Why Taking a Packed Lunch is a Huge Financial Win

When it comes to personal finances, I’ve got a tendency to feel paralysed. It’s easy to stick my head in the sand. There seems to be so much to understand – plus, I’m pretty comfortable in my current routine.

What I’ve found over the past few years, though, is that fairly simple changes can have dramatic results. And if you work outside the home (whether that’s in paid employment, or as a student or a volunteer), then one of the best changes you can make is to stop buying lunch out and start taking a packed lunch with you.

You Save $25 Every Week

Let’s say you’re currently spending $6/day on lunch – perhaps a sandwich, a drink and a bag of chips. You could buy a sandwich for $4.50, but an extra $1.50 gets you a soda and the chips, and you feel like you’re getting a bargain.

If you buy bread and ham at the start of the week and make yourself sandwiches each day, it’ll cost more like $1/day. (You’re probably buying bread already. And potentially chucking some away becaus you don’t use it before it goes stale.) That’s a saving of $5/day.

It’s not much on a day-to-day basis. But after a week, you’ve saved $25. After four weeks, that’s $100. If you’re not currently putting any money into savings – and many of us aren’t – then you could divert that $100 straight into a savings account. After a year, you’ll have $1,200; enough to cover an emergency, the cost of Christmas, or a vacation.

All that just from taking a packed lunch instead of standing in line at the store.

But that obvious $25/week gain isn’t the only financial win you’ll get from taking a packed lunch with you.

You Avoid the Shops

How often do you go out to pick up lunch, only to return with a paper or magazine or new book or candy bar as well?

It might not be every day, but you’re probably doing it once or twice a week. Those small costs do add up. Perhaps you’re spending $10 a week on these little extras. If they’re really something you enjoy, that’s fine; but often, impulse purchase aren’t ones which hold our attention.

If you’ve taken a packed lunch to work, you won’t end up standing in line next to the strategically-placed magazines. You can eat in the office – or head out to a local park or somewhere pleasant to sit – and avoid the shops altogether.

You Save Time

One excuse for not taking a packed lunch to work is that we don’t have time. If your morning is hectic and rushed already, how will you find the time to put together sandwiches too?

The truth is, it takes five minutes, tops, to make a sandwich. You can even make batches of sandwiches and freeze them. Once you get into the routine of making lunch in the mornings, it really won’t impact on your day.

In fact, you’re likely to save time. Instead of having to head to the store and pick up a sandwich during the lunch time rush, yours will be ready to eat straight away. This means you can spend your lunch hour doing something more productive: even something which has a positive impact on your finances.

That could mean studying for an exam which will help you gain the qualification you need to take the next step up the career ladder. It could be sorting out all your bills to pay them by direct debit. It might mean surfing comparison sites to figure out the cheapest deal on your insurance, or looking for coupons to cut costs on your grocery shop. Or updating your spending log to keep track of what you’ve been spending recently.

You’ll Be Healthier

Unlike the three points above, this isn’t an instant financial gain. But over time, it could end up saving you a huge amount of money.

If you’re buying lunch out every day, there’s a good chance you’re getting a sugary soda, along with a candy bar or a bag of chips. Even if you’re trying to eat more healthily, the way that stores position these snacks right next to the sandwiches and salads means they’re likely to end up in your basket.

When you take a packed lunch from home, you’re less likely to be tempted. You’ll also be able to prepare exactly what you want – so if you’re trying to lose weight, you can easily make sure that your lunch fits in with your diet plan. You can also make sure you’re getting a couple of your five-a-day as part of your lunch.

Ill health can have a potentially disastrous effect on your finances. It could mean something drastic like:

  • Paying for medication to combat problems caused by too much fat, salt or sugar in your diet
  • Having to leave your job because you’re not well enough to continue working

But even if it doesn’t go that far, then you might find you have extra costs like:

  • Gaining weight and buying new clothes
  • Paying for pricy diet products in order to lose weight

If you buy lunch out every day, what’s stopping you taking a packed lunch?

If you’re already brown-bagging lunch, then what other regular spending do you have which you could cut back on? (Transport? Eating out?) Can you see any extra financial benefits beyond the obvious and direct ones?

(Image by Flickr user Matt Seppings)

Previous post:

Next post:

3 Responses to “ Why Taking a Packed Lunch is a Huge Financial Win ”

  1. DIY Investor says:

    Great tips. Families also should consider offering their children a choice when they eat out: order water instead of the usual soft drink and you get $1 of spending money (and at the same time put $1 in a savings account for college). Children quickly learn the value of making good choices and get some experience managing their own money. Children become more aware of prices. The parents over time build up a nice sum to pay towards college when the children turn 18.
    Everybody wins except maybe the dentist.

  2. Adrian Hoe says:

    Yep, our kids have their lunch packed to school.

  3. John says:


    I just read your article on Why Taking a Packed Lunch is a Huge Financial Win. I have a major issue buying lunch everyday.
    I really need to save money and stop buying lunch everyday.
    But the issue is, I need a hot meal which keeps me going for the rest of the day and bringing a lunch like sandwich, and fruits often doesn’t provide enough nutrients and then I feel not myself.
    I workout so I need more nutrients compared if I wasn’t working out.
    I find freezing soups and other foods for the rest of the week takes away the nutrients.
    I spend about $60 week days on lunch. If I groceries and made lunch, I think Id spend about $45 and not get the same values from eating out.
    Yeah l’m not sure what to do.
    Wish there was a food bank or something I could spend $5 everyday on lunch that filled me up.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Leave a Reply