Frugal Lunch

Financial Freedom through Frugal Eating

Eating a frugal lunch each day is one of the easiest ways to save money on food and move closer to the goal of financial freedom. Frugal meals, when brought from home, can save you hundreds of dollars a year compared to the cost of buying lunches at work or school.

Frugal Lunch

Sometimes, when looking for creative ways to save money, it is easy to ignore the small, routine purchases we make each day such as buying lunch. In reality, this is the kind of spending that is the easiest to reduce. These small cuts in routine spending can have a huge effect on our finances over the long run.

In an effort to see how much a person could save by eating a frugal lunch, I selected five examples of meals that make good lunches. I chose these because they are all inexpensive and easy to prepare.

How Much Can You Save?

In my research, I went to the store and tried to select foods that were either on sale at the time or that often go on sale for a particular price. I just shopped as I normally do by looking for good deals and saving money on groceries. I especially wanted to use cheap, healthy food.

After calculating my costs, I found that the average price of my lunch meals was $1.09. The most expensive was sliced chicken breast on a salad of mixed greens at $1.59. All of the meals contained healthy proteins as well as fruits and vegetables.

Saving Money on Lunch at School

The cost for students to buy a lunch at our local high school is $2.05. By bringing a frugal lunch from home every day, a family can save $.96 per student per day or about $172 per school year. For families with many children in school, the savings will be multiplied. These savings could be used toward the cost of activity fees, supplies, or clothing.

Saving Money on Lunch at Work

For working adults, the savings can be much more dramatic. If the average lunch at a restaurant, cafeteria, or fast food place is $6, you can save $4.91 per day, $24.55 per week, or $1,227 per year! What else could you do with that money? Maybe you could pay for commuting costs or perhaps take a vacation.

If instead, you were able to invest those savings over a forty year career at 7 percent, you would have $262,099. That would be a tremendous boost to your financial freedom goal!

Examples of Frugal Meals for Lunch

Here are the five frugal lunch examples:

  • Three ounces of sliced turkey with mayonnaise, spinach, and tomato on a whole wheat tortilla and a banana - $1.40
  • Hard boiled egg with mayonnaise on two slices of whole wheat bread, carrots and celery, and an orange - $.80
  • Three ounces of sliced chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens, chopped carrots and celery, and a banana - $1.59
  • Tuna, mayonnaise, spinach, and tomato on two slices of whole wheat bread and an apple - $.94
  • Natural peanut butter on two slices of whole wheat bread, carrots and celery, and an apple - $.68

More Frugal Lunch Ideas

  • Don’t leave the lunch preparation until the morning before you go to work. It is too easy to skip it! Instead do some budget meal planning ahead of time and make your lunch the night before work.
  • Use insulated lunch bags and washable containers to save money and help the environment.
  • Pack some cheap snacks for the afternoon. String cheese and trail mix are excellent choices at only about $.17 per serving. Compare this to the price of a candy bar from the vending machine!
  • If you have a microwave available, use leftovers from last night’s dinner. Sometimes they are even better the second time!
  • Resist the pressure from your coworkers to go out for lunch each day. Try to convince them to join you in bringing a frugal lunch. On those occasions that you do join them at a restaurant, be sure to know the best ways to save on eating out.

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