Save Money with a Brown Bag Lunch

I’ve been bringing my lunch to work for several years. I even brought lunches when I was in grad school. I’m on a medically restricted diet, so packing a lunch is necessary for me, but I would probably do it even if I didn’t have to. My husband was resistant to the idea of bringing his lunch to work until I showed him that the unhealthy, poor-tasting lunch he bought every day was costing us $2000 a year. Now he brings a lunch most days.

Comparative Cost for a Brown Bag Lunch

The main reason people consider brown bagging is the cost savings. If you go to Subway and get a 12 inch sub with avocado and no sides, it will set you back costs $7.90. And that’s one of the healthier options available. You also have to drive there, so factor in a few cents for gas.

By comparison, this is the cost of my food for the day while I’m at work:

Fresh oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, and cinnamon: 25 cents
14 almonds: 10 cents
Tangerine: 20 cents
Yogurt with flaxseeds and cinnamon: 45 cents

Corn tortilla: 12 cents
Deli turkey: $1.37
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce: 15 cents
Lettuce, 1 leaf: 3 cents
Chips, 1/8 ounce (for the crunch): 6 cents
Chocolate, dark, 1 square: 10 cents
Mustard, 1 packet: free from the break room

Carrot sticks: 30 cents
That brings my grand total for three snacks and lunch to $3.13. My husband opts for more fruit, a French roll, and fewer snacks, but it’s approximately the same cost. This includes the high-quality Boar’s Head deli meat, not some tasteless meat in a package. It tastes better, and it’s healthier. I drink water all day, but both our offices provide free sodas if we want them. If yours doesn’t, a canned soda will cost about 33 cents if you buy a 12-pack from the grocery store and bring a can to work with you. That’s at least half what it would cost to buy one from a lunch place or convenience store

My lunch and snacks cost about $765 a year, compared with the $2000 or more I would spend eating out every day.


In addition to costing less, my food is more convenient. I can eat lunch at the same time, instead of waiting until I have time to drive or walk somewhere. If I want to go to lunch with colleagues, which both my husband and I do on occasion, I have my lunch ready for the next day. Lunch with colleagues on occasion is good – it reminds people you’re around and improves your networking skills. However, once every week or two is enough.


Bringing your lunch is also healthier.

  • I’m less tempted to eat the junk people bring into the office because I have my snacks with me.
  • You control the amount of fat and sugar in your meal. That’s why I bring only an eighth ounce of chips. It’s enough to satisfy my desire for salt and crunch, but only 1 gram of fat.
  • You control your portions. Many people eat way too much when presented with a restaurant or fast food meal. Bring your own and you’ll eat less.


My office park has a few nearby options, but my husband’s old office had very few, so he ate awful food most days. When you bring your lunch, you have more variety. Some days I’ll bring leftovers. I also vary what goes in the wrap or bring peanut butter and rice cakes instead. I bring whatever fruit is in season. My husband varies the flavor of yogurt he brings. If he gets up early enough, he might pack a small salad to go with his sandwich.

I pack my lunch in the morning while I drink my protein shake. It only takes a few minutes to throw together and then I have food for the whole day. We both have insulated lunch bags with mini ice packs. Once I get to work, I put the stuff that must be chilled into the fridge and take the bag to my desk so my dry snacks are nearby. I use the same resealable baggies every day for a week to further reduce the cost. I assemble my wrap just before lunch, but my husband makes his sandwich in the morning.

I suggest trying this for one week. Once you see how much better you and your wallet feel, you’ll be convinced.

Bonus points: most people will be impressed by how delicious your lunch looks and how healthy you eat. They’ll comment that they should do the same. Just smile and agree.

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