Have you ever stopped to think about how much you spend on work lunches? Whether you work outside the home or are a stay-at-home mom (we work too!), lunch can be one of those expenses that seem insignificant until you look at the big picture.
If you’re looking for ideas to save money on work lunches, I have a few tips below, but first I want to do a little math to see how much you might be spending.
Let’s say you eat out for lunch 3 days a week. Each time you average $10.00, whether it’s fast food or something a little more expensive like Panera or Chipotle.
$10.00 x 3 days a week = $30.00
$30.00 x 48 weeks: $1,440
That’s quite a bit of money in the grand scheme of things! Here are some ways you can stop some of that spending and enjoy cheaper lunches:
Budget money to eat out
Completely cutting out your restaurant lunches may not be an option, or even something that you want to do! If you still want to enjoy lunch out, give yourself a set budget of how much you can spend per week, and how often. Even cutting back to 2 days a week instead of 5 can save you some big money.
When I was working, I told myself I could only use the cash I received as tips to buy lunch; I couldn’t touch my debit card. If it helps, put some money in an envelope, just like in Dave Ramsey’s envelope system, to keep you accountable.
Eating leftovers is the biggest way we save money on work lunches. The dinners I make produce a lot of leftovers, so we always have a hot, home-cooked meal available for lunch. Now, we’re a family of 3 so my dinners guarantee leftovers; if you have a larger family, this may not be an option.
Make a large recipe to eat throughout the week
If leftovers aren’t your thing, or you simply can’t get any from your dinners, then bulk-cooking lunches for the week may be your best option. It may seem like a lot of work preparing a week’s worth of lunches in one day, but trust me, this saves you so much money. You can make your recipes as simple or as complicated as you want.
Here are some examples:
Chili- This recipe makes 8 servings, and it’s so easy to throw everything in the slow cooker Sunday morning and package them individually that evening.
Santa Fe beans and rice with chicken- This is a recipe I’ve shared before, but I can’t stop talking about it! Cook the chicken in the slow cooker, shred it with your Kitchen Aid mixer if you have one, and assemble everything together. I’ve frozen these before and they’re perfect for a quick take-and-go lunch.
Wraps- Some wraps may not keep very well if you prepare every single one on a Sunday evening, especially if you put sauce on them. One option would be to cook the required ingredients ahead of time (chicken, bacon, etc.) and assemble everything but the sauce in a large container. That way, you can make each wrap the morning before work and just add the sauce then to keep them fresh. Here are some of my favorites:
Salads- I’m a big fan of salads for lunch. Usually it’s because I sometimes have random meats and vegetables laying around that need used up, so I grab a large mixing bowl and just go to town. Salads might take a little longer to prepare in bulk, but it’s worth it to have something healthy ready for lunch! I like this post by Barefeet in the Kitchen; she shows you how to eat a salad every day and like it!
Bento boxes- Oh my gosh, have you seen Bento box lunches? They’re segmented containers that you can put pretty much whatever you want in, and there are so many combinations on Pinterest! Bento boxes are popular with kids’ lunches, but adults can enjoy a healthy lunch, too. One section can be for your protein (meat, cheese, peanut butter), one for cut-up vegetables like carrot sticks, another for fruit… the possibilities are endless.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on lunches! These tips will help put money back in your pocket and let you enjoy your work lunches every day.
Do you have any other tips on saving money on lunches? Be sure to share below in the comments!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.