Don't feel like spending $10 every day at Chipotle for lunch? I don't blame you. Lunch can be one of the biggest money pits, especially if you work in an office. When everyone's ordering out and you're crunched for time, it's easy to get caught up in the mix.
The average American spends nearly $1,000 on ordering out lunch every year. And if you like to order out more often, you can easily wind up spending over $2,000.
The really bad part about buying lunch every day is it's one of those expenses that you don't think about too much until you're looking for ways to save money. But it adds up... Quickly!
But not to worry, I have your back. If you're tired of spending hundreds of dollars every week on lunch, try these tips out to save a few bucks and probably even shave off a few pounds while you're at it. Most people aren't ordering salads when they're buying lunch. You know who you are!
1. Meal Prep
The number one excuse most of us make for not bringing lunch to work is we don't have time to cook. While that's usually not true, you can still get past that excuse by prepping your meals in advance.
At my last job this was the only thing that kept me from eating Subway every day. I would cook my meals two days a week. Once on Sunday and again on Wednesday. Sunday's meals were for Monday-Wednesday and the stuff I cooked on Wednesday were for Thursday and Friday.
The reason I recommend splitting it up like this rather than cooking everything in one day is because the food will be fresher and you can switch up what you're eating.
All you have to do is get some meal prep containers (these are the ones I use) and look up some recipes. Most of the stuff I cook comes from Fit Men Cook. His recipes are super simple and affordable.
Here's one of my favorites.
2. Make a Big Dinner
If meal prepping isn't your thing, you can try this instead. When you make your dinner, make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
It'll save you money because you're only buying ingredients for one recipe instead of cooking something for lunch and then a different meal for dinner.
You'll also be spending about the same amount of time cooking so it kicks the "not enough time" excuse right out the door.
3. Add Variety
One of the reasons you're resorting to ordering out for lunch is probably because you get to try a bunch of different foods. But when you make your own lunch, you're probably limiting yourself to the few meals you know how to make. But turkey sandwiches get boring really quick.
Spice things up by trying new recipes (again, Fit Men Cook is a great resource) or just trying new spices on the foods you like to eat. It's amazing how big a difference swapping your seasonings can make.
I just ordered a 6-pack of spices from The Spice Cave and I can put each one on chicken, turkey or whatever and it's like eating six completely different meals.
4. Look for Lunch Specials
Ok, so let's be 100% realistic here. Most people aren't going to bring their lunch to work every day. But that doesn't mean you still can't save money.
Instead of going for the big full-sized meals you normally get from restaurants, why not look for local places to eat that have lunch specials? Healthier places like Subway have lunch specials that'll stop you from overeating and save a couple bucks at the same time.
Most lunch specials are less than $10 for a complete meal, including a drink. Still try to look for healthier options though. A three piece fried chicken meal with fries and a soda might be a great deal, but eating such a heavy meal will probably lower you energy levels and start adding on the pounds over time.
The next time you're tempted to head out to a local restaurant for lunch, consider how much money you could save by using one of these alternatives.
What are some of your favorite money-saving lunch recipes? Leave a comment and let me know!