Mom Says I Should Bring My Lunch to Save $ But I Don’t Think I Would

TO: Logan
FROM: Jane
SUBJECT: Settle this money debate?????

I just started a big fancy corporate  job, and there’s a subsidized cafeteria! Since discovering this magical land, I am easily eating 2 meals a day here—$3 for breakfast, $5-8 dollars for lunch. I’m rejoicing in this happy thing that will cost at most $11, for two meals a day. Mom says that “that adds up, Jane!” and thinks I could save by bringing my lunch or breakfast a couple times a week.

I think this is just a common misconception that ‘cooking at home really is cheaper.’ Groceries are expensive! Making lunch costs money. It’s New York City! Tupperware costs money. I think I am probably spending around what I’d spend to bring these two meals to work.

Mike Dang probably has a casserole that would debunk my theory, but: I think subsidized cafeterias costs the same as cooking meals at home! (OK, not the same amount of money as eating rice and beans two meals a day for eternity.) For most of us, those of us who are not culinary or financial geniuses, is it cheaper to eat in the cafeteria?

Is this a thing? Does anyone else out there think subsidized cafeterias are the holy grail? Is my Mom (as usual) really still right?

SOLVE MY PROBLEMS, LOGAN.

TO: Jane
FROM: Logan
Subject: Re: Settle this money debate?????

Your mom is right that $11/day adds up. (Math.)

She is also right that you could save money by bringing your lunch to work. You could make a big pot of stew and eat it for a week. That is something that you could do. You could also only eat saltines, ever. You could buy a pack of saltines and have that be your food for the week and you would spend $5/week on food. You would also be hungry. And have dry mouth. Scurvy.

But:

My belief is that you are not just spending $11/day on bagels and salads. You are paying for foodstuffs, yes, but what you are actually paying for is to not have to think about breakfast and lunch.

Because you are buying breakfast and lunch at the cafeteria every day,  you never have worry about what you’re going to eat.

You don’t have to make lunch, or worry about making lunch, or forget to make lunch, or feel bad about not making lunch. You don’t have to decide which grocery store to go to get things to make your lunch and then you also don’t have to the grocery to get those things to make your lunch. You don’t have to stare at the bread and wonder if you should get the kind with the little nut things or the other kind without the little nut things? Which will last longer? Which has more soluble dietary fiber? Which will taste best with either sweet OR savory toppings? And speaking of, should you get real Nutella or the fake Nutella? And should you get natural peanut butter or regular? Creamy or crunchy? Deli cuts or tuna? Organic or not organic?

You’re paying $11/day to not make hundreds of decisions AND you get food. Tell your mom that you’re getting a deal.

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67 Comments / Post A Comment

Dancercise (#94)

Why would you ever, ever get fake Nutella?

julebsorry (#1,572)

@Dancercise Because you’re in Amsterdam, and the fake nutella is waaaay cheaper and you wonder “oh wow, maybe this will be some sort of special, amazing find I can tell everyone about later!” (it won’t be, unfortunately).

KatNotCat (#766)

@Dancercise The “fake” Nutella at my old Wegmanns was both cheaper and had more hazelnuts and less sugar. It also had woodland creatures on the label. 4 reasons for fake Nutella (and Wegmanns).

Mike Dang (#2)

(This is coming from someone who makes a conscious decision to pack his lunch every day.) I don’t know what Jane likes to eat or what her habits are (grocery shopping, or otherwise). So, I think Jane should try a little experiment: Do a week where you bring your lunch, and track what you spend on food (including whatever you’re spending for dinner). Then, do a week where you buy your lunches from the cafeteria, and do the same tracking. Compare the spending for the two weeks and see if bringing your lunch would actually save you money.

Personally, $55 a week is what I’d typically spend on a week’s worth of groceries for all of my meals. And it’s not about the savings for me, but the food. In the past, whenever I’ve run out to buy a sandwich or salad or falafel or whatever was near the office for lunch it was purely out of the need to consume something for lunch to give me the energy to power through the rest of the workday. I don’t really recall anything particularly amazing I had for lunch—they were all simply good enough to eat at the time. So a loaf of bread, a bottle of mustard, some sliced turkey from the deli, and a bag of baby carrots for around $15 total is good enough to get me through the lunch week.

I reallocate the money I’m not spending on lunch on going out to restaurants with friends, so I’m not really saving any money, but those are the meals I look back on and fondly remember. I remember going to Hill Country BBQ, or Pok Pok, or Momofuku Noodle Bar, or Minetta Tavern, or a number of other places where we said “salud” and ate ourselves silly. I’m more than happy to give up five unmemorable days of buying lunches for one memorable night of food with friends. Of course, your cafeteria may be the most amazing thing ever, and if so, ignore everything I just said.

janestreet (#1,123)

@Mike Dang haha, there maaaaay have been a reason i sent that to logan and not you… ;)

but! I’m really bad at packing lunch. logan’s response made me laugh so hard i cried because it’s ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE. i imagine there are a lot of us out there like this.

and the cafeteria is pretty good! today: $10.50 got me two eggs and a bagel for breakfast and made-to-order pasta and a soda. $10.50 total! I still think that’s nutsy coocoo value.

Mike Dang (#2)

@janestreet In that case, you milk that cafeteria for everything it’s got! I’m not the sort of person who tells people to bring their lunch when it causes them mental anguish every day. I’m much more realistic than that.

wearitcounts (#772)

yeah, just purely money-wise, it’s way cheaper to make your lunch and breakfast. i spend about the same amount as Mike Dang, for the entire week, on all of my food. including ingredients for breakfast/lunch at work every weekday. but i bring everything in and leave it in the fridge and make my lunches fresh each day, so i don’t tend to forget stuff. which i guess helps the mental anguish part? but spending $55 on just breakfast/lunch at work mon-fri would stress me out.

Megano! (#124)

@janestreet well I guess if you REALLY wanted to cut back you could do breakfast at home instead.

cmcm (#267)

@Mike Dang It is my goal in life to think and spend like Mike Dang.

julebsorry (#1,572)

@janestreet My subsidized cafeteria has roasted artichoke hearts on the salad bar(with bottles of lemon juice and olive oil for dressing) which is basicallymy favorite food, ever. Boxes of frozen hearts are about $5, or I can gorge myself on low-cal, pre-made, delicious awesome artichokes and other veggies for about $4.50. It’s not even a question for me :)

@janestreet I also have a cafeteria at my work (in a hospital)! I am really bad at bringing my lunch but I also get tired of the food in the cafeteria. I feel really good about myself when I DO bring a lunch from home! I do best when I make a whole lot of something good for dinner the night before and call dibs on the leftovers. Or I try to buy something really delicious from the store, but I’m not sure how much money that saves.

Keck (#2,466)

Just figure out how many minutes (after taxes) you have to work to make $11 and then decide if it’s still worth it. This system is a good one to help me decide just how badly I want something. I calculated that I would have to work about 20 minutes to earn an $11 lunch out, but only around 5 minutes to earn the lunch I brought today (dinner leftovers). Pb&j would cost less than a minute.

Hi Jane, I think we might be working for the same company as we also have 3 dollars breakfast and 6 dollars lunch. As for me, I generally always bring lunch and have breakfast twice or thrice a week at the office cafeteria.

Let’s be honest here. Packing own lunch is any day cheaper than spending 6-7 dollars. I generally bring a turkey or ham sandwich, pasta, quinoa or sautéed vegetables with bread for lunch. Let’s say I am spending 4 dollars on meat, cheese, and bread. That’s 12 dollars. I make 4-5 meals out of this, so its approximately 2.5 dollars a meal. That is saving of 4-5 dollars a day and about 100 dollars a month. (If I make pasta it is even cheaper as I make enough for 2 servings and don’t have to worry about dinner).

I had a hard time getting into the habit of packing my own lunch but now it has become a second nature and I don’t have to think about it any more. Also if I haven’t brought your lunch and cafe is serving which I absolutely hate (like Rabbit ragu pasta) I am stuck.

Also, the cafe at my work allows people to bring their own lunches so I can enjoy company of my co workers as well.

Trilby (#191)

Don’t know if this figures in your thinking, but the cafeteria food probably harbors a lot of hidden fat, salt and sugar, which they put in to make it taste semi-good. You can make cheaper and healthier stuff at home. Do you ever cook dinner at home? If so, cook extra and bring to work. But you kids, you do what you want!

JitterBug (#1,972)

@Trilby That’s exactly what I thought. Healthiness is another thing that needs to be factored in as well as money.

SnarlFurillo (#2,538)

I don’t know if this will make anyone feel better or worse, but I got all inspired about saving money on lunch by this old post (I splurged on a jar of jelly too!) and did this happily for months until my roommates found out and got mad at me for hoarding food bought with our common grocery money. Now if I want a peanut butter sandwich for lunch I have to make it at home every morning.

YOUR LIFE COULD BE WORSE IS WHAT I’M SAYING.

sintaxis (#2,363)

@SnarlFurillo Or you just just buy the ingredients you need with your own money, you know.

SnarlFurillo (#2,538)

@sintaxis I can’t believe you just told me I would shoot my eye out.

readyornot (#816)

I think that what Logan, Mike, Bill, and Pawan are all saying is that there are tradeoffs in your meal choices. Whether you measure out the cost in dollars or hours of work or fancy shared restaurant meals out or the mental burden of choice, it’s still a tradeoff. Advantages of cafeteria: convenience, less mental hassle, variety, socializing. Advantages of bringing food from home: control over ingredients, and it really is cheaper, like it or not. Even though the cafeteria is cheaper than non-subsidized deli lunch, it’s still more expensive than making food on your own.

And you get to weigh which one you prefer or mix it up and bring lunch some days and not others.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Man, I frequently end up bringing some raggedy-ass shit for my work lunch, but it always tastes fine or good and is way cheaper than even the cheapest buy-out option (Jimmy John’s, $5.40?). One of my lunches last week was microwave brown rice ($1.50), a cut-up mango ($1), and a pouch of frozen spinach ($1.29), with sesame oil and soy sauce. Even assembled out of convenience foods, it was STILL cheaper and way more wholesome and healthful. Sorry dude, $10.50 for pasta, eggs, bread, and soda is not a deal.

wearitcounts (#772)

@aetataureate yeah i was actually thinking about the math — a dozen eggs? $3 max. a sleeve of bagels? another $3. a box of pasta is like $2, a can of pasta sauce is like $3 and a 12-pack of soda is $5. you could cook all the pasta and hard boil all the eggs on sunday night, portion it out, and have that exact lunch all week for less than $20.

iffie (#1,911)

@wearitcounts oh yeah, five days of eating hard boiled eggs sounds like the best plan ever. adding this to the my favorite ways to save money right after the “always figure out exactly 15% and you will be saving PENNIES!” article.

my life is way too short for all this misery.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@iffie Hahahaha. As opposed to whatever preparation she had the two eggs and a bagel in the article? “All this misery”? I love the histrionics of these reactions.

wearitcounts (#772)

@iffie actually, i’d love if i could eat hard boiled eggs five times a week. i recently discovered i’m allergic to eggs and i do miss them terribly. but if i eat them, i’m miserable; it’s like a bad breakup.

joking aside, i didn’t intend any misery or offense. i was really just pondering the math of it all. i’d choose to save money and have the same food, but do more work. that’s just me. i don’t expect anybody else to do this. and, to be fair, saving money by not tipping sufficiently hurts other people; saving money by choosing to pack your own lunch is just about spending money on yourself. i don’t think it’s a very fair comparison, misery-wise. but, if eating the same eggs every day makes you miserable, definitely don’t do it! self-imposed misery is not at all something i would recommend in the name of saving money.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wearitcounts Oh nooo eggs are amazing! ACK!

wearitcounts (#772)

@aetataureate I KNOW IT IS THE WORST

Bill Fostex (#573)

@iffie 5am: arise; 5:20am: eat egg; 5:45am: brisk jog; 7am: eat two eggs; 7:30am: one hour of self-flagellation; 8:45am: eat egg; 9am: egg studies; 12pm: eat three eggs; etc. etc. THAT’S THE LIFE OF AN EGG MONK, IFFIE! P.S. HOW LONG DO YOU SUPPOSE ‘TIL THIS ALL-CAPS BUSINESS FALLS OUT OF FAVOR?

faustbanana (#2,376)

I go through waves of being responsible about bringing my lunch, but always fall back into my bad habit of buying both breakfast and lunch at some point. When I do bring it I try to make it fun (slices of lunch meat so I can bite out the eyes and mouth and be “Meatface”) and I always write myself a note on a napkin telling me how proud I am of myself for bringing my lunch. OK, none of that was true except the first sentence. If I have something good to bring, like dinner leftovers, I am all about bringing my lunch. But sandwiches from home or a tupperware full of white rice doused with soy sauce packets from my desk drawer are a little too depressing in the scheme of my already-depressing job.

I fall back into buying sometimes because of a. laziness b. need reason to leave cubicle. But mostly (a).

sockhop (#546)

@faustbanana oh my god, “Meatface”

faustbanana (#2,376)

@sockhop That’s me(at)!

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I think it’s silly to talk about this as if $11 means the same thing to everyone. If you’re making $500,000 a year, you’re probably not going to miss that $11 a day. If you’re making $20,000 a year, you probably are going to miss it. It’s definitely cheaper to bring food from home, but you have to look at your overall financial picture to decide whether the savings are significant to you.

I eat breakfast at home and bring lunch to work. To me, the key is to pack my lunch the night before, because I am definitely not organized enough to do any lunch-packing in the morning.

julebsorry (#1,572)

@WhyHelloThere I think this is it, exactly. I already have to haul my laptop into work every day, along with (usually) a pair of heels to change into, and a gym bag with gym clothes. Getting all that together in the morning is already challenging enough, and it’s so bulky I don’t want to add a lunch bag to the mix b/c I’ll feel like some sort of NYC sherpa. Add on top of that a job that’s not always the most stimulating, and there’s a lot to be said for ducking out for a nice, hot, premade lunch. I can afford it, and it improves my quality of life in several ways. Everyone’s situation is different.

I work with a bunch of boys (and a few men – but mostly boys) and going on lunch outings is sometimes the only way to be apart of the club. That said, a good sit down lunch near the office (which may or may not include a beer) runs me between $12 – $18. That’s too much for one meal, let alone 5 of those a week.

This week one of the guys and I decided we would bring our lunch. It IS cheaper and generally healthier, but it requires eating it at our desks. It’s awful. There is nothing I hate more than having someone come up to me at my cubicle while I’m trying to elegantly stuff a homemade chicken salad sandwich into my face and ask me something job related – OR WORSE – asks me what I’m eating. It’s awful.

Not saying it’s worth $75/week ($300 a month!!!) to avoid chit chat with people I would never have a meal with, but there has to be some compromise.

@Kara M & Lisa L@twitter Is there a breakroom or other space generally away from your desk to munch?

selenana (#673)

@Kara M & Lisa L@twitter I hear this! I try to bring my lunch when I get it together enough (I have a delicious sandwich today) but my lunch break is unpaid and I refuse to eat at my desk under the fluorescent lights in my open-plan office. Now that it’s too cold to eat in the park, I usually take my sandwich to a coffee shop. So I spend $2-3 on a beverage. Still cheaper than lunch.

@selenana I had not thought about bringing lunch to a coffee shop. That is a fantastic idea. AND the idea of getting a beverage makes eating a sandwich out of a baggie less depressing.

We do have a kitchen, but there is one small table which is usually reserved for one small woman who has worse social skills than myself. I’d try making friends, but I fear she’d knock my tray into my face and steal my tater tots.

EM (#1,012)

I try and bring my lunch and I eat breakfast at home but whaaaat about all the money I spend on Pocky to eat at my desk? There is no “make it yourself” equivalent of delicious Pocky.

I’ve never run the numbers, but buying stuff I can make for lunch (or dinner, if I’m working the night shift) is a pretty well ingrained habit, so for me buying lunch is usually not a question of “spend money on this instead of groceries” but “I already spent money on groceries and now I’m spending more money and also my perishable groceries are going to go to waste if I don’t eat them”.

Plus the selection of food places I like and can get to and back on my meal break is limited and not substantially better than what I can make for myself. There are still times when I slip up and don’t make anything and buy lunch/dinner a lot, but I frequently end up with buyer’s remorse.

auxamandes (#2,102)

i do a lazy person’s bring lunch to work: buy lots of yogurt, fruit, granola bars that i can just grab, throw in a bag, absolutely no preparation involved. not the most exciting lunches, but good for when you don’t have the energy to make a sandwich/salad/whatever (as easy as those are, those 20 minutes in the morning are precious!). even buying one of those microwave soup or frozen meal deals (trader joe’s ones are pretty good!) only runs $2-4, and saves $ for important things, like beer.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@auxamandes Oh gosh, I am also dangerously interested in TJ’s microwaveable noodle items.

laluchita (#2,195)

@auxamandes For reals. Three dollars for breakfast seems a little silly since you could easily keep cereal/oatmeal/frozen waffles at your work and still eat there but for pennies on the dollar. Also, seriously trader joe’s frozen indian and thai foods are super delicious. They could get depressing if you eat them every day but for the “omg I don’t have any leftovers/lunch ingredients” days, you can have a filling delicious lunch in your freezer for $3.50. I had big hopes for the Campbells hipster soup in a bag, but I tried two of them and the chicken tastes weirdly fishy and they were kind of gross…

laluchita (#2,195)

@laluchita Also I love Logan but I feel like maybe the whole “packing lunch is stressful just buy it” thinking is probably how she ended up with no money in her bank account :-/

sockhop (#546)

@auxamandes I am the same way with my lunch habits! Mostly because I am too lazy/procrastinate too much at night to make the next day’s lunch, and am always rushing in the morning. It’s just easier for me to grab super-portable items like fruit/yogurt/crackers. Those Luna Chocolate Peppermint Stick bars have changed my life, they are so insanely delicious. The only problem is trying not to eat them every day.

@auxamandes I cannot wait until they finish the Trader Joes slated to go up one block from my apartment.

ThatJenn (#916)

@stuffisthings I cannot wait until the one that I think is the first one ever in Florida opens a couple of miles from me… NEXT WEEK. I am stupidly excited about the frozen food.

dotcommie (#662)

i am in grad school so i will talk about UTILITY CURVES. this all depends on your preferences and willingness to pay (read=ability to pay). if you prioritize convenience over thrift, and can afford it, there’s nothing morally wrong with it. i, on the other had, love to cook and prefer to bring my leftovers for lunch, but i also work full time and am in school so have no time at all and would rather buy a disgusting amount of panera soup than bring a sad, thrown-together sandwich.

Over the years, eating out has become less of a pleasure (also, I now work in the burbs so cheap AND tasty food is not plentiful… no food courts nearby!) and while I love a meal out at a good place, I’m not willing to spend $ on subpar food. I spend about $60 a week on groceries including lunches, aside from the odd day when I do decide to buy lunch either because I’ve run out of food/time or just want something different.

Also, my partner and I are both currently down with the death flu virus from hell, and not up to cooking, so we’re spending stupid amounts on buying comforting foods. Bad week for money.

tenya (#833)

I work nights, so “breakfast” at home = dinner with my husband, then although my work has a relatively cheap cafeteria I prefer to bring leftovers – usually a pasta dish, rice dish, or soup, something easily microwavable and not too fussy. My work is almost always has the thermostat too low so salads and cold sandwiches are just really unappealing. I try to bring some kind of snack too, like some fruit or hummus with veggies or something, especially if I’m working a long shift.

cmcm (#267)

The thing I’ve learned about myself is that no matter how good my intentions of making my lunch in the morning, it will never happen. However! I can force myself to not purchase my lunch each day by bringing all of the ingredients to work and assembling it there. So I am the crazy woman at work with a desk drawer full of nuts, peanut butter, dried fruit, granola bars, packets of mayonnaise…

wearitcounts (#772)

@cmcm i do this too! it is perfect. we have a really big fridge and kitchen so i’m able to bring in a week’s worth of breakfast/lunch stuff and make it fresh every day.

elleohelle (#2,798)

This post is really relevant to my interests at the moment. I am currently in the process of switching from a dead end job that paid really well, to a job with my dream company that I can see a future with, but I will have next to no disposable income because I am taking a huge pay cut. I used to buy lunch all the time out of convenience and because I could afford it, but now I am probably looking at $20/week to spend on groceries for lunches. Anyone have any good easy and inexpensive lunch suggestions?

thenotestaken (#542)

@elleohelle Making a big batch of a grain/veggie/protein mixture is super cheap, especially if you use beans as your protein. Rice with stir-fried veggies and tofu is an example, or I like this or this with quinoa.

CheeseLouise (#54)

@elleohelle You can google basically that exact phrase “good easy inexpensive lunch” and get 6.5 billion results, but those are subjective terms so they’re not all going to work for you. What are your likes and dislikes, dietary restrictions, and cooking/assembly options at work? Microwave, fridge, etc? I’m in a similar (if not slightly stricter) situation and I make something in the crockpot every Sunday, take a ton to work on Monday, and eat it all week. Just as an example, this week I did a pork butt (5.25 lb., $9.50 plus onions, garlic and spices for maybe another dollar), coleslaw (super cheap, like $.25/head for cabbage plus homemade dressing with maybe $.75 worth of ingredients), green beans (frozen, $1.29/bag), and hamburger buns ($1.99). This made pulled pork sandwiches with green beans and coleslaw, which to me is a good lunch. You have to not mind eating the same thing every day though with this big batch cooking. Mike Dang mentioned stews, also super easy and great in winter if you’re in cold weather. Etc. etc. etc. It’s fun for me to menu plan and cook though, so my definition of easy might not be the same as yours.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

@elleohelle I like to cook some quinoa and then sautee some veggies with some sliced up precooked chicken sausages and mix them together. Add cilantro or another herb, portion out, and you have at least 4 lunches for pretty cheap. Another thing that’s good is to cook up some onion and carrot with ginger, garlic and ground coriander and mix with garbanzo beans and some pearl cous cous. That’s today’s moroccan-style lunch.

lizard (#2,615)

how do you have a fancy corporate job and cant figure out 11$ a day will add up. get some sandwich fixings and there ya go. im not saying eat the same boring thing but dear lord lunch doesnt have to be an adventure for the taste buds.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@lizard I hate this concept that it’s okay for lunch to be boring. I love food. Food is one of the things that makes me happy in life. If I’m going to pack lunch (which I do most days) then it needs to be interesting and delicious and make me happy, just like any other meal I cook. That means that yesterday, I brought a container of homemade three-bean and sweet potato chili, with another little bitty container that held some diced up avocado spritzed with lime juice to keep it from browning, and a clementine. Why shouldn’t I be able to have interesting food for lunch? If the only thing in my kitchen to pack that day is a peanut butter sandwich, then I’m buying lunch that day, and cooking something for dinner that will provide new interesting leftovers for lunch!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@RachelG8489 Is complexity what makes food good to you? That kind of bums me out. Because seriously, a really good peanut butter sandwich is magical, and the fact that it costs so little in money AND effort just adds to the magic.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@aetataureate Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE a good pb&j, but only when I actually want a pb&j. When it’s a default based on having nothing I can pack for lunch besides bread and peanut butter, then I’m grumpy and don’t want it. Every once in a while I pack a lunch that is total elementary school nostalgia: peanut butter sandwich, a piece of fruit, some cookies. And I can be thrilled with that lunch! But nostalgia lunch is not emotionally equivalent to no food in the apartment lunch.

janestreet (#1,123)

@RachelG8489 but okay, how much does that cost? i used to do this epic butternut squash soup but it was like 5/serving!!! that’s nuts. i’ll take my caf turkey burger over making soup.

because what you describe — that’s what i like to do and find that it’s expensive!

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@janestreet My chili? Three cans of beans, probably a dollar each. One big can and one small can of diced tomatoes, but I am picky about my canned tomatoes (Muir Glen fire roasted forever!) so probably $4-5 worth of tomatoes. A big ass onion, a bell pepper, and a sweet potato, $2.50? And I already own all the spices, so that’s it unless I need to replace something. And that’s like 5-6 servings right there, for maybe $10 or a little more. The avocado boosts the cost, obviously, but the chili is under $2 a serving.

@RachelG8489 I’m sorry, but you’re calling this chili and THERE’S NO MEAT?? Travesty!

littleoaks (#1,801)

Maybe try out buying only one meal a day in the cafeteria and comparing the costs? You will almost certainly find that it’s cheaper. If you can afford it, the extra cost might worth it to you if the food’s tasty and your level of anxiety is lower, I don’t know, but I think the experiment is worth a try.

I buy lunch about once a week and pack my lunch the remaining days. It’s definitely cheaper for me–my $45/week grocery bill would cover five days out for a fast casual lunch, but no meals beyond that. But the savings aren’t my only reason for bringing rather than buying: Packing a lunch is part of my routine now, so I don’t feel stressed by it. I usually eat healthier. Even though there are plenty of good options in the neighborhood I work in, but, like Mike said above, I’d usually rather spend my dollars for a fun meal with friends than on a rushed work lunch.

Also, I have a couple of places that I can bring my lunch to when I want to get out of the office–rooftop when the weather’s nice, food court when it’s not–so I don’t feel like my sandwich and I are chained to my desk.

Also, I make REALLY delicious sandwiches.

lhorntx (#2,302)

@littleoaks Please share some of these delicious sandwich recipes. I’ve recently started adding Muenster cheese to my turkey sandwiches, which makes them taste SO much better. But other than that and PB&J, I have no other options.

littleoaks (#1,801)

@lhorntx Gladly! My favorite sandwich lately has been turkey and avocado with a few good shakes of Cholula hot sauce.

Other good turkey sandwich add-ons:
-hummus
-pepper jack and pickles
-veggie cream cheese
-buffalo sauce, sprinkle of blue cheese and baby spinach (I know this sounds kinda weird, but it works)

A couple of my favorite non-turkey options:
-roast beef with sriracha and a little swipe of mayo
-curry chicken salad
-caprese: tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic (downside is that the individual ingredients don’t last all that long without going bad, but it’s so good, especially with a dollop of avocado)

Sturdy bread is key! Squishy bread=sadness. If you can toast your bread and assemble your sandwich at work, even better.

LocalGirl (#2,800)

I need to share our system. Two coworkers and I share the grocery tab on a weeks worth of Trader Joe’s fare. One week I pay, next week coworker A pays, third week coworker B pays. We get hot and tasty meals that always have a veggie or fruit. Some are healthier than others, and two days a week we make a salad based lunch. 4th week of the month, it’s every woman/man for her/himself. It works out really well. We have a great variety of food, it reduces the stress of “What are we going to eat today?” and makes our coworkers jealous. Plus our bills are usually about $45-50 bucks a week. So you get three weeks of lunches for $45-$50 each. Not bad, that’s like $3.33 a meal, right?

ThatJenn (#916)

Most people seem to fall heavily on one side or the other, but I really like making bringing my lunch a default (3+ days per week) but definitely eating out when (a) there’s a special on something I like, (b) I have a reason to celebrate (I like to do this when I have someone to meet for lunch, as a special treat), or (c) there is just no time/energy to pack lunch. But I make sure to pack lunch 3 days per week so I appreciate eating out more.

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