How to Save Money by Brown Bagging Your Lunch

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How often do you "forget" to pack to your lunch and end up buying your lunch? Or maybe it's your plan to just stop at the food court or a fast food restaurant for lunch on the daily, because it's easier. 

I will admit that there are weeks that I feel like I want to be completely lazy and not pack my lunch. I don't enjoy cooking food, so the majority of my meals have to be one pan meals that I can usually just throw in the oven, walk away for an hour and then come back and it's fully cooked. 

I also tend to make a meal that will last me for a week, so after 3 days of eating the same thing for lunch and dinner, I'm done with it, whether it's gone or not. 

So I end up getting lunch at the food court. 

And I know a lot of my coworkers just use the fact that we have a food court in our building to not pack their lunch. It's just easier that way. 

Not only is buying lunch from the food court expensive, especially compared to cooking your own meals at home, it's also unhealthy. These foods are loaded with extra calories, sodium and fat that we don't need. They are covered with grease and oil. 

It's simply a convenience and you pay for this convenience with both your wallet and your body. 

I recently found out that my body does not like dairy at all. And this eliminated almost every single option in our food court for me to eat. If I eat dairy, I feel absolutely horrible for the rest of the day, make several trips to the bathroom and get a headache. 

So that ended my affair with the food court and I started to pack my lunch every single day. I've also started cooking 2-3 times a week and making smaller portions so that I have more variety during the week, end up eating all of my leftovers and don't actually get sick of what I'm eating. 

Our nation is riddled with consumer debt, and one way to help combat the debt situation is to pack your lunch for work every day. This helps you take complete control of your finances, and spend a lot less on your meals.

Packing Lunch is a Lifestyle Change

But for most people, this is going to be one of the best decisions you've ever made. I know for me, it was the best decision I ever made. 

Not only is it really good for my wallet, especially when I don't have the extra money to buy my lunches out, but it's much healthier too. 

With my allergy to dairy, when I prepare my food at home, I know exactly what is in my food because I made it. 

And do you know how hard it is to COMPLETELY eliminate dairy when you've grown up on and are actually forced to eliminate it? 

I keep finding it in everything I eat. But when I eat out, it's in even more of that food, it's almost like restaurants like to sneak that dairy in there, because it's a filler. 

So not only has my wallet gotten a tad bit fatter by me saving money, but I've also gotten healthier and have started losing some extra weight too. 

I now pay much more attention to my food that I'm eating, instead of getting something that looks and/or sounds good. 

Making the decision to pack your lunch is a lifestyle change that you have to make. But I can promise you that it will change your life. 

Saving money and living frugally is not about depriving yourself. You can still enjoy your meals that you prepare yourself. Packing your lunch every day, doesn't mean peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple (unless that's what you really want). 

You really can enjoy what you pack and eat for lunch every day and still save money. 

The Savings That Arise by Packing Your Lunch

You are spending approximately $2500 a year by NOT packing your lunch for work!

When you think about it, the average cost of a meal bought out is anywhere from $7-$13. So when you average that out, we are going to make this really simple, it costs about $10 a meal. 

A working professional who eats out for 5 days a week for an entire calendar year will buy approximately 250 meals out when you calculate in a 2 week vacation and weekends and holidays. 

250 meals out X $10 per meal = $2500 spent on eating out in one year!

If you continue this habit for 10, 20, 30 years, that money really adds up. Plus you add in your partner and you are doubling that amount of money spent on eating out. 

That is a lot of money spent eating out!

Now, if you think about it even more from a money saving perspective, the average cost for a brown bag lunch is around $3. 

So every day that you pack your lunch and forgo the food court, you are essentially saving $7. 

$7 X 5 days in a week = $35 a week saved

OR

$7 X 250 working days a year = $1750 saved in one year!

Look at the cost difference between packing your lunch on a daily basis versus buying your lunch on a daily basis. 

That money really does add up and you could really be saving quite a bit of money by packing your lunch. 

Actually seeing these numbers really puts things into perspective. 

For me, the most eye opening thing I've ever done was tracking every penny I spent. I still to this day track my spending. 

But when I really noticed how much money I was spending on food, I couldn't believe it, especially considering how much food I threw out every week too. 

6 Tips for Making Packing Your Lunch Easy

Plan to have Leftovers with Each Meal You Cook

I have always cooked enough food to make sure that I have leftovers. But my mistake is that I usually cook enough food for like 6 people, which gives me leftovers for about 5 or 6 meals. 

Recently I have cut back on cooking such big portions of meals, and I only cook enough for 3-4 people. 

Part of my reason for this, is that I really don't like cooking. So by cooking one meal a week with enough leftovers for 5 days, I only had to cook twice a week. 

But I was throwing out a lot of the leftovers because after 3 days I didn't want that food anymore. I was sick of it. And I would end up at the food court at work for something that was different than what I made. 

Now I cook at least twice during the week and once or twice on the weekends and make smaller portions of my meals, but still have enough left for leftovers during the week at work. 

Even if you only cook enough so you have one extra portion of your meal, you are still able to pack that for lunch the next day. 

Learn to Like Eating Leftovers

I know so many people who don't enjoy leftovers, so they won't pack their lunch for work. 

But there really is nothing wrong with leftovers. For many foods, leftovers even taste better than they did the first time you cooked the meal. 

One of the best things you can do is begin to like leftovers and this will greatly help you with saving money on a regular basis. 

Keep Your Pantry and Freezer Stocked with Easy Items to Pack for Lunch

You remember to buy snacks and items to keep the kids' lunches packed during the school year, but do you remember to keep the pantry stocked with items for your own lunch? 

When you keep items that are easy to pack in your lunch, like fruit and veggies, it makes it much easier to pack your lunch too. 

You can also include any other snacks that you really enjoy having in your lunch. Just make sure you keep them on hand to make packing your lunch quick and easy. 

Freeze the Extra Food You Make, But Know You Won't Get a Chance to Eat

When you make leftovers, or even buy extra food, you can freeze it if you aren't going to get a chance to eat it before its going to go bad. 

This will not only help you with packing your lunch, but it will also help you save even more money because you are throwing away less food because it went bad or expired. 

Have the Appropriate Lunch Packing Gear

Making sure you have the right gear to actually pack your lunch is essential. 

I love using glass containers to store my food. I bought these glass containers for making my lunch packing needs easier. 

When I use glass, I know that I won't have the scent of another food, the containers don't stain like plastic does and it also has no problem going from the fridge to the stove to the microwave to the fridge to the dishwasher. 

With plastic you can have issues with heating up your food, unlike with glass. 

And you also want to make sure you have a lunch bag. The best time to buy these are during back to school shopping, but there are stores that you can buy these from year round. 

I personally make sure I get an insulated bag, even though my work has a fridge that we just put our whole lunch bag in. 

Make the Commitment to Packing Your Lunch

Packing your lunch for work every day really can be easy. Would you rather save the money that it costs to eat out, as well as the damage eating out does to your body? Or would you prefer to eat healthy food you prepared. 

It really doesn't take that long to pack a lunch when you have the proper gear and keep your pantry stocked with lunch packable food. 

Most days, I have my lunch packed in mere minutes. 

I built a new routine into my life of keeping my kitchen and clean and organized on a daily basis. So every night before I go to bed, I make sure to clean my kitchen, the counters are clean, the sink is empty and anything that I need for lunch the next day is prepared for the next day. 

This means I can just put the items I need for lunch in my lunch bag and go to work. 

As long as you are consistent with your commitment to pack your lunch on a daily basis, you will succeed. Plus, your body will thank you for feeding it better food and your wallet will thank you for the amount of money that you've saved. 

Are you ready to make the commitment to pack your lunch on a daily basis? What excites you most about packing your lunch every day? How often do you regularly pack your lunch right now?