If you had to guess, how much would you say the average person spends on lunch during the workweek? Or, better yet, let’s make it personal and think about how much you yourself spent on lunch over the past twelve months. If you were keeping a budget like we discussed, you should have a ballpark idea.
The average American spends $2,746 on lunch a year. Assuming a person buys lunch every work day over the span of 52 weeks, that breaks out to roughly $10.50 a work day.
Look, I get it. Why would you put effort into making and packing lunch when you could swipe your card in exchange for something fresh and delicious? The leftover hamburger I bring from home never measures up to the hamburger I could pick up at the restaurant down the street from my office building. But that’s what I want to focus on.
Why Do You Hate Bringing Your Lunch?
One reason you might hate your sack lunch is because you might be skimping on good ingredients. For a while I was buying the cheapest store brand sandwich bread I could get my hands on. Why would I spend almost $4 for a loaf of bread I could get for $1? Often you will find store brands are perfectly acceptable substitutes for name brands. In the case of bread, however, you really do get what you pay for. After trying the better stuff, I confess I may have a harder time going back.
The purists among us will argue the better option is to make bread from scratch. That might be true, but my level of efficiency is not there yet.
I love supporting the deli in our building’s cafeteria. For $7 I could get a fully loaded foot long sandwich and turn any terrible morning into a fantastic afternoon. Yet, imagine the money I would save if I made these sandwiches myself using good quality cheese, lunch meat, and bread! Add some bacon bits, lettuce, pickles, and mayo, and my lunch could be complete. These are things I could easily get for myself from the grocery store and multiply their use across a handful of meals. And I would spend less than the $50 I would have spent at the deli in one week.
Some of you are doing the math. $7 multiplied by 5 only comes out to $35… Listen, if you’re going to buy a sandwich, you may as well get chips and a drink, right? And don’t forget Uncle Sam takes his share of the transaction.
Every little bit adds up.
There are times when the cost of preparing a meal costs more than I would have spent on just ordering the meal in a restaurant. I recently spent almost $30 for ingredients to pull off a chicken pasta recipe. Had I bought a similar meal at a restaurant, I would have likely spent half this amount. And that’s a fair point, but first, I was able to apply those ingredients toward other meals. Second, factor in the cost it would take to get to and from the restaurant, and third, have you considered learning how to fix your favorite meals in a way that could potentially taste better than what you might order from a menu?
Okay, I will never be able to match Chick-fil-A. Everyone knows McDonald’s has the best fries, and no one beats Burger King’s Whopper. Whew! OK, where was I?
Some Product Recommendations
I have always had this weird thing about not using the break room at any of my employers. I know it’s part of office culture, shooting the breeze around the water cooler. Idle chit-chat Is not for me, but that means I’ve had to use a few things to make bringing my lunch more appealing.
This water bottle, ahem, Hydro Flask, keeps my drinks consistently cold throughout the day. I’ve had mine for a few years now, and I have not seen any drop in quality. Easy to use, easy to clean, easy to throw in a bag and not worry about spilling. The size also ensures I stay hydrated for the better part of a nine-hour work day. I thought some of the reviews were exaggerated, but the dang thing really can keep beverages cold for 24 hours. The price is going to startle you, but for me, it’s been well worth it.
Since I am weird and don’t care for the break room, that also means I am not likely to go in there and use the microwave. This mini Crockpot has done a superb job of heating up my food from the comfort of my own desk. Note that when I say “heat,” I really do mean heat and not just lukewarm temperature. I plug it in about an hour before I want to eat, and the food is nice and hot for when I am ready. The pot is about 18 ounces, the perfect size for a hearty helping.
I bought this food jar before I bought the mini Crockpot. This, to me, is best for soups, and the trick is preparing the food jar before you pour in your food contents. You want to fill the container with hot water and let it sit a moment before emptying it and pouring in your hot soup. Other customers say it can retain heat for up to fifteen hours. I’ve only tried it up to seven. The one advantage of this food jar over the Crockpot is the portability of it. With this food jar, you don’t have to plug anything in. I have never experienced anything remotely close to the explosions some of the reviews claim. If I had to guess, I would say some people are tightening the lid more than is necessary.
I love my little desktop refrigerator. It can comfortably fit six 12 ounce cans or four 16 ounce water bottles. Of course I use it to store sandwiches, fruit cups, and other lunch items. I’ve now had it for over a year, and for the price, it does exactly what I need. For beverages, the trick is to cool down the beverage at home in your regular refrigerator. This small fridge is not going to do a great job of making things cold. It works best at keeping things cold. This model has a heating function, but I cannot speak to its efficacy as I’ve never used it for that purpose.
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So, to recap, if you’re spending too much on buying lunch, it’s time to get yourself into the habit of maximizing last night’s dinner. Leftovers are an easy way of covering lunch without splurging on a whole new meal. Spend a little more on good ingredients, and you’ll be able to create something just as tasty to get you through the afternoon.
It’s not that buying lunch is bad. If you do it all the time though, it’ll cease to be a special occasion. There’s no treat in it. Save yourself a little cash, and come Friday, go for the nice dinner to celebrate the end of another work week.
What do you think?