I’m Saving By Bringing Lunch To Work

the finished product

So as you know, we’re living off of one income now as my wife took off from her education job to stay home to raise the kids.  We’ve been looking for all sorts of ways to cut expenses to make my salary stretch a little farther.

One thing I’ve started to do is bring lunch to work a few days a week.

I work in NYC.  I don’t tend to go too crazy on lunches in general.  I tend to stay away from the expensive restaurants.  This was a habit before we were on one income.  But the costs of eating in Manhattan do add up anyway.  A sandwich is easily $5 at least if I go to a small deli.  More if I go to a bigger establishment.  Salads cost at least $7.  One thing to note is that I don’t eat at fast food places such as McDonald’s, Subway, or Wendy’s.  I could get cheaper lunched there but I gave up that food long ago.  I try to keep my eating healthy.  It could cost more at times but I think the payoff to my health is much greater in the long run!

So now my wife has been making lunch for me around three times a week. If I would have spent $5 on lunch then that saves me $15/week.  That’s around $60/month or $720/year!  And that’s if I only spent $5.  I’m saving more if my lunches were more expensive on those days.

I also don’t buy any beverages for lunch.  We have a coffee machine and water cooler at work which I use instead.  This also goes back to eating healthy since I wouldn’t buy soda or sugar drinks anyway.

So there’s one way we’re making our money stretch.  I’ll be telling you about others ways in future articles.

How do you stretch your money?

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Published or updated April 6, 2013.


  1. When cooking dinner, make extra portions, and bring them for lunch!

  2. I started bringing my lunch to work about a year ago. At first it was kind of hard to see all my co-workers leave for lunch and come back talking about how good their gourmet lunch was. After a while, I started to bring in some gourmet lunches of my own (cooked at home) and people started to realize that not only is my home-cooked food healthier and usually more delicious, but I saved about $8-$10 dollars a day doing so. I think I started a trend. More and more people have started bringing their lunch.

  3. @ Frank – Definitely a good one!

    @ BSCC – That’s great to hear. Interesting here at work is that in the last couple of months the fridge has been more full from people bringing lunch in. Guess the economy is showing it’s effects.

  4. I love Frank’s idea for leftovers. However, don’t be afraid to go to lunch with friends and colleagues. Networking can pay off down the road, and you should not underestimate the importance of socializing at work. Along with working hard, the more you are liked, the easier it is for promotion and raises.

  5. @ Kevin – There certainly are times when going out can be beneficial but I’m sure it’s not everyday for most! And bringing lunch can help make up for what is spent when you do have to go out.

  6. Thumbs up on packing a lunch – I do that daily. Should there be special circumstances and you must go out for lunch unexpectedly that day, most brown-bagged lunches would be OK in the refrigerator for the next day. I agree also on not purchasing beverages when you do go out for a meal any time. Ask for tap water with ice and a slice of lemon. That’s certainly cheaper (since it is free!) and more healthy for you.

  7. Concerning the comment about networking over lunch, why can’t you do that over a brown-bagged lunch with colleagues? Your frugality just might be showing them that you are an astute financial manager of your personal finances! Actually you will have much more time for networking, relationship building and discussion if you “stay in” for a brown-bagged lunch instead of going out for an over-priced restaurant meal!

  8. Here’s an easy way to brown bag a healthy lunch. Purchase several sturdy plastic divided lunch plates with snap on covers. I have 6 of these that I have been using for years. There is usually one large section that is half the plate and two smaller divided sections that take up the other half. I place my protein in one of the smaller sections and fill the other sections with vegetables, salad, a starch, etc. Some days you might want to have a cold lunch and you could include a green salad in the covered plate. Other days you will heat the meal, so plan the meal components accordingly. As you clean up from dinner the night before, add leftovers to your divided plate for the next day. Add extra vegetables if needed, a fork and napkin, refrigerate the divided plate container, and your lunch is packed for the next day. You are utilizing left-overs, saving time, conserving money, and eating healthier all at once! Those same plates come in handy if you want to make your own frozen dinners (or frozen lunches). Add leftovers that will freeze well to the divided plate, label the container as to date and contents, and freeze until needed.

  9. You may want to put your name on your lunch if you share your refrigerator with co-workers. Here’s a true story that is hard for me to believe, but I was there! At one workplace, both a husband and wife worked there. Numerous times, the husband would eat other people’s lunches, get discovered, and then claim that he thought that was the lunch his wife packed for him. What a jerk! After “mistakes” was made several times (!) people started really protecting their own lunches. I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else, but you never know!

  10. @ Nancy – Most lunched will stay good for another day. I avoid using mayonnaise though just in case. And networking can be done anywhere! Also, my name goes on everything I put in the company fridge! I’ve heard too many stories of things going missing. I can understand an accident but full-on theft is ridiculous yet it happens.

  11. We take Frank’s approach. When I make dinner I always make enough for 4 portions (Pumpkin isn’t eating table food yet). If Columbia is helping serve he always packs up 2 portions as the rest of the meal is going on the table: 1 for his lunch and 1 for mine. That way I don’t have to think about what to have for lunch either. It definitely makes clean up easier after dinner and we aren’t tempted to snack on the leftover food in the pots.

  12. @ JC – Frugal lunch and portion control!!

  13. The company I work for, Aladdin, makes a great Lunch & Go series for people looking for an alternative to paper bagging it. My favorite one is their salad set.

  14. @ Patrick – Anything that makes it easier! We use a disposable tupperware-type container for sandwiches.

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