Friday, October 24, 2014

What's In Your Lunchbox?

It's 12:30pm on a Thursday, and you are hungry for lunch. What do you do? Do you travel home to eat leftovers? Do you quickly stop by your favorite fast food restaurant for a bite to eat? Do you go out with friends to a restaurant? Or, do you go to the refrigerator where you work and grab your lunchbox?

For the majority of my working career (as well as my time in grade school), I have been an avid fan of bringing my own lunch. Lunch prices at local restaurants continue to increase. It seems that a decent lunch meal at a local sandwich shop can cost $7.00 or more depending what you get, not to mention a tip if you sit at the restaurant to eat the meal. For the last four years, I have basically eaten the same meal for lunch each day; A peanut butter sandwich, small salad, and an apple. Over time, I found ways to save on some of these items as I would purchase them. Recently, I asked myself, how much does my daily lunch indulgence cost me? Putting pen to paper, this is what I found out.

Exhibit A - Lunch Table

As mentioned in a previous post, the bread I buy is Nature's Own from the Dollar Tree. Sometimes, there are sales on the other items as well. Over time, I have tweaked this lunch arrangement somewhat. Recently, I have moved to green leaf lettuce over romaine as green leaf tends to last a few days longer. I have also found that lettuce seems to last longer if purchased from a Food Lion and not WalMart. Most WalMart employees will tell you that they get their lettuce from the same place as Food Lion, and while that may be true, the WalMart lettuce is handled more frequently given the number of shoppers they have. I believe this constant handling of the lettuce probably causes it to go bad sooner. 

Most of the other items on the lunch table show the normal everyday price for that item. At times, I'll find a coupon for dressing or peanut butter and will stock up on a few, but most of the time, I'll pay the normal price for the item. 

Some may be asking, "What kind of salad is just lettuce and dressing?". I must admit from time to time, I will add another vegetable to the salad, but not always. It generally depends what is in the refrigerator and what must be eaten sooner to prevent spoiling. Sometimes the vegetables will add variety.

Also, some might wonder, "Where is the jelly?". When I first started eating this lunch, we really couldn't afford jelly and since it doesn't add much nutritional value (if you buy the normal concord grape) I decided to forgo having it on my sandwich.  

Given the low price of $1.16/day, one might imagine the amount of savings compared to going out to eat each day. In one year, assuming it is $6.00 to go out to lunch, this meal will save you around $1,200. Even if you just bring your lunch two days a week, you will still save over $500.00 in a year. 

Most  understand that it is cheaper to bring their lunch but complain that they do not have the time to prep everything needed for the meal. I'll admit that it does take discipline. I make the majority of my lunches for the week on Sunday night and Wednesday night. 

If you have a tip or suggestion, please feel free to email me at

Happy Saving!