The struggle to save money on lunch is very, very real. It’s just so easy to run to your favorite salad spot down the street — and you’re convinced whatever you get there will always taste way better than anything you could bring from home. Besides, would you really be saving that much cash if you brought lunch every day? With the help of three brave women, we set out to answer that very question. Check out the results of their week-long experiment:
The Grocery Guru
Alexandria Butler, Program Manager at NetApp and Freelance Writer
“At the beginning of the week, I went to the grocery store searching for ‘healthy’ ingredients that would be delicious and convenient to prepare, but I quickly realized that all of the healthy and delicious options require some pre-planning. After I went back home to find recipes that would still be good after a couple of days, I decided on three recipes to keep me going throughout the week. On the first day of bringing my own lunch, I decided to avoid all dining halls and ate at my desk. Each time someone passed by with a slice of pizza or a burger from downstairs, though, I cringed. Yes, my homemade risotto was delicious, but I was itching for something extra when my Tupperware container was empty. When I switched things up on Day Three and brought a salad, I was much more excited to eat my meal. Plus, everyone was coming to my desk asking for tips on saving money at lunch. I felt like a guru! A word to the wise? Eat breakfast to avoid getting hungry earlier in the day. Then you won’t feel the need to binge in the dining hall midday.”
The Bottom Line: “I usually average $15 for lunch, or $75 a week. I saved $17 this week by making my own food. This may not seem significant, but if I did this for a month, I would save $70!”
The Lunchtime Worker
Jacqueline V. Twillie, Career Advisor and Leader of Local Levo Atlanta
“The biggest thing I learned this week is that if I plan to bring lunch to work, it needs to be savory so that I’ll actually eat it. On the first day, I brought chicken salad and crackers. I was full but not satisfied, so I walked to a local farmers’ market and purchased walnuts. I was satisfied with them, but I knew it was a mental thing. On Day Two, I brought leftover roast chicken and a mixed green salad, but I didn’t want to eat it so I just didn’t eat at all. I didn’t want my lunch the next two days, either, so I ended up buying bags of chips from the office cafe. I found that if I don’t go out for lunch, I don’t take a lunch break and I work through the hour.”
The Bottom Line: “I usually have lunch meetings and I turned down or rescheduled the meetings due to this experiment, but I would usually spend around $12 for lunch. I saved at least $40 this week on lunch, but I ate less healthy than I typically do.”
The Part-Time Buyer
Jenny Groza, Senior Editor at Levo
“For my lunches this week, I brought either tilapia and potatoes or pasta salad. I always crave sugar after lunch and get kind of headache-y without it, so I also tried to bring yogurt as an afternoon snack to combat that. After eating my lunch, I was always full but not satisfied. I felt like nothing I brought was that good. I should have spent more time prepping food the night before, but I didn’t get home until late every night and my lunches suffered because of it. If I make something for dinner then I’ll be satisfied with leftovers for lunch the next day, but I feel like I’m torturing myself when I make a big vat of pasta salad and then have to eat it for lunch three or four days in a row.”
The Bottom Line: “I like bringing in lunch — saving money makes me happy — but I need to plan ahead more. I usually try to bring in lunch at least twice a week, but when I buy, I usually spend $12 per lunch. By bringing lunch every day, I saved maybe $15. But if I had planned ahead more, I think I could have saved more money.”
Do you bring your lunch to work, or do you buy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
This post was originally published on Levo League by Heather Finn.