Author Topic: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?  (Read 17406 times)

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Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« on: June 08, 2013, 04:51:25 AM »
Okay, I'm not against making my own food but I've noticed that the time spent making it vs the amount of money, I'd come out about even on the money side of things. If I'm spending 1 hour making a weeks worth of lunches (5 of them), or working an extra hour at $35/hour for a week's worth of lunches at $7/lunch.

The food is healthier, I'll give that to the homemade side though. I can't say it is always tastier, I plain just make make some of what I can buy. And a hot soup/sandwich from Panera is pretty good sometimes when you just have to get out of the office. I mean, sometimes just being "away" from work is worth more than the actual meal to me. Sure I could pack something and take it to the park but it wouldn't be a hot meal if I didn't stick around the break room to heat it up.

The money thing only works if you take a hour to prep/make lunches too, if I include it in making other meals, I'd cut into that. But on just a make your own lunch to save money, I haven't really bought that logic.

On the bringing own lunch thing, I do enjoy my garden and I can bring the strawberries (once I get them). But the time I spend making the food, I can spend working in the garden. So I get something I enjoy doing, and buying a small sandwich (~$4 + drink), then having my fruits as dessert, seems to make sense to me.

It seems like the only difference is where I want to spend the hour, in the kitchen or at work :S. But  if I stay a hour, I can get the extra emails/etc done and not worry about it either.

This isn't to say that I will buy all my lunches, but I might not feel as guilty about it if I buy one on occasion.

nktokyo

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2013, 05:00:39 AM »
I found it much cheaper. These days I work at home but when I was a salaryman the numbers looked like this...

In Japan a bento box is 500-600 yen or you can go somewhere to eat for 900-1000 yen. The meals are normally pretty good.

Now if I was taking leftovers along, it's normally 200-250yen for the fish/meat, veges and rice. The other one I did a lot was sandwiches from home-baked bread. These were around 200 yen each because I'd put a lot in them.

Say I eat somewhere with my colleagues 3x per week and do a bento 2x. Thats about 4,000 yen or $40/wk. In Japan there are 15 stat days and you get 20 vacation days so 7 weeks off. $40 * 45 = $1800 per year. If I just say that taking from home = 200yen ($2) per day then it comes in at $450 per year.

I would go out for lunch once a week because I liked socialising. I took a packed lunch the rest of the time.

Fawn

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2013, 05:08:16 AM »
You can look at it that way if you want to rationalize eating out from time to time. Or you could just say you want to eat out from time to time without the rationalization.

I find it is much cheaper and faster to bring from home, and I eat in my car between clients, so do not have access to microwave after say 9am.

One of the things that makes it faster is that when I am cleaning up dinner from the night before I put any leftovers into a container for my lunch the next day. Many, many things others will eat only hot-I will eat at room temperature. So I do not mind the no microwave thing so much.

Also, there is no need to buy a drink with a meal out. Most places serve water for free.

kendallf

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2013, 05:31:50 AM »
If you like eating out, do it occasionally.  Just be mindful of what it costs, and what the money saved could be doing for your long term goals.

MMM actually had a great post about outsourcing vs insourcing and the value of an insourcing mindset:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/13/domestic-outsourcing-practical-or-wussypants/

matchewed

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2013, 05:35:52 AM »
I personally don't feel guilty about eating out occasionally. I view it as a treat, something to actually do rarely. But to the original intent of the post. Yes bringing your own lunch saves money. Go ahead and eat out every day for a month and then cook your own food for a month. Tell me which month you spent more on food regardless of the your time is worth X calculation. How much actual money did you spend each month?

The problem IMO with that "my time is worth X" calculation is that unless you're actually using that time for a side gig or building skills it is kinda silly to throw it into situations like this. I view it much more for situations like being stuck in traffic while driving. For times when you are truly non-productive and non-leisure times.

herisff

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2013, 06:50:46 AM »
when going out to lunch, don't forget to include the cost of gas and parking (if driving), and taxes on the meal itself. The time spent getting to and from the meal venue should also be factored in. For me, the convenience of eating what I bring far outweighs the inconvenience of waiting for when the cafe/restaurant is open and serving - but then I only get a 15 min break for breakfast and a 30 min break for lunch. My time is very valuable and I don't want to spend it waiting in line or at a table.

DocCyane

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2013, 07:45:38 AM »
I see the lowest paid office workers consistently buy their lunch instead of bring something from home. I find that interesting. Essentially the first hour's wages of every workday goes toward their meal. I wonder if they consider it a sign of success to emulate the big bosses upstairs who eat out.

I brown bag it.

totoro

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2013, 08:24:24 AM »
"If I'm spending 1 hour making a weeks worth of lunches (5 of them), or working an extra hour at $35/hour for a week's worth of lunches at $7/lunch."

1. what about tax on your hourly wage and tax on the eating out?
2. are you really working the extra hour?
3. does it not take more of your time to leave the office to get something than it does to make something?
4.  does it really take an hour a week to make lunches?  I just make extra dinner and freeze some for variety.

If money is your goal, make your own lunch and work the hour at your desk at lunch.

If you like eating out enough it might be worth it, but not for financial reasons.

netskyblue

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2013, 10:20:02 AM »
Okay, I'm not against making my own food but I've noticed that the time spent making it vs the amount of money, I'd come out about even on the money side of things. If I'm spending 1 hour making a weeks worth of lunches (5 of them), or working an extra hour at $35/hour for a week's worth of lunches at $7/lunch.

I think you're looking at this the wrong way.  It isn't time (or energy) efficient to prepare all your lunches separately.  Many (most?) of us who consistently brown bag it have figured out to prepare a little extra for leftovers every time we cook.  It takes almost no extra time to throw an extra chicken breast or two in there with those you are cooking for your family to eat at this meal.  Or to make a 1.5x or double batch of that pasta salad side.  Or make a 9x13 pan of lasagna instead of an 8x8, etc.  Then when you are cleaning up, package the leftovers directly into lunch-sized packaging and into the fridge, ready to grab tomorrow.

Rollin

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2013, 10:43:26 AM »
$3.50 per lunch in vs. $7.50-$9.00 out.

hybrid

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2013, 11:34:42 AM »
I have a side gig where I make $50 an hour.  Call it $35 after the taxman and the other bills - and it does not include travel time.  So yeah, one extra hour + travel time = lunch out for a week.  To the author, if you are actually working a lot on the side then indeed, your time is at a premium.  If you cannot pack leftovers for lunch (ideal, since the cooking time went into multiple meals) then I can see the argument that goes along the lines of "I only have so much spare time, I'm not spending it saving just a few dollars a day".  As for me, I don't find myself chasing the side money all that often right now so I brown bag it.  I'd rather have the time and the savings vs. less time and even more savings.

I often eat soup or chili at work so there is almost no preparation time, certainly less than the time needed to go and buy food out.  Packing my lunch lets me enjoy more of my lunch hour doing what I want rather than sourcing a meal.

I work at a law firm where I often catch lawyers who work boatloads of hours each week waste their precious spare time doing things that really ought to be outsourced (after all, they bill at $250 an hour and more...).  For the average Joe like me working a 40 hour middle class job, I've found that insourcing is often the better option.

destron

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2013, 12:47:00 PM »
I've noticed that the time spent making it vs the amount of money, I'd come out about even on the money side of things. If I'm spending 1 hour making a weeks worth of lunches (5 of them), or working an extra hour at $35/hour for a week's worth of lunches at $7/lunch.

This is a never-ending rabbit hole, especially if you make a decent hourly wage.

Does cleaning your own house actually save money? I can hire a service for less than $35/hour and they will do a better job.

Does mowing my own lawn actually save money? I can hire a gardener for less than $35/hour and stay at work an extra hour.

In fact, you can extend this to ANY type of cooking. Getting food delivered will be cheaper because you are valuing your time at $35/hour.

This fails, IMO, because:

1. Most people do not have the option of working exactly the number of hours they would like to work (I'll just work 41 hours this week), so you cannot make up the extra money for time.

2. Different activities are more interesting than just doing the highest paid activity for as long as possible. Is one happier working 60 hours/week and then vegetating the rest of the time, or working 40 hours/week and doing other things for 20 hours?

3. Your efficiency at any task goes down after working longer hours and you need a mental break, so even if you can stay at work an indefinite amount of time, you will not be doing as good of work.

kudy

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2013, 01:30:31 PM »
I'd rather spend some time during the weekend or evenings cooking than work an extra hour and pay someone else to prepare my lunches. I think of it as variety and fun added to my life. 100% work would not have any variety, and would not be fun.

Zikoris

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2013, 02:01:32 PM »
Why spend any time at all making lunches, let alone an hour? Make extra food at dinner. Last I checked, it takes the same amount of time to make a big casserole as a medium one.

Rural

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2013, 03:16:06 PM »
If you're spending an hour making five lunches, you're working way too hard in the kitchen.

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2013, 04:32:25 PM »
Do you really make $35 an hour for every waking hour? I work 40 hours a week, M-F. I make large batches of several meals on the weekend, which takes about 30-45 minutes (I use all four burners and the oven) and lasts all week for lunch and dinner.

Left

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2013, 12:36:20 AM »
yeah I do :S,

my thinking was along the lines of if I don't want leftovers for lunch. I cook fairly heavy (not sure of the word) dinners, so any leftovers if I bring a lot (enough to fill me) would make me tired/sluggish. I can make a light sandwich/salad/fruits but there's nothing really "hot" there for a hot meal. If I wanted one, it would take me about a hour to finish preping/cooking it so I could warm it up. Unless I'm cooking some type of meat or pasta that I can add some light dressing to, yeah it takes me a hour. I know I'm not the fastest at cooking though...

And yes I do work the extra hours just checking emails sometimes... since I'm paid hourly, this would count too so whether I'm at home checking email or at work staying behind a bit, it's pretty much the same.

While I do advocate cooking my own meals, I don't do so because it is time/cost efficient, not when I can outsource it for same cost, like the link above, thx kendall for it

Left

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2013, 02:22:35 AM »
I didn't say I was saving $35 by buying lunch... I'm just asking if making the lunch costs me $35 in time spent, not sure if I worded it right or if there is a difference

BlackRat

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2013, 08:57:58 AM »
Unless you really don't like making lunches or your every hour is crammed full with moneymaking this doesn't make sense... you could always work a couple of extra hours and get someone to grow your garden for you too.

dragoncar

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2013, 04:13:44 PM »
I agree that this rationalization is flawed, but don't think "real hourly wage" is relevant.  You'd want to use "marginal hourly wage" because, for example, working an extra hour doesn't cost you any more in work clothes.

I personally buy lunches at work.  But I don't think it's saving me any money, even though my marginal hourly rate is probably around $60.  I just like the additional variety and socializing that comes with it, and I do view it as a reward for going in to work each day.  When I finally "retire" I expect that I will make my own lunches every day (as I do on the weekends, etc.).

grantmeaname

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #20 on: June 10, 2013, 07:20:54 AM »
I agree that this rationalization is flawed, but don't think "real hourly wage" is relevant.  You'd want to use "marginal hourly wage" because, for example, working an extra hour doesn't cost you any more in work clothes.
The work clothes don't wear out or get dirty except in the first forty hours of the week?

thefrugaltwo

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #21 on: June 10, 2013, 07:31:37 AM »
It probably depends on where you live and what you like to eat out. Generally speaking food out is hugely marked up. I'm not sure why it takes an hour to pack lunches, I cook a couple of times a week, and the night before work I take about ten minutes to pack leftovers for lunch. It doesn't have to be a whole separate lunch meal if the time thing is bogging you down.

rugorak

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #22 on: June 10, 2013, 08:46:39 AM »
What destron said.

If you want to eat out every day fine. But see it for what it is. It is a splurge you want. You have to consider *ALL* the options to truly look at the cost. Making sandwiches or salads or having leftovers (typical lunch stuff) is an option. Which costs far less than your current math. So say what it is and own up to it.

dragoncar

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #23 on: June 10, 2013, 11:36:47 AM »
I agree that this rationalization is flawed, but don't think "real hourly wage" is relevant.  You'd want to use "marginal hourly wage" because, for example, working an extra hour doesn't cost you any more in work clothes.
The work clothes don't wear out or get dirty except in the first forty hours of the week?

Not on any real level.  If I work 9 hours vs. 8, I still spend the same amount to wash the clothes.  And the vast majority of wear comes from washing vs. sitting in my chair for an hour.

Edit: also consider that, naked time aside, I'm going to be "wearing out" some clothes for that hour either way.  I don't expect to need any new work clothes before the time I FI.

The marginal costs are equally low for the other things mentioned: 

time spent commuting -- stays the same unless you are adding another work day.  If you leave later in the evening, time spent commuting probably decreases the more you work.

time spent "vacating" -- if this means vacations, then it too has a negative relationship with the amount worked

time spent dressing/grooming specifically for work (includes things like dropping off/picking up dry cleaning -- this doesn't increase unless you are adding work days.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2013, 12:12:21 PM by dragoncar »

MrsPete

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #24 on: June 10, 2013, 04:07:51 PM »
Does brown-bagging your lunch save money? 

Few things in the world of frugality are as cut-and-dry as this question:  Absolutely YES, bringing your own lunch to work saves money.  LOTS of money. 

You mentioned Panera.  Don't get me wrong:  I love eating out, and I love Panera, but a simple lunch runs $8-10.  Maybe a little less if you drink water.  A simple bag lunch runs $1-2. 

And it doesn't have to be effort:  Bring leftovers from last night's dinner.  Make five salads on Sunday night, and bring them all in on Monday -- no more effort all week long.  If you don't want leftovers again the next day, get into the habit of freezing leftovers in single-serving sizes (soup and lasagna, for example, are two meals that freeze well) and a week or two later they "feel" new. 

MrsPete

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #25 on: June 10, 2013, 04:13:02 PM »
yeah I do :S,

my thinking was along the lines of if I don't want leftovers for lunch. I cook fairly heavy (not sure of the word) dinners, so any leftovers if I bring a lot (enough to fill me) would make me tired/sluggish. I can make a light sandwich/salad/fruits but there's nothing really "hot" there for a hot meal. If I wanted one, it would take me about a hour to finish preping/cooking it so I could warm it up. Unless I'm cooking some type of meat or pasta that I can add some light dressing to, yeah it takes me a hour. I know I'm not the fastest at cooking though...

And yes I do work the extra hours just checking emails sometimes... since I'm paid hourly, this would count too so whether I'm at home checking email or at work staying behind a bit, it's pretty much the same.

While I do advocate cooking my own meals, I don't do so because it is time/cost efficient, not when I can outsource it for same cost, like the link above, thx kendall for it
Okay, so your leftovers are too "heavy" for lunch.  Pack a small quantity of leftovers . . . and supplement with a small side salad, which you make at home.  Bagged salad costs about $3 and gives you three good-sized salads.  Chopping your own is cheaper, but when you find yourself caught between "too much time" and "spending too much money", it might be a worthwhile compromise.  It's still less expensive than eating out every day. 

StarryC

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #26 on: June 10, 2013, 05:49:34 PM »
I mostly pack but do sometimes go out to lunch.  Where I work, it takes me 10-20 minutes to leave the office, get to the restaurant, wait in line, order, wait for the food, and then get back to the office.  And, I'd think Panera would have longer lines and waits.  If I pack, it takes me 0-5 minutes depending on if I have to walk to the kitchen and microwave it. 

In a week you are spending between 50 minutes and an hour and 40 minutes getting lunch out.  So, the time to make v. get lunch out is a wash at best.   You are about spending an hour on procuring lunches either waiting/walking or cooking.  If you choose waiting, you are also spending $25 to $50 per week on food.  If you choose cooking, you are spending $5-$15 on food. 

newideas2013

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #27 on: June 10, 2013, 06:14:43 PM »
What you could do is work the extra hour or 2 at 35/hour, and outsource the work to someone else at say 20/hour on craigslist. Give them your requirements sheet, organize together some kind of dropoff system, determine who will buy the food for cooking, agree on a cooking list etc.. if you earn enough money you can easily outsource this part of your life, even if its to somebody 4 blocks away.

expatartist

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #28 on: June 10, 2013, 07:06:22 PM »
Like Lhamo, I live in Beijing. Local food from restaurants can be incredibly cheap, but its safety is questionable. Even though we have a work canteen with an international company supplying the food for just $2/meal, I still brown bag it most days. So I don't save much $ this way, but I know it's safe(ish).

Anyway...when we lived in Southeast Asia we got in the habit of eating out much of the time for our non-western food basics: it was so cheap, and more delicious than what I could make at home.

A big reason I kept reading MMM is the mentality-switch. It's not just budgeting tips, but getting you to THINK differently about what you do. I don't think of making lunch as work; it's a challenge to keep life interesting while at work. We want variety in our lives, and I'm not keen on having the same meal two days in a row. So I'll often freeze small portions of the basics (burritos, bean dishes, curries, soups) and supplement them with fresh fruit or (gasp) even diet soda. It's a combination of spontaneity and preparedness that works for me. And in the US, this approach saves loads of $ every week.

MakingSenseofCents

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #29 on: June 10, 2013, 07:12:25 PM »
I find that it is cheaper to bring my lunch to work. Most of the places around my work are "fancier" restaurants where lunch can cost $20 to $25 per person, that is unless you go to McDonalds.

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #30 on: June 10, 2013, 07:36:20 PM »
What you could do is work the extra hour or 2 at 35/hour, and outsource the work to someone else at say 20/hour on craigslist. Give them your requirements sheet, organize together some kind of dropoff system, determine who will buy the food for cooking, agree on a cooking list etc.. if you earn enough money you can easily outsource this part of your life, even if its to somebody 4 blocks away.

I actually did this. I created a sort of very high protein, high fiber meatloaf with 12 oz of vegetables and had a chef come to my house and make and freeze 30 of them. Can't say it was enormously cost effective , but the value of having perfectly nutritious lunches and the time saved not needing to go out for food was worth it to me.

dragoncar

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #31 on: June 10, 2013, 07:50:51 PM »
Care to share the recipe?  Sounds good.

grantmeaname

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #32 on: June 10, 2013, 07:55:03 PM »
I actually did this. I created a sort of very high protein, high fiber meatloaf with 12 oz of vegetables and had a chef come to my house and make and freeze 30 of them. Can't say it was enormously cost effective , but the value of having perfectly nutritious lunches and the time saved not needing to go out for food was worth it to me.
I found that same recipe!

happy

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #33 on: June 11, 2013, 04:41:45 AM »

Making your own lunch is cheap and  both cost and time effective. If you buy it, you have to go get it and probably stand in a queue or wait for it to be served.....takes much longer than making it.


Do what you want.... but your "logic" sounds like excusitis to me.

amyable

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #34 on: June 11, 2013, 11:58:37 AM »
At some point, I got in the habit of just basically packing somewhat random "ingredients" for lunch.  I'll usually grab some homemade bread, some kind of protein (left-over meat, cheese or sometimes a hard boiled egg), something kind of salty (pickles usually) and fruit or a little simple salad--sometimes some type of spread.  It's really pretty satisfying.

I don't think I could go much cheaper unless I ate off of the dollar menu somewhere, which would be a big jump down in quality, and it's honestly faster for me to pack lunch than go somewhere.  But, I think it probably depends on what you're packing for lunch vs. cost of a decent lunch in your area.

anastrophe

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #35 on: June 11, 2013, 02:03:52 PM »
What you could do is work the extra hour or 2 at 35/hour, and outsource the work to someone else at say 20/hour on craigslist. Give them your requirements sheet, organize together some kind of dropoff system, determine who will buy the food for cooking, agree on a cooking list etc.. if you earn enough money you can easily outsource this part of your life, even if its to somebody 4 blocks away.

I actually did this. I created a sort of very high protein, high fiber meatloaf with 12 oz of vegetables and had a chef come to my house and make and freeze 30 of them. Can't say it was enormously cost effective , but the value of having perfectly nutritious lunches and the time saved not needing to go out for food was worth it to me.

I can't tell if this is brilliant...or terrifying. Did you eat all 30? How often? How long did it take to finish them off?

samustache

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #36 on: June 11, 2013, 02:29:20 PM »
The short answer to the way you phrased it is probably not. If you put away 20k a year, the extra amount saved on top of that probably won't change your FI picture much. But it changes how much you spend on other stuff you might value more, like a better hotel room on your vacation. It's just a question of what you value once you're saving a lot to begin with.

That said, bring some peanut butter and a loaf of bread to work, wussypants. Buy some baby wipes to save the extra 1.5 minutes a day it costs you to slap together that sandwich.

oldtoyota

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Re: Does making/bringing own lunch actually save money?
« Reply #37 on: June 12, 2013, 06:37:30 AM »
If you're spending an hour making five lunches, you're working way too hard in the kitchen.

Yes. I do not know how it could take that long.