Does Brown Bagging Lunches Really Save You Money? Let’s Break it Down.


brown bagging lunches

Can you actually save money with brown bagging lunch? This becomes a common question of how much can actually be saved by brown bagging a lunch rather than going out to eat. The argument was brought forth on Lifehacker that brown bagging lunches aren’t free. Which then spurred a debate on the actual costs. Overall, It can become a very muddled question as there are a few different factors to determine how much can be saved. Simply put, I would say overall this is an easy method to save money. And depending on how you go about it, it will vary on how much money you keep in your savings. But as far as brown bagging lunches being free, the short answer is yes and no.

brown bagging lunches

You choose a way to save money

If you’ve looked for a simple method to cut expenses that add up over time, here is a big one. Switching dining out to brown bagging lunches is a simple premise. All you have to do is either bring lunches with you every day or at least several days a week. That’s it! Simple enough to implement, but some days can be hard to follow. The savings can vary from person to person depending on what they bring on a routine basis. However, I will breakdown how what you bring for lunch impacts how much you save. The financial cost can be very minimal depending on if you’re taking leftovers or making lunches to bring with you.

How much does it actually save?

Quite a bit of money can be saved from bringing your own lunches to work rather than going out or buying it. If you do this a couple of times a week, you can save a good chunk of money and even better if you do this every day. If you choose to make your lunch every day such as salads, this can be made for a few dollars per week. Which saves at least a couple of dollars per day. Even as simple as changing what you pack for lunch each day will vary the savings. This can be worked into your grocery budget so that you don’t see the added cost on a day to day basis either.

The other option would be to bring leftovers. By doing this, it increases the overall savings compared to buying extra food to pack lunches. Using leftovers for brown bagging lunches isn’t free but a drastic increase in savings. This is using extra food that is already accounted for within the budget. Again this isn’t free as you had to pay for the food, but it spreads the budget further. You may have to pay a little more as you can increase the servings on what you are cooking the night before. So instead of being a couple of dollars, it can be cheaper a $1 per lunch/meal. Cook a little extra for suppers and wrap up the leftover for the next day. The cost is minimal and the saving can be significant.

What about eating out?

As I have touched upon in a previous article, eating out can cost quite a bit of money compared to eating in. The same premise applies here. If you were to say go to McDonalds every day for lunch this is usually a minimum of $5- $10 per day.  We will calculate this based on a five-day workweek. And go under the premise that there are 48 work weeks within the year, taking 4 weeks out for vacation. With this, 5 days for the workweek comes out to 240 days per year working. If we were to say go to McDonald’s and On The Low End spend $5 per day, that would come out to $1,200 per year spent on lunches. Again this is a low estimate of the total cost per year.

If you were to go to a higher-end restaurant, usually the minimum spent is around $20; if not more. Using the same math that comes out to $4,800 over the course of the year. Even if you were to cut back to a few times a week it still adds up pretty quick. Again there will be some variation based on your eating and spending habits. Meals can add up quickly between Meal, drinks and any appetizer or desserts.

What is the best way for brown bagging lunches?

Either of the strategies are effective for saving money, but it is up to you on which fits within your lifestyle. The easiest is to bring leftovers from the meal from the night before or use it as the basis for the meals and change it up. Such as cooking extra veggie one night and creating a stirfry the next with leftovers. Making simple things such as sandwiches are cheap and easy but slightly more expensive than leftovers as you will need to buy extra groceries.

With that being said, it is still cheaper than going out. Anyone that knows me that I rarely will ever go out for lunch. This has saved me a lot of money over the years. The average savings with brown bagging lunches are around $3 per lunch if not more. Planning ahead is the best way to money even if it is over the course of the year!

Do you use this strategy or did I miss something? Let us know in the comments below