No more excuses: bring your lunch to work

Don't eat out at work

The following post is a guest post by CF from The Outlier Model. I have written about exactly how much you can save over ten years following the techniques discussed below. Safe to say that it’s a considerable amount – no more excuses if you don’t already take your lunch to work EVERY DAY!

The Outlier Model is a personal finance and lifestyle blog based on the pillars of “living life a little bit differently”. Based on the belief that success follows those who choose to do something other than the normal, posts at The Outlier Model discuss topics such as budgeting, life hacking, and smart shopping. Using a combination of personal anecdotes, how-to tips and commentary, readers are introduced to the small steps that can help them become something more than average. 

If you’ve been reading personal finance blogs for long enough, you’ll know by now that bringing your lunch to work is a great way to save money.  When lunches cost anywhere between $5 and $15, packing a homemade meal for $1 to $3 is a steal – and often healthier!  At the Outlier Model, Brian and I usually just make a larger portion of dinner the night before, and then we take the leftovers for lunch.  Easy and fast!  But what if you don’t have a fridge at work?  Leftovers can go bad sitting on a desk in a warm office.  Or what if you didn’t have a microwave to heat up your food?  Cold leftovers aren’t terribly appetizing.  And lets face it – some of us just don’t like eating leftovers.  There’s still plenty of cheap and easy lunch ideas that you can try.

No fridge?  No problem!

Now, don’t get me wrong – food can  stay unrefrigerated for a time and be perfectly fine.  But, if you are concerned, simply pack your lunch with an ice pack!  A resusable ice pack will keep your lunch chill till noon without any problems.  Depending on how cold your food started, packing your lunch in an insulated bag might keep it chilled enough as well.  If that doesn’t work for you, consider packing picnic lunches of crackers, cheese and dried sausage or canned tuna.  And don’t forget the fresh fruit!

When I was in university, we did not have fridges that we could use.  As a result, I would pack my food the night before so that it was cold coming out of the fridge.  It was generally find until lunch!  When I had class on warm days, I’d pack my lunch with a cold drink or ice pack to keep it cold.

No microwave?  Not a worry!

Some workplaces don’t have microwaves.  I personally think that that is the sign of a bad workplace, but it may be that your place of work is too small to have a kitchen.  If that’s the case, try to bring lunches that don’t need heating.  Sandwiches are a great option, as are salads, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, and again, crackers and cheese.

For us, sandwiches are our go-to option for lunch with microwaves.  To keep things quick and easy, I usually prepare the sandwich ingredients ahead of time.  For example, I might make a big batch of tuna salad for filling.  Or, I might wash the lettuce and slice the cheese, tomatoes and cucumber at the beginning of the week.  Along with some fruit, it makes a great healthy meal.

Not a leftover person?  There’s still hope!

For some of us, leftovers don’t cut it and daily sandwiches can get bland.  Even so, there are ways for you to enjoy healthy homemade lunches at work.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Make a “big” meat on Sunday like roast chicken, roast beef, turkey or pulled pork.  Then throughout the week, use that meat in different meals – it might be turkey sandwiches on Monday and Tuesday, but turkey and rice on Wednesday, turkey tacos on Thursday and cold turkey salad on Friday, for example.  Or chicken or pulled pork.  The key is, most meats can be used in multiple meals just by changing the sides and the condiments.  Bonus points for using turkey by the way – if you buy it over the holidays, it’s damn cheap.
  • Make multiple batch meals over the weekend and alternate them for lunches.  For example, you could make a lasagne and a pot of fried rice over the weekend. Have lasagne Monday, Wednesday and Friday and have fried rice on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Finally, even if you don’t succeed at bringing your lunch each day to work, try bringing some of your lunch.  Even a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt will stem the hunger at lunch and allow you to buy less food for your meal.

What are your tips for keeping work lunches cheap and easy?
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No more excuses: bring your lunch to work — 18 Comments

    • That’s what I usually do as well. Just make a slightly bigger dinner and pack it up into containers while doing clean-up. But I like leftovers, so it’s not a problem for me. :)

  1. I’ve never thought of actual tips to give people for this…hmmm…we just make our lunches every day and deal with it. It isn’t hard to make lunches and prepare a little bit…just stop being lazy and making crappy excuses.

    • lol, it’s true, but I get the most “interesting” excuses from people – “it’s easier to buy lunch”, “it’s cheaper to go to the salad bar”, “I don’t have time”, etc.

  2. This is something my wife and I do pretty much every day. When you make your own breakfast and lunch every day during the week, it can really save you money and keep your overall restaurant/out to eat spend down for the month.

    • Plus, for us at least, I prefer to keep my eating out to social and fun events. I don’t want to spend my fun money on food on lunch at work – I’d rather get a bottle of wine and appies with Brian at the end of the week!

  3. I have been bringing my lunch to work everyday for the last 6 years. I save well over $1500 each year by not eating out each day and I am healthier for it. Since I sit at a desk all day, I think it is better to have good food.

  4. I have ALWAYS brought my lunch to work all of my working life since being on my own. I make hot lunches for myself as that is what I prefer and I microwave them. I can’t tell you the amount of money my mates spend at the cafeteria every day and then complain they are broke or can’t afford something.

    • I generally prefer hot lunches as well. Most of the places I’ve worked at have had microwaves available, thankfully. It was harder to have hot meals when I was a student.

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