Food on a budget tip #4: Pack lunchFinancial Literacy

In elementary school, I brought lunch to school in what I thought was a  cool lunch box or brown paper bag.  Somewhere, I lost that tradition and turned to purchasing lunch. In high school my father gave me lunch money, but I didn’t use it for lunch, I saved the money and purchased  books, electronics, and other things I wanted. Though, I brought my lunch to school, every chicken parmesan day, I found myself dipping into my lunch money savings. Looking back, I could have saved a lot of money after four years of frequently spending 5 dollars a week on chicken parmesan.

Purchasing lunch whether it is daily,  weekly, or even occasionally will add up. I urge you to take the time to add up your expenses and see how much you are spending on buying lunch.

If you are spending anywhere between 10 to 50 dollars a week (and I might even go as low as 5 dollars), I suggest packing lunch. Fifteen dollars is enough to buy food that will last you the week and into the weekend.  No time? I suggest making your lunch at night. I make my lunch before I go to bed and it saves me time. I wake up, grab my food, put it in my lunch bag, and go.

Still aren’t convinced? If you eat out for lunch everyday, spending about 10 dollars a day, you are spending up to  200 dollars a month on lunch. That is how much I spend on breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for an entire month!! With that money you can make a meal plan that suits your needs and save money that can be used towards other activities.

Take that 15 dollars and buy bread, yogurt, deli meat, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, grapes, oranges, apples,etc. You will have enough to eat for the week.


My typical lunch varies, but usually I eat for lunch and snack:

Option 1: sandwich, fruit, yogurt, water, and trail mix

Option 2: salad with fish or chicken, fruit, yogurt, water, and trail mix

Option 3: leftovers from dinner (which you can also transform into sandwiches, salads, etc)

I invested in an insulated lunch bag, two ice packs, and a tupperware  set (with an ice pack installed) that can hold all my lunch items without them touching. This might have cost me about 15 dollars in total. With that investment, I am able to pack a full days worth of lunch and snacks to go to school. In New York, I just carried my food to work in a tote bag.When I moved to Arizona, I made the mistake of traveling on the bus and in the heat with my tote bag. My food barely stayed fresh. This resulted in me purchasing food at school a few times, cutting into my budget, and leaving me an unhappy camper. Since investing in my insulated bag and ice packs, I have not purchased any food on campus.

It is easy to succumb to the work or school culture of going out to eat, but if you pack lunch, I’m sure you will start a trend in the office (my sister did) and save money. If you must eat with your colleagues, don’t do it everyday,  go once a week, or once every two weeks.

Now that you’ve made a budgetstepped out your comfort zone, and joined a CSA, you are a few steps closer to saving money on food. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have a growing  list of food on a budget  tips that will fit various lifestyles. Pick and choose various tips and share your money saving experiences.


An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Lisa-Marie Pierre

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