25 June 2008

Lunch at work

I am really surprised at the cost of food now. I went to work with no lunch yesterday and ended up buying a curried vegetable pie at the local bakery. It was $3.75. A sandwich of salad and cheese would have cost $5. Add to that a drink and I would have been out of pocket $7.50! I work at my voluntary job three days a week. If I bought that lunch every day it would cost me $22.50 a week for lunch or a bit over $1000 a year. Taking lunch from home three days a week would cost between $100 and $200 and will save on all that packaging you get with a bought lunch.

We have a fridge at work and I usually have some cheese, butter and fruit or nuts stored there so if I don't have time to make lunch before I go, I have some biscuits cheese and fruit. I always take tea with me but I can also make tea or coffee at work.

Today I'll be taking what I call a backyard sandwich to work. It's homemade bread with egg salad and lettuce. I have some homemade biscuits too so I'll take a couple of them to have with my tea during the morning. I've been taking soup in a Thermos flask over the past couple od weeks and that's lovely and warming on these cold days.

I often talk about small steps and this is one of them. If you're just starting out on the road to a simpler life, the small step of taking your lunch with you when you go to work will save you a lot of money. You do have to be organised to do this every morning, but organising oneself isn't all that diffficult if you know it will save you $1ooo a year. Having a store of things like biscuits, cheese and fruit at work helps too. Just remember to buy them with your normal grocery shopping so you get them at the best price.

Don't limit yourself to sandwiches, there are many great lunches that can be packed in a box. I've included links to some sites that have great ideas. If you're trying to get your husband and children to be satisifed with a homemade lunch, I'm sure some of these ideas will hit the spot.

We are all guilty of falling for the voice in our head that says: "go on, buy lunch just today. It doesn't matter." Well, it might not matter one day but it does matter if you do it more often. And when you think about it, what would you prefer to have at the end of the year, an extra $1000 off your credit card debt or mortgage or the memory of hundreds of store bought sandwiches? The choice is yours.

Lunch box ideas

Vegan lunchbox

Schmooed food

Brown bag lunches

Muffuletta sandwich


  1. Speaking of food...I have been searching all over your blog for a potato salad recipe I'm sure I read here...am I losing it, Rhonda Jean? It was a very simple one and I think had dijon or plain mustard in it???
    Hmmm....maybe I am losing it! lol

  2. Wonderful post and excellent links. The last several months I took my lunch to work, saving money and eating much healthier.

    I've just discovered your blog while reading "Welcome to my Universe" (http://marties-place.typepad.com/).
    I've just retired and moved from Japan to the US to a rural community where I hope to live a much simpler life. I look forward to exploring your site more.

  3. Hi Rhonda,
    I am a sahm but my husband works 13 hour days 4 days a week and needs to take a lunch. Where he works the caf charges $10.00 for a sandwich nevermind including a drink. What I do is when I make dinner at night I always make an extra portion and pack it away for his next days dinner. Saves alot of money for sure!

  4. I often bring jars of soup to work and heat up for lunch with a slice of bread and some fruit. I am very blessed as I have my own fridge, microwave, dishes here at work. I have a freezer too so can bring in frozen leftovers to heat up.
    I buy sushi occaisionally which is $7.50 and thats great for my weight watching in a challenging week. I try not to do that too often.
    I used to spend 30$ a week on lunch and have cut right back. It all helps.

  5. I make all our cut lunches in the evening when I'm preparing dinner. Much easier than doing it in the morning. Even if t means packaging bread and fillings in separate containers so they don't go soggy. I did a big post on cut lunch ideas at the start of the year http://www.thekitchenplayground.com/2008/back-to-school-time/

  6. thanks for the great post/links, rhonda. this is a sore spot with myself ... it is so so easy for me to grab delicious bites at all the fabulous holes-in-the-wall in every new city i live (boston, louisville). especially when i'm crazy busy and too tired to cook/prepare food. i'm really looking forward to seriously curbing that habit of mine this fall, with a newly empty (just me now!) apartment and quitting my night job and being at school again, where i do bring my lunch every day because we can't leave the kids. i especially like the bento box idea.... who says we can't adapt to japanese portion sizes?

  7. Thankyou for your fabulous links and info. I'm a SAHM but I always make sure that my working dh has a home packed lunch every day. He's really sick to death of sandwiches though and doesn't have heating facilities while at work, so those links have given me some brand new ideas that I can precook for him to take. Thankyou :)

  8. I take my lunch to work every day unless we have a function or I have arranged to go out for lunch with a friend (maybe once every month or two. I almost always make more than enough for dinner, (comes from growing up in a large family and then living in share houses with hungry mouths to feed.) I do up leftovers in portions after the meal is eaten and then take the majority straight to work and freeze them. I try and keep about 5 meals in the freezer so if I don't have fresh leftovers I can choose one to eat. I also instigated the loaf of bread roster. If you eat it you have to take turns buying it. People bring their own spreads in and we share jams and things and it is a makedo lunch at a pinch.

  9. Hi
    I pack dh lunch every morning - I am a morning person so happy to make it, he actually prefers my lunches over brought.
    Today he has left over tomato - vegetable soup from last night that he can heat up in microwave at work - plus fresh bread that I set in breadmaker to be ready fresh in the morning. - Three bits of in season fruit - but no home baking bad me.

    I often make him sandwiches already so he can just pop them in the toasty sandwich machine at his work.
    Having nice warm food for lunch is nice in the winter.

    Thanks for links new ideas are always welcome.

    Hope your naughty commenter has got a life by now.

  10. I needed a kick in the behind to start packing my lunches again, so thanks! On very rushed days I sometimes take those instant udon noodles that come with a broth packet, in a lunch container. I open up the whole thing, add water, microwave, and enjoy it a lot more than I would cup noodles :)

  11. Yes, I truly agree. My husband is blessed with having a job that he could work to it and come home for lunch. Not only do we save on food but also on gas. As always, a great post!
    Many blessings,

  12. This was our first step to saving money with 2 kids having school dinners and the 2 of us buying lunch the savings were huge

    Hubby often takes lefover dinner from the day before and now i cook for 5 to make sure he gets one!

    Sharron in the uk

  13. You are spot on here Rhonda.

    Another tip for those who may have an elderly household member as I do: my 81 year old Mum is perfectly capable of making her own lunch but I choose to make hers when I make my husband's and mine. I know I make a more generous sandwich than she would and, because I've made it, she will eat it. :)

    On a similar note, in this cold weather I make her a "microwavable" sandwich as she finds a toasted sandwich difficult to chew. It's the same theory as a jaffle but simply warmed.

    As my husband likes leftovers from dinner, I routinely cook more than we need, then label and freeze it in one person portions. Soups I make in a huge pot and also freeze for one.

  14. Honey thank you, I just did a question air on this topic Friday. I was hoping to instill a bit of forethought to folks. I like the links lots of good ideas. Your generosity of time spent in research helped my busy schedule. Have a great day!

  15. I try to keep a stash in my drawer for lunches, backed up with fresh food from home. I usually have some cans of tuna, canned soup, cheese & bread in the fridge. With a microwave & sandwich press available, I can always throw together something, even if I didn't have the time to grab anything from home. I even have some rolled oats stashed, for those mornings when I have a very early start & need breakfast later in the day - I could spend between $4-$6 for a breakfast from one of the takeaways, but I'd rather not!

    I'm also lucky that there's a good market nearby, I buy our fruit/vegetables for home in my lunch break, & pick up extra for leaving at my desk for during the week.

  16. I have a lunchbox in my locker at work filled with homemade biscuits, I munch on those for the week, then make a batch of a different kind on the weekends. Much cheaper and tastier than a bought empty-calorie snack. This week was snickerdoodles.(sugar cookies) The week before was Golden Oat biscuits. They're ANZAC biscuits but for the rest of the year we call them Golden Oats.

  17. I've just converted my husband to bringing a lunch box instead of plastic bags. He brings some sandwiches for tea/coffee breaks, but never for lunch. Perhaps I can persuade him to bring lunch to work at least 1 or 2 days a week instead of buying. It saves money, but I think secretly he just loves the stuff he eats at work, because that's the only place he'll eat meat or fancy stuff.

    Christine from the NL

  18. Before I sat down to read this today I was entertaining the idea of buying lunch at work, thank you again for your timely message. Now I must go and find something to eat.

  19. I know. I do, really I do. But here I am sitting at work with my supermarket sandwich, yoghurt and pre-packaged fruit salad. Tsk.
    But come next term I will HAVE to make my own lunch because both kids will be at secondary school where NOBODY brings a lunch from home, so I will have to fork out (Ha!) cold hard cash for both children to avoid them becoming social lepers! So mum gets the home-made lunches from here on in to save some £s! Thanks for the links - those are great!

  20. This is my husband's lunch - everyday - salad, w/ mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, a little shredded cheese (hey, I'm from Wisconsin - it's the law)and chopped hard boiled egg or diced chicken breast. He keeps a bottle of dressing at work. In the morning he has a bowl of honey nut shredded wheat. He brings a snack of a yogurt and bottle of orange juice with him for a snack.

  21. As my blog attests, I've only recently discovered the delightful ease and frugality of planning lunches; thanks for these links, they should help me continue on the right path!

  22. Yes, and homemade always taste so much better to me! I work on Saturday's and occasionally fill in during the week at the Post Office. I always take my lunch. I despise fast food anyway. I have also been taking egg salad sandwiches to work lately. Your lunch looks delicious!

  23. Thanks for the wonderful links! I loved the Taste.com.au. It has so many wonderful ideas, I can't wait to try. Also the NOLA Cuisine was wonderful too. I grew up in Louisiana and love anything cajun/creole food related!

  24. You know, I had the same thought the last time I ventured out for lunch. A used to be a $4.50 fast food combo meal was suddenly a $7.00 expenditure! I haven't forgotten my lunch since then!

  25. niki, it might be my mayonnaise recipe you remember. I don't remember posting about potato salad.

    Eggs MUST be at room temperature.

    1.Whisk together two egg yolks, salt, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons of good vinegar in a roomy bowl.
    2.Add two cups of good olive oil very slowly - start whisking the yolk mixture and let the oil fall from the spout, drop by drop in a thin stream until you have achieved a thick, velvety mayonnaise. You must whisk all the time, or use an electric beater. When the mixture thickens up, you may add the rest of the oil faster.
    3.Taste it. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

  26. I've always packed lunches when I worked outside the home. I still do, if we're going on a trip somewhere. But all I normally took with me were plain old sandwiches. I look forward to checking out some of the links you posted here, for more creative idea.

  27. Just read your post and thought I would add this note: I am a retired school teacher. Our teaching year was 184 days long. Every day, two of my co workers would invite me to go off campus for a fast food lunch (minimum $5,) and I would decline. I had packed my lunch the night before. I realized that I saved at least $900 per school year (and many nasty fat logged calories). By the way, our lunch "hour" was only 29 minutes and bolting down all that grease in a hurry just boggled the mind.

    A second note: we sere money strapped because we kept our son in a parochial school...a personal choice we never regretted. That financial constraint taught us many money saving techniques that serve us well now that we are both retired. Blessings all around. cb

  28. I am new to your blog but I have learned so much - thanks for sharing.


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