I know people who try to convince themselves that they can buy lunch every day for less than they would spend if they brought a packed lunch to work. This kind of faulty thinking may be the reason why these same people complain that they don’t make enough money to save any. Eating out for lunch day after day is expensive. Here, let me do the math: $15 x 5 days = $75 x 50 weeks = $3,750 per year. This is just a quick estimate.

If you can cut that number in half by bringing your own lunch to work, you’ll still have $1,875 left in your savings account. However, I’m sure that with the right motivation (money in the bank is great), you can do better than that.

But will you do it? Would you conscientiously transfer $35 or more into your savings account each week to reward your brown bag efforts? Only you can answer this question, but I have every confidence that you will.
The secret to brown filling success is twofold: it must be visually appealing and it must be delightfully delicious.

Invest in a good lunch container

For me, the real brown bag is too flimsy. I want a lunch bag that’s insulated, sturdy, leak-proof, and as attractive as possible. Take a trip to Amazon, search for “lunch bags” and you’re sure to find hundreds to choose from that are as practical as they are cute. Look for one made of neoprene and insulated with a zipper closure. The test of a good lunch container is how often you use it.

Use bento boxes

These are portable lunch boxes with compartments that fit inside the lunch box to keep wet items dry, dry items and all things visually delicious. The best bento boxes, in my opinion, have tight lids. I use a set of four bento boxes and find myself using them to store leftovers as well as in my lunch bag. While they’re not completely leak-proof (I wouldn’t fill them with milk, for example), they do keep lunch items fresh and delicious, and most are leak-proof.

heat pack

Not that kind of heat—I’m talking about carrying a hot lunch to work or school in a wide-mouth thermos. You can fill it with hot soup, or any hot food you can put in it. It will stay hot for at least five hours. Or fill it with cold food to keep it cold for a long time, too. The Thermos Stainless Steel King Food Jar (easily found on Amazon, but also available elsewhere) has a 16-ounce capacity and is well insulated with stainless steel. You don’t have to worry about breaking the thing like the glass-lined thermos you might remember. The wide mouth makes this thermos easy to fill, and the extra-large lid doubles as a serving bowl. And surprise! There is a handy folding spoon inside the lid. Of course, there are many thermoses to choose from. I’m only mentioning this because it’s well priced and practical in every way.

Enjoy extra time

Of course, going out to lunch takes longer than going to the break room and taking lunch out of the bag. It doesn’t take most people an hour to eat. By bringing your own lunch to work, you could easily end up with 30 minutes of “free time.” You can walk or catch up on your personal email. Knit, crochet, or even better, take a nap.

Strategic meal planning

When preparing dinner, think strategically about leftovers. Make extra rice; Add another chicken breast to the pan. While you’re cleaning, divide leftovers into bento boxes or other containers. Add a salad and you’re ready to go the next day.
If you buy your lunch on a fairly regular basis, let’s say it has become a habit – one that you’ve decided you need to stop. The way to do this successfully is to replace that bad habit with a new good habit. Adding money to your savings account equal to the amount you don’t spend on expensive meals will quickly develop into a great new habit—one that will bless you in the future.

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all her recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blogger, and the author of Debt-Proof Living.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: