A study done by VISA in 2013, found that on average Americans are going out for lunch two times each week and spending about $10 per meal. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like a hefty expense, but if you do some quick math, you’ll see that dropping $20 a week on Chipotle or Jimmy Johns will end up costing Mister Average-American just over $1,000 a year! Simply bringing your own lunch from home consistently throughout the year could help you save enough money to fund a vacation, pay a month’s worth of rent, or buy a new piece of furniture. Over multiple years, your lunch-packing habit could help you save enough money to contribute a significant amount of cash into a savings account for a home, car, or college without making any other income or lifestyle changes. So if packing your lunch and carrying it to work every day is so awesome, why isn’t everyone doing it?
You know what they say about excuses….
“I don’t have time to pack a lunch.” I can speak based on first-hand crazy, hectic, shouldn’t-have-hit-snooze-twice-and-changed-my-shirt-ten-times experience that it does not take much time to pack a lunch. In fact, it takes less than 5 minutes to make a sandwich; less than 3 minutes to pack last night’s leftovers in to-go containers; less than 30 seconds to grab a yogurt, bag of almonds, and piece of fruit from your refrigerator; and less than 10 seconds to grab a meal out of your freezer. We have all experienced hectic mornings and used these as excuses to skip packing lunch and head out to eat over the noon hour, but simply setting aside 5 minutes each night before you go to bed or setting your alarm clock for 5 minutes earlier will completely eliminate this excuse—ahem, I mean problem.
I would actually be willing to bet that, unless you are eating lunch at a restaurant or cafeteria that is located in your office building, going out to lunch is actually MORE time-consuming from start to finish when you consider travel time, ordering, and waiting for your food.
“Going out to eat tastes better” Well, having someone else wash and style my hair for me is better than doing it myself, but does that mean I’m going to indulge myself every day? I would have to agree that many restaurants serve foods that taste better than the stuff that comes out of my kitchen, but is lunch really the time to treat your palate to five star delicacies? For me, the answer is not so much. I am willing to sacrifice the experience of an extraordinary workday lunch to save that money for a more enjoyable and extraordinary dinner with friends or family. And remember that just because it’s not AWESOME doesn’t mean it has to be awful. I DO like everything that I put in my lunchbox—that is how I choose what I buy it at the grocery store.
“I need a mental break from work” Of all the anti-lunch packing excuses, this is the one that I identify with most. It does feel pretty darn good to give yourself a mental break away from your desk near the midpoint of your workday, buuuuut there are other ways to achieve this goal without dropping 10 bucks on a meal. I used to work with a girl who would follow eating the healthy lunch she packed for herself with a 15 minute walk every single day— pure genius! Getting back to the grind is always more difficult once your belly is full, so that is all the more reason to find a BETTER way to mental break. Pick up a healthy habit that helps you gain some sanity without spending money! Instead of going out for lunch, I keep myself mentally intact (and more productive at work) by taking short walks to get away from the computer screen and consulting with colleagues in more enjoyable places/situations (um, yes the playground is still more fun than the classroom).
What are your tips and tricks to saving money over the noon hour and packing a lunch without complicating your life?