyway and then remember at 4pm (like someone I live with… *ahem*) I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, you haven’t saved a cent.
A favourite of the health-conscious and those trying to reduce their carbohydrate intake, the salad is a close favourite for lunchboxes. There are endless varieties, but I always seem to come back to ye olde faithful, the Mediterranean chicken salad, which would set me back about $18 at the café over the road.
The Baked Potato
I confess, I love a good spud and the ones the deli on the corner makes are spectacular. Creamy potato flesh in a crispy skin, all oozing with butter… mmm, yum. And at $7.50 a pop, they’re not too pricey an option at lunchtime.
So here we see the myth being shattered. In theory, yes, it would be cheaper to bring your own potato from home but if you happen to prefer certain high-quality ingredients, as I do, the price can start to soar. And of course, your home-made potato won’t be all hot and crispy either.
I couldn’t very well do an article on lunches in Australia without mentioning the pie, could I? Australians eat an average of 12 meat pies a year and if it’s a well-made one, I’m hard-pressed to say no myself. Your typical hot, meat pie will only set you back a few dollars and is usually accompanied by a squirt of tomato sauce and an obligatory iced coffee. It’s not the healthiest lunch available, but it certainly is popular!
Once again, even with my “fancy schmancy” choices, bringing lunch from home has proved cheaper. Although my pie is not likely to be as flaky as the store bought one, I can enjoy it more, basking in the satisfaction that I paid less and got something much better.
Most of the time, it turned out it really was cheaper for me to bring my lunch from home, even with my more expensive ingredient. If you were to use the exact same ingredients as the sandwich shops and cafes, you would most certainly make a saving every time. Of course, I couldn’t factor in the cost of the time spent shopping and preparing, the fuel of driving to the store and the energy and products used in storing and preparing the food, but you get the general idea. Bringing lunch from home really is the cheapest option.
Are you someone who thinks bringing your own lunch is a cheapskate act?
People are quick to label anyone who wants to be money savvy as a cheapskate. However, for me, it’s not being cheap if my money is better used elsewhere. I am simply choosing not to buy a pricey lunch; it doesn’t mean that I walk around with holes in my underwear.
Still need motivation to ‘brown bag’ it?
Consider this. $4,800 deposited in a high-interest saver account or term deposit, offering a rate of 5% would equate to $68,193 in savings after ten years.
That is over $15,393 in interest earned. Imagine just putting some discipline in place and sticking to this strategy for the next 10 years of your life.
Would you prefer a cheque for $68,193 or a bunch of calorie dense lunches from a food court?