When it comes to expenses, most people tend to spend a whole big chunk of their paychecks on food, especially if they like to eat out.
For those who work in an office, bringing in lunch everyday can seem like a big hassle, and going to a restaurant or picking up food can be much more convenient. However, the cost of all this food can add up, and if you’re trying to watch your spending or are on a budget, this isn’t the best route to go.
It’s hard to picture how much money you would actually be saving when making food at home, but when you break down the math, you’ll likely be surprised at how much you’re spending at restaurants without even realizing it. A few different sources have taken a stab on how much you can save by packing your own lunch.
In her book What Are You Doing for Lunch, author Mona Meighan argues that packing your own lunch can cut your weekly lunch cost by 80 percent. If you buy lunch everyday and spend an average of $8.50, that adds up to be $42.50 spent in a week. According to Meighan’s calculation, bringing your lunch instead would cost you just $8.50—or the cost of one purchased lunch—for the whole week. Over the course of the year, your savings would total $1,768.
According to Forbes, the average American buys lunch twice a week and spends $936 annually on restaurant- or store-bought lunches alone—a figure that is higher if you buy your lunch more than twice a week.
To see the cost difference, the website Money Crashers broke down the costs of common lunch items when prepared at home versus purchased out. Here are some examples:
- Sandwiches and Wraps: A typical turkey sandwich, for example, can cost up to $10. Make one at home, and it costs around $7.50. This can save you $2.50 on just the sandwich component alone.
- Salads: A typical prepared salad can cost between $5 to $10 dollars depending on what it includes — or even more if it has extra ingredients. You can make your own salad at home and load it with ingredients for $3-5 dollars. This can save you over $5 a day.
- Soups: When purchased from a store or restaurant, a 12-ounce cup can cost anywhere from $3 to $6 or more. Instead, you can make a whole pot of soup for less than $10, which can last you over eight lunches. This will save you up to $5 a day.
According to Money Crashers, implementing these changes daily can save you over $1,000 a year.
It also can’t hurt to think about the long-term. TIME notes that if you live in New York, for example, you likely spend $15 a day on lunch. But if you brown bag instead at a cost of $3 per day, you’ll save $31,200 over 10 years. Invest this money, and see your savings grow.
If you need some help making your own food, consider meal-prepping or making food in big batches that can last all week. It might take some adjusting, but all the money you will save is worth it in the long run.