How to save money by preparing a home cooked lunch

How to save money by preparing a home cooked lunch

For most office workers, it’s common knowledge that going out for lunch can get very pricey, especially if you want to enjoy the food. If you’re married and have a family, go ahead and double that expense.

For most Americans, saving money is a constant struggle and spending a little time at your grocer’s could easily save you hundreds, or thousands of dollars per year. The issue for most people is that this takes time and preparation. Once you realize the savings, it more than pays for your time.

Cost effectiveness & more

If you’re buying lunch regularly, these prices won’t be a surprise to you.  Here are the actual numbers for eating out and paying for a sandwich. This does not include chips, fries or a drink.

You will find, at first glance that some of the listed options are just a few dollars, which at first seem reasonable.  But when you factor in making a daily purchase you will find, on the “weekly” column, how quickly the dollars add up.  And these are your everyday restaurants we’re talking about.

Restaurant Cost Weekly Monthly
Subway $3.75 $18.75 $75.00
Togo’s $6.68 $33.40 $133.60
Carl’s Jr. $4.59 $22.95 $91.80
Arby’s $3.29 $16.45 $65.80
Mc Donald’s $4.59 $22.95 $91.80

Putting your money to good use

After taking a closer look at what the daily, weekly and monthly costs add up to, you can see how it makes sense to pack a brown bag lunch as often as you can.  Put very simply, if you just make your own sandwich, you can see how purchasing the ingredients and making your own sandwich make a huge difference.

The ingredients alone add up to barely $9.00 and some pennies. If you purchase those ingredients for an entire month, you’re still not even close to what you would be spending, if you visited one of the frequented fast food restaurants. That money could pay a car note, be an addition to your savings or finance a nice vacation. You can spend one-third of that, if you purchase the ingredients and prepare your lunch at home.

Homemade Sandwich Cost
Bread $1.90
Deli Meat $2.70
Head of Lettuce $1.94
Tomatoes $2.50
Total Weekly Cost $9.04
Total Monthly Cost $36.16

Creativity and preparation

There are several solutions on how to be proactive and save rather than daily spending on eating out for lunch.

Cooking in larger quantities will allow you to have readymade meals for the week.  You can retain their fresh quality by freezing these foods. Then you can defrost it the day you’re ready to eat.

Ideals foods to freeze that would preserve freshness are soups. Part of the important preparation is having the right type of containers where you can store and freeze your food.  If you find it’s a hassle to store your food in individual containers, you can also store in quart-sized containers or even quart-sized zip lock bags.  Zip lock bags are ideal for storing your fresh vegetables. Quart-sized containers are great for storing soups and more liquefied foods.

Grocery shopping

Before you go grocery shopping, plan ahead.  What type of foods do you want to have for lunch?  This planning ahead is the preparation part that will include brainstorming, and  you’ll need to put a list together. If you are unsure of what to prepare, look through quick and easy recipes, for some ideas. Recipes also assist in time management – you’ll know how much time you need and exactly what ingredients to add to your list.

If you often buy a sandwich for lunch, list the ingredients in your shopping list.  That way you’re prepared before you walk in the store. Buy the foods that you would love to eat but that you can easily cook and assemble at home. That $7 sandwich you paid for each day will actually cost you between $2 – 3 when prepared at home. You also have the benefit of knowing exactly what went into making it.
Here’s a simple and easy to prepare lentils recipe.

Delicious and easy-to-prep lentils recipe

  • Boil 3 cups of water add 1 cup of dry lentils.
  • Allow to boil for 15 minutes.
  • Dice, then sauté 1/3 of an onion and a ¼ teaspoon of garlic for 3-5 minutes.
  • At the very end add ¼ of tomato and continue sautéing for 1 minute.
  • Turn off heat and put aside.
  • Add the sautéed ingredients to the cooked lentils and allow to cook, at medium heat for 5 additional minutes.
  • Make sure to use large enough sauce pan as lentils will double or triple in size.

Health benefits

If savings is not enough of an incentive, being healthier is another benefit to home-cooked lunches.  When you prepare your own foods, you’re aware of every single ingredient. If a recipe call for butter and you want to omit it, you can! These are the important decisions made when preparing our own foods that will have an impact on your overall health.

As beneficial as it is to eat your home cooked meals, eating out once in awhile will relieve the humdrum of eating at home. But if you truly want to save money, this is one major area that will make an impact in your budget.

After exploring all the benefits, there seems to be no downside to putting effort into preparing your own lunch. You might find that sparing a few minutes each day, will save you a few thousand dollars.


Is there an office issue YOU know how to resolve that other office workers might benefit from? Write for our blog and get published online. The best part? You get PAID. Learn more now and submit a topic!