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Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week

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This is Tip #1 of the 30 Day Challenge to save $1,000.

The first tip is to go to the grocery store today and pack lunches for yourself all week. Sounds obvious, but below I’ll include some specific tips and social-psychological techniques to make this actually work.

lunchbags.jpg
This tip reminds me of something I heard in college from a professor of mine, who made the point that lots of people look down on fields like communication and psychology because they seem self-evident. “Communication is measured by the usefulness of the theory, not the difficulty,” she told me. It’s easy to look down on tips like “pack your lunch” because it’s so obvious, but it actually works.

How much you’re currently spending
Let’s look how much NOT packing a lunch is costing you. I’ll assume you eat out 3 times per week for lunch.

Current lunch spending: (Eat out 3x/week) * (4 weeks in a month) * ($12 each lunch net with tax) = $144 per month on eating out

New spending to eat out: (Eat out 2x/week) * (4 weeks) * ($8 net with tax) = $64.

New spending to pack lunches: (Pack lunch once/week) * (4 weeks) * ($5 cost per packed lunch) = $20.

So $144 – $64 – $20 = $60 in savings.

Because you can break down the variables above (# of times you eat out vs. amount you spend on each lunch vs. cost of packing your own lunch), you can tweak each of them. For example, maybe you want to eat out 4 times per week but it will only cost you $2 each time. In that case, enjoy the week-old rotten vegetables you’re buying. But if you tend to eat out at expensive restaurants with co-workers, maybe you limit it to once per week. Up to you.

Note that I didn’t suggest going cold-turkey on eating out for lunch…because that will last about a week, then you’ll give up. This is the key point I made in Set smaller goals: impress friends, get girls, lose weight. You can get better sustainable change if you slowly optimize, rather than quitting cold turkey.

Here’s the concrete tip for today:

1. Decide how many lunches you’re going to pack each week. More = save more money.
2. Go to the grocery store today.
3. Buy food for your lunches this week. If you want to shop for other stuff, that’s fine, but the purpose of this trip is to get food for your lunches. If you accomplish just that, you accomplished your goal.
4. Let’s say you decided to pack 3 lunches each week. Put 3 bags on your table and fill it with 3 bananas, 3 bags of chips, 3 whatever. This takes advantage of our laziness to pack lunch each day. Instead, by doing it this way, you batch the unpleasantness of preparing lunch. Now, each morning, just open up the fridge, take your bag, and you’re done. (Bonus tip: To psychologically commit yourself to actually taking the bag, write “Monday,” “Wednesday,” and “Thursday” on the bag.)
5. For the days you decided to go to lunch, GO! This month, I want you to be strategic about eating out, so it’s not just something you do because you forgot your lunch, shrugged your shoulders, and go drop $10 for your lack of planning. If you decide you’re eating out on Tuesday and Friday, enjoy it — you planned for it.
6. If a co-worker invites you to lunch, be prepared to say no. Try this: Thanks, I’d love to go, but I’m taking this 30-day challenge to save $1,000, so I’m not eating out as much. (This is related to inoculation theory in psychology.)
7. Be sure to read to the end of this post (“Last things to do”). Leave a comment describing how much you’re saving with this tip.

* * *
Bonus reading about food and money

Last thing to do
Leave a comment on this post describing how much you’re saving with this tip. Each day, I’ll ask you to post how much you’ve saved cumulatively. Use this as a way to track your own progress (it will also encourage others to join)

If you liked this tip, check out my Premium tips — one long, tactical tip per week. Save money or get a 100% refund.

scrooge

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306 Comments on "Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week"

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Liz Dennis
Liz Dennis
7 years 10 months ago

I have packed lunches for years and will continue to do so. Mostly I take left overs from dinner the night before so nothing is wasted.

Chris
Chris
7 years 10 months ago
Here’s my problem with suggestions like this – while they are useful and extremely effective if you follow through, *I’m already doing them*. I pack my lunch almost every single day of the year and I almost always cook meals at home instead of ordering out. Sure, I could save some extra cash by not eating out the 1 day every 6 weeks or so that I currently do, but then life would be pretty sad, right? One of the first tips in weight loss programs has similar problems – the first thing you heard is “stop drinking calories. Cut… Read more »
Dustin
Dustin
1 year 1 month ago
I have experienced this problem a lot over the years. What I recommend people to keep in mind is that there is a right and a wrong way to do everything. Simply pre-packing your lunches and not eating out will not always save you money. It helps, but you still have to be smart about how much your spending on each of your meals while keeping them nutritious. As for weight loss, I lost 60 pounds in 5 months, by eating consistently and preventing myself from snacking. Every weekday I would drink 1cup(250ml) of pure fruit juice and then eat… Read more »
Laura
7 years 10 months ago

This tip will save me $15.92 by reducing my runs to Panera.

Jon
7 years 10 months ago

Chris, if you have already cut down your spending as much as you can, then the next thing you need to focus on is making more money.

Mike
7 years 10 months ago

Your life ‘would be pretty sad’ if you perceive it that way.
Many people don’t eat out at all and don’t feel that their life is sad.

Richard
Richard
7 years 10 months ago

Obviously you need to take extra home-cooked food to work and sell it for a profit 🙂

It is good advice of course. This should be an interesting series but if I cut $1000/month from my spending I’ll be living in my car.

Rizwan
7 years 10 months ago

Great tip! Since I already do this I am one step ahead. I actually keep some bagels and peanut butter in the office fridge to keep the hunger cravings down and don’t have to visit the deli if I get hungry before lunch. Saving more money.

A side effect of this tip for workaholics like me is that you can get a lot of work done during the lunch hour since a lot of people eat out and it is very quiet in the office.

Can’t wait till tomorrow.

Today's Budget
7 years 10 months ago

I’m with Chris on this one. I telecommute meaning that I never eat out for lunch (or breakfast or dinner for that matter). I’m able to feed a family of five on $100 – $125/week, so no savings for me on today’s tip. Maybe tomorrow will bring a tip I haven’t already implemented.

shawnna
shawnna
7 years 10 months ago

i already do this one… i only eat lunch out twice a month right now. i suppose i could eat cheaper lunches… somehow.

Jenni
Jenni
7 years 10 months ago

I definitely do this! Buying food “in bulk” at the grocery store costs less, and can be healthier if that’s a goal of yours. Also, it doesn’t mean you have to eat alone! I bring my lunch to the student union building while some of my friends purchase food.

If I bought food (just food, no drink) every work day it would cost about $140. I estimate I pay about $50 for lunch food items – savings of $90 a month!

Tony
Tony
7 years 10 months ago

I’m already ahead of the game in this department. I take my lunch everyday =)

berimbauone
7 years 10 months ago

I already pack lunches, i buy a case of tuna at costco and a bag of romaine hearts. i keep a weeks supply of tuna in my office and one lettuce in the lunchroom fridge. i make tuna salads and complement with fruit and/or leftovers from dinner.

Christine
Christine
7 years 10 months ago

Great reminder that it’s the simple things that work. I am trying to lose a few pounds, so packing a lunch should help to control what I am eating as well as save a few bucks.

Susan
Susan
7 years 10 months ago

I pack lunch every day already- I’d never get to eat if I had to try to find time to go out. I used to eat out a lot- packing lunch has been healthier and has had the unintential side effect of being cheaper, especially compared to eating at restaurants where you were also tipping wait staff.

Jaime
Jaime
7 years 10 months ago

This will save me $44 this month.

Benita
Benita
7 years 10 months ago

I try to do this all the time…I’m usually pretty good. What I have found too, making a lunch from left overs or a sandwich etc is way cheaper than frozen meals! I used to buy them all the time, now I only wil if they are on sale. So I am forced to make my lunch instead of grabbing from the freezer. I will plan my lunches for this month, I liked the idea of labeling the bags for each day! Looking forward to tomorrows tip!

Fish McGill
Fish McGill
7 years 10 months ago

I find it helpful to do the shopping for lunch near work before I get there on a Monday for the week; this only works if you have access to a fridge in your office. It saves even more time and money because 1) I do not forget to bring my lunch when I commute in the morning and 2) it does not rot at home.

Rachid
Rachid
7 years 10 months ago

I already only eat out once a week I really don’t want to cut back more than that. On top of it I only spend $5 at lunch on the day I do it out.

gloria
gloria
7 years 10 months ago

i am amazed at the number of comments from people who, on day 1, are already kvetching that there is no value here for them because they already pack lunch. Criminy! Get over yourselves and, instead of leaping to a premature judgement about the worth of this series, either pat yourselves on the back for your already-manifest wisdom, chime in to verify the utility of the tip, or offer another tip. And, even if you get nothing from this series but a vindication of your own smarts, so what? You paid nothing for the info anyway. Sheesh!

Susan
Susan
7 years 10 months ago
Like most everybody else, I already take my lunch most days. If you don’t already and decide to do it — watch out for Equipment Expense! If, following Ramit’s advice, you go to the grocery store to get lunch fixin’s, RESIST the siren call of plastic sandwich-shaped boxes, cunning lunch-sized coolers, da-glo colored neoprene lunch sacks, little Rubbermaid jars. Personally, I love that kind of stuff; but it’s a waste. You can carry your lunch in a plastic grocery bag and wrap your sandwich in waxed paper. Save lunch-sized paper sacks when you get them (Chipotle has nice thick ones… Read more »
Bart
Bart
7 years 10 months ago

Your first tip is something I already do … Buy from the market every Saturday then usually cook some soup/stew or other long-lasting lunch I can bring to work for most of week (or I just use left overs from dinner) .. 🙂

I’m excited to see what’s next, up to a potential of $920 in savings!

Naturally Frugal
7 years 10 months ago

I already do this, and usually only eat out 1x/week. Hopefully you will come up with more original tips, because this one is definitely in the top 3 touted by all the frugal blogs. Look forward to reading!

Roland Frédéric
Roland Frédéric
7 years 10 months ago
The tip is nice. Actually I practiced it this evening just before I got the tip in my email box :). I don’t go eat out often, about one or at most two times per week I buy a quick snack for the familly when we don’t want to cook. I can save a few € by ordering a bit less fries as childs waste a lot of food anyway. Once the kids have eaten what they can, dad eat the left over. I can also save a few more € by not ordering sauces as for the price of… Read more »
Alfie
Alfie
7 years 10 months ago
Thanks for the first tip, however my girlfriend and I already pack our lunches daily and we save a substantial amount of money every month. This is how we figured our savings: Eating out everyday, Monday thru Friday, for lunch for 2 of us at $8 a lunch would equal $320. We workout and have an active lifestyle therefore we eat 5 times a day rather than the conventional 3 meals a day (Early breakfast on way to work, 2nd breakfast mid morning, lunch, late after noon snack, and dinner). Our typical grocery bill is approximately $500 month (BJ’s for… Read more »
F
F
7 years 10 months ago
Hi Ramit, I love your $1,000 challenge idea, but chances are that your readers (i.e. people interested in personal finance) already have audited/budgetted their finances, and thus identified significant outgoing cashflows such as eating out. So you’re bound to receive disappointing reactions with each tip, but hey don’t let that discourage you. This series should be great advice for those just discovering the idea of personal finance, and the rest of us might still find a couple of useful tips (things we overlooked or never questioned). @Guys, Be realistic about what these tips can save you: Don’t expect to save… Read more »
HowToMakeMyBlog.com
7 years 10 months ago

Recently I have started preparing breakfast at home instead of eating out on the way to work. Saves me some 20 GBP weekly.

I still haven’t stopped eating out for lunch but I have stopped buying drink with lunch, which saves me some 10 GBP weekly. Still not prepared to totally quit lunching out because of the social part of it, but you bring some good points.

I have put you on my RSS / subscribed to your newsletter so will be following this project… sounds interesting!

Marko
http://www.howtomakemyblog.com

Gidget
Gidget
7 years 10 months ago
I am excited about this challenge–I was also excited to see all the postings so far—and yes, people that already pack their lunch should be proud of themselves—you do save alot of money—it’s surprising how much little things add up–even if packing your lunch everyday , but maybe buying coffee, etc along the way to work–that adds up as well, or a drink or soda, etc. on the way home–that could add up to almost $80-$100.00 as well each month–I was sorry to see the guy thinking life might be “sad” if he didn’t eat out as much—well, to each… Read more »
Reece
Reece
7 years 10 months ago

It makes sense that most of the people participating already take their lunch as they are obviously interested in saving money or they wouldn’t have signed up. I take my lunch also, it saves $, time and is healthier.

This tip validates that we are doing the right thing and I am sure there will tips to follow that we are NOT doing and need to implement.

Mike
7 years 10 months ago
I already try to take my lunch, whether it’s leftovers (best option), making a sandwich, or some frozen lunch (always bought on sale). Typically when I do eat out, though, it’s fast food and I RARELY spend more than $5. One of the things to take into account are the different markets – I’m not in a large urban area (SF, NY, LA) and lunches are typically cheaper even if you go to a real sit down restaurant. One advantage to packing your own lunch is controlling your diet. You decide what to put in that sack, including SNACKS for… Read more »
Chris
7 years 10 months ago
I love how much you incorporate psychology into your money tips and posts. You really are all about the theories principles that encompass social psychology, and rightfully so, because that’s what so much of money-spending/saving is all about. I should know at least a little about that stuff as I’m currently seeking my grad degree in applied social psych. Intuitively, we know that when our outputs are greater than our inputs, then we’re going to be in the hole, but there is plenty more going on psychologically that causes us to behave contrary to what we know to be true.… Read more »
Francie
7 years 10 months ago

Another tip on prepacking your lunch…you can make and freeze sandwiches ahead. Sandwiches made with lunch meats, leftovers like meatloaf, ham, turkey or roast beef, tuna, cheese or pb freeze great. Mayo, tomatoes and lettuce don’t freeze well so put those in a container in the fridge. Toss a frozen sandwich and any condiments in your lunch in the morning and by noon, you’ll have a thawed but still cold sandwich.

Trevor
Trevor
7 years 10 months ago

Ramit — thats a good suggestion… my problem is that I either bring lunch or don’t eat…. and I’m sure some of your readers are in the same boat, the ‘don’t eat at work’ boat….. a suggestion — I bought one of those big COSTCO sized boxes of Milky Way bars and also a large cannister of Animal Crackers…. this helps me because I can easily reach into my drawer for a quick snack vice walking to a store, or, in my case, we have vending machines (those convenience buys are a killer).

Anna
7 years 10 months ago
Hi everyone – Ramit is doing a great job getting us on board. Here are my thoughts: I try to group as many ‘good’ behaviors into one activity as possible. For example, I like to go hiking on the weekends (I live in LA, and it’s a crime not get outside!). I also take the bus to my hiking spot. Thus, I save money by using public transportation and doing an activity that is relatively low cost, I get a great workout, I socialize (if I go with friends), etc. We can do this with packing lunches, as well. As… Read more »
Lisa
7 years 10 months ago
Great tip. I’m a stay at home mom, so I don’t eat lunch out often, but I’m always so glad when I’m out running errands away from home, and have remembered to pack something for myself and kids. It saves, money, time, and hassle. Also, taking a few minutes in the morning to make my daughter’s lunch saves us an estimated $25.00 per week. Many of the kids in her high school walk to nearby sandwich, fast food, or coffee chains for lunch. It takes me 5 minutes to pack her lunch, so I’m saving an hourly rate of $60.00… Read more »
Anca
Anca
7 years 10 months ago

If you already made assumptions on how much people might be spending to eat out, why not go the extra step and list the average cost of a bagged lunch?

I eat out a lot, but it almost always costs me under $4. And that $4 includes a great little piece of grilled salmon.

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Rach
Rach
7 years 10 months ago
I always do a big cook up on Sunday – freeze everything in reuseable containers – and then every day I just need to reach in to my freezer and pick my lunch. My food remains fresh on the way to work as it’s still frozen, then I use the microwave to heat it up. Easy! And no boring sandwiches day after day. I’m curious for the tips coming. I feel like my budget is already pretty tight as I’m paying off old debt as quickly as possible, but I’m ready for even more. Ha, F makes a great point… Read more »
Matt
Matt
7 years 10 months ago

In addition to packing a lunch most days, I always keep a loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, and container of honey at the office, so that I always have the option of making a quick sandwich. For people that tend to get hungry throughout the day, this is a good way to avoid spending more than you plan by getting snacks from vending machines or making extra trips to the nearby cafeteria/deli.

Tim Brown
7 years 10 months ago

I saved $56 bagging four lunches/week last month – the first month my wife and I began consistently bringing lunches. We plan to continue eating this way.

If all your tips are as realistic and centered on personal responsibility as this one, we’ll be in great shape. Thanks Ramit!

Jaclyn
Jaclyn
7 years 10 months ago
I am a busy student and end up buying food on campus most days. Sometimes I am on campus for 12 hours so this usually means two, if not three meals bought, four days a week. In a typical week I spend $50 on food at school. In a month that equals $200. I just went to the grocery store and bought $20 worth of groceries that will last me more than a week for lunches. Even spending $20 a week will save me $120 this month. I know lots of people already take their lunch, and of course I… Read more »
Daniel
Daniel
7 years 10 months ago

Thanks for this series Ramit, I really appreciate the time you are spending on it. Like a lot of people, I’m already bringing my lunch most days (I’m lucky enough to have a work with a great kitchen area) but there are 29 more tips to go and I KNOW I’m not already doing all of them. Thanks again for your help, you’re doing a great service.

Anna
Anna
7 years 10 months ago

Have been doing this for many years. To get in enough fruits and vegetables I cut up apples, any fruit baggy it, and eat one in car on the way and home. Same with vegetable just not at the same time.

Kevin Franklin
7 years 10 months ago

Recently, I’ve been making a habit out of checking the frozen meal section at the grocery store. They tend to have a weekly 4 for $10 deal on a certain brand of meal. One week, it’ll be Lean Cuisine, the next it will be Healthy Choice, and so on. I’ve been buying 4 of these per week for me to take to work. It’s saving me money, and it’s helping me lose weight by not overeating.

Portions at fast food/dine-in places are usually very large!

Edgardo
Edgardo
7 years 10 months ago

Just came back fom a two week unexpected vacation. (For all the right reasons) Now looking for every which way to save a buck. To make up for the money and time i have lost. Time i know i cant get back but money on the other hand is a different story. This challege could of not came in a better time. I just want to thank you and everyone else for the tips and comments. Can not wait for the next tip.

Pip
7 years 10 months ago
I have been brown bagging it for years as well and let me add some tips: 1) Leftovers! Bring leftovers occasionally. It’s a treat. Every now and then a leftover pork chop, stuffing and a veggie will be a nice treat and a change of pace from sandwiches or salads. Nothing will inspire office wide jealousy and get people to stop “picking on you” than leftover chinese food. 2) Make it yours. I put shredded carrots on my sandwich, because I want them there. People always look in awe, but it’s my sandwich I’ll put what I want on it!… Read more »
Simon
Simon
7 years 10 months ago

We think this will save about £30 each per week, so approximately £120 towards our £1000 goal… (in our opinion is that even though currency fluctuates, most things are fairly similarly priced everywhere numerically)

Poor Boomer
Poor Boomer
7 years 10 months ago

I already do this, so I’m not saving anything. I’ve got some screwy overpriced deal where I rent a room in a house and get three meals. We’re so frugal in this house (nine of us) that the lunch bags are reusable zip bags. And I can’t move to a cheaper place because I’m spending 70 percent of my income to live here.

Philip
Philip
7 years 10 months ago

Yep, here too. I have packed a lunch since grade school! Next!

Lea
Lea
7 years 10 months ago

Hopeful of getting something out of these tips, but feeling its not likely.
Everything already cut to bone, and last week decided to cut our last few luxuries out of the groceries (fruit juice, yoghurt, and other equally decadent luxuries 🙁 )
Currently working on the other end – increasing income. :goes back to code window:

Oh, and leftovers are way cheaper than actually ‘packing a lunch’, if you have reheat facilities in your office. It costs almost nothing to stretch dinner to one more place; it does cost money to buy bread and fillings, or whatever ‘extras’ you want to include.

Kristi
Kristi
7 years 10 months ago

—The $50 Pot of Soup—
Every week or two I make a pot of my favorite Dal, a wonderful Indian lentil soup full of ginger and spices. I figure the pot of soup is worth $50 in savings, since it makes me 10 lunches. There’s nothing like the 1-minute simplicity of grabbing a frozen container of soup as I head out the door for a 12+ hour shift.

evie
evie
7 years 10 months ago

I like to bring an extra special dessert so I look forward to my brought lunch more than eating out. I’m big on brownies, cookies, stawberries and homemade whipped cream…

Since I switched, I save about $70 a month.

Renee
Renee
7 years 10 months ago
I work in NYC where lunches can easily cost over $12 a pop. I order out alot because I don’t have time to go out so with tip I am spending over $15 per day on lunch. I usually buy soup and a salad. So…today I went to the grocery store bought three soup bowls for $4.50 (on sale with a coupon)and a bag of salad, tomotoes and mini carrots. I spent less than $10 so I’m already saving. Thanks for the challenge, Ramit. I may have heard the tip to bring my lunch to work to save money many… Read more »
Tina
Tina
7 years 10 months ago
This is a great tip, although like many others who posted already, one we have been doing for years. I would like to add something to it that I didn’t see mentioned in the comments yet. For those of you who have school aged children, as I do, and you don’t qualify for free or reduced price school lunches go ahead and pack them a lunch while you are packing your own. I do this for my 3 who are still in grade school and I estimate my savings each month during the school year to be $100.00/month for my… Read more »
Denise
Denise
7 years 10 months ago

I am up to the challenge. I lost my job back in August, and with me receiving unemployment compensation, I have cut back alot, but would like to save up some money, too. Tip #1 is no problem, no with tip #2.

Vic
Vic
7 years 10 months ago
I pack my lunch every single day. To make it even more efficient my lunch consist of a tuna sandwich with a couple of fruits (Kiwi, strawberry or grapes) with a bottle of water. This is a good strategy……although tuna everyday did not sound to appealing at the start, but it is cheap good for my health and keeps more money in my wallet. I do sometimes like to go to McDonalds, which is across the street from my office, but I take full advantage of the dollar menu. One cup of sweet tea =1.00 and two 4-Piece chicken nuggets… Read more »
Patrick Dench
Patrick Dench
7 years 10 months ago

$9/day x 4 days a week = $36/week x 4 = $144/month

Packing lunch 4 days a week instead of one…

$9/week x 4 weeks = $36/month

Monthly savings: $108

Micah
Micah
7 years 10 months ago

Great tip. I am a cheapskate and I’m trying to lose weight so this works great. When you mention strategy for eating out my first thoughts were to only eat out when it could help you network with other professionals, or improve your career in some way. Purely social reasons are okay too because that is very important for personal morale. I error on the side of almost never eating out and that does have negative effects.

Allen
7 years 10 months ago

Most days I skip lunch, and when I don’t I spend $13.00 on chinese delivery. $10.00 + $3.00 tip. my savings would be $156.00 per month. My real thought is not saving the money, but directing the money to some account where I can see my savings. Method 1, a extra wallet or money box, even a shoe box will work. If you are saving money on lunch but spend it on a new cd you happen to see, then there was no savings. Set the money to the side and save but most importantly see the savings.

m
m
7 years 10 months ago
My husband and I have been eating out too much lately, but it’s so hard because of our schedules. We are both in school and working full-time so it’s really crazy for us. We get home late every night so the last thing either of us feel like doing is packing lunch. We do buy groceries with the intentions of making our own lunches, but then we are too tired to pack lunch and we end up paying even more — for the groceries and then eating out on top of it because we don’t eat the food for lunch.… Read more »
One Frugal Girl
7 years 10 months ago

One other suggestion related to this: Take a whole bunch of staple foods to work and leave them in your desk. Take items like almonds, apple sauce, granola bars, etc. I also like to keep a few bottles of water on hand. That way even if you forget to bring your lunch to work you will still have food on hand. You might have to pick up a small sandwich, but you won’t find yourself picking up a sandwich, chips and a drink.

Chris P
Chris P
7 years 10 months ago
I already save between $2 – 4 a day by taking my own lunch (depending on what I take). Call it $15 per week or $60+ per month. I used to eat out almost everyday, but in June my AC needed to be replaced and I had not budgeted for it. So I bought it on 12 month no interest, and calculated how much I needed to save each payday to get it paid off in that time. Bringing my own lunch was one thing I did to be able to save, and that whole situation was what lead me… Read more »
Beth
Beth
7 years 10 months ago
I realized that to make packing a lunch work for me, lunch had to not feel like a sacrifice. When shopping for the week, I’ve taken to grabbing fun things, like the tiny Laughing Cow cheese and pretty fruit to add to lunch. These things make lunch way better quality and way cheaper than anything I an acquire within walking distance from my office. If the freezer is lean on leftovers and I have less than two minutes to pack lunch, I’ve found I can half pack a lunch by grabbing fruit, two granola bars and then supplementing with $4… Read more »
Kevin
Kevin
7 years 10 months ago
Ramit, Thanks a lot for this series, I think it’ll be good. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts for a while now, because of your no-BS attitude about frugality and the importance of being pound-wise even if not always penny-wise. So when you say you’re going to offer practical, psychologically sound advice on saving money “the old-fashioned way,” you’ve got us all listening! Having left a job in NYC to get my master’s in engineering, I’m now packing my lunch almost every day. This full-time grad student is having an easier time of it than expected because there are far less… Read more »
gmom
gmom
7 years 10 months ago
Been packing for longer than you’ve been alive, but last year switched from brown bag to reusable bag to save a tree (but it’s actually saved me $15 so far this year). I use reusable plastic containers picked up from the Dollar Store or washed margarine tubs, etc. Also I have reusable bottle for water (saves $2.00/day over some of my coworkers who pay for bottled water). I order in twice a month with coworkers because it helps me stay in the loop on what’s happening outside my cubicle – but don’t get a drink because I have the water.… Read more »
Emma
7 years 10 months ago

I only buy lunch if I have a lunch meeting. I always take leftovers from dinner, which ends up being even cheaper than buying things to make for lunch.

Lisa
Lisa
7 years 10 months ago
It seems so obvious, and many of us with children will easily admit to cutting back on our own stops for lunch but don’t give much thought to continually sending in that check to restock the kid’s school debit card for lunches. I sat down with my 14 year old this morning and explained compound interest. The $150 – $175 she spends per month in the cafeteria could be invested in a savings account to be used toward a car purchase in two years time. Most of us are going to make that investment for our children at 16 why… Read more »
RJ
RJ
7 years 10 months ago

Thanks Ramit for the tip and coming up with this series.

But here is an alternate view point-
The idea of cutting down on food is not great! Especially when one place health in the top quadrant. I think people should eat the best of which they can afford. By best I don’t mean going to the expensive restaurants.
When starting to cut down on food costs some people are going to turn into junk food style from a full course meal and over time it’s going to affect their health.

Pam
Pam
7 years 10 months ago

This tip doesn’t apply to us as we have a home-based business. And, because we’re not doing so good financially, our son qualifies for the free lunch program at school – thank goodness!! I’m looking forward to #2 tip today – when will we get it? 🙂

Lydia
Lydia
7 years 10 months ago

Oh Me Oh My! I just added what we spent on eating out last month…$355.97…However, more than half went to feeding our employees. It has been our way of showing our appreciation. What i will do now is pack them lunches and cut out eating out on our part as well. What a Great Idea!
Thank you!

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago
I come home for lunch daily. I can count on one hand how much I eat out for lunch. Better yet, I can count on one hand how much we eat out period. My husband takes his lunch and when he does eat out for lunch, he does not spend more than $5.00. My daughter has been taking her lunch since school started in August and we spend more money fixing her lunches because she eats healthly lunches than we would if we bought her lunch in the cafeteria. A cafeteria lunch is $2.00 for our daughter and I can… Read more »
Pam
Pam
7 years 10 months ago

Amy, take a look at your schools free lunch programs. All they need is a pay check stub or two and your family may qualify for free or reduced lunches if offered. Just like you said, they’re healthy and our district has a good variety. And, breakfest is free too if they offer it.

Yasmin
Yasmin
7 years 10 months ago

Gloria…you go girl!

I tend to fall off every so often and go with the lunch train, just to ‘get out of the office’ but there’s really a lot of value in being able to say ‘No thanks, I’m doing this for Ramit’ 😉 j/k…

For those of you who already bring bagged lunches, an alternative would be to save more on the lunches you pack…is it really just a homemade PB&J sandwich? how much are you really saving? Cut down on the cost in your bagged lunches.

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago

Pam, I do not qualify for free lunches just under my income alone. That program is for low income families. Remember, I said my husband is a finance manager. I am not being negative, but I am hopeful that maybe some of the tips will apply to me but the lunch one does not because I am already doing it.

John
7 years 10 months ago
I think it’s interesting, Ramit, that your first tip for saving $1000 is related to food. As an American expat who’s spent the last twenty plus years living in Europe, I’ve reached the conclusion that many people, and particularly Americans, skimp on food expenses in detriment to their long-term health and happiness. I have friends in the states who live in posh homes, drive swanky cars, and take lavish vacations, but they cut corners on food by looking for the lowest prices at discount stores that clearly sacrifice quality to cut prices. Let’s not even talk about the quality of… Read more »
Sri
Sri
7 years 10 months ago

Hi Ramit, thanks a ton for the tip. I am planning on following this challenge! Just one question. I live in Germany, and am doing my PhD here so go to university atleast 3 of the 5 days in a week. Do you think the university cafeteria also counts as eating out? A meal there costs me around 3-4 euros (coz I’m vegetarian) and I use an expense card for it. Is that as much as my packed lunch would anyway cost? What do you think?

Anna
7 years 10 months ago

Oh how I struggle with this! My job requires me to be on the road a lot and it’s SO much easier to grab lunch on the go. I’ve tried packing lunches before, I lasted three weeks! I think the suggestion of weaning down the number of lunches per week is a great one! If I allow mysel 2-3 days of eating out for lunch the first week, it’ll be easier to eventually pack all of my lunches! Just packing 2 days per week will easily save me $20!

Cathlene
Cathlene
7 years 10 months ago

I’m already packing my lunch most of the time, but I think there is some information here that I need to think about. I don’t always plan/pack wisely and sometimes I end up just taking a frozen meal which doesn’t really feel satisfying, and doesn’t really same me much. I’m going to make and effort to plan for the entire week, and make sure I’m smart about what I choose to take with me each day.

Carolina
Carolina
7 years 10 months ago
Hi, I’m new to the site but I’m always looking for ways to save money especially now that I’m not working (having a baby in a couple of months). I have to say I feel a little bit ashamed since I should be packing lunches for my hubby, I do give him breakfast in the morning though. Anyway I’m gonna start packing lunches at least for a couple of days a week since he is always driving from one place to another he can’t heat up his lunch and I don’t want him to get tired of sandwiches but I’ll… Read more »
Megan
Megan
7 years 10 months ago

Already do this. To increase your savings on this- Do not use a paper bag, sandwich bags, etc. Put your food in washable, reusable containers. Better for the environment and your wallet.

Adam
Adam
7 years 10 months ago

I started saving about $300 a month when I switched to buying my food from the store and making it at home. Granted this is all meals in the day not just lunch, and I still eat out about 1 day a week for lunch, and 1x for dinner, I always eat breakfast before I leave for work in the morning. Good tip I recommend easing yourself off eating out if you do it a lot, listen to Ramit 😉

Jane
7 years 10 months ago

I have been packing lunch for 5 years now. We do have a cafeteria at school, but it’s you know, school food. I didn’t like that stuff as a student! It does save a lot of money. I hate to pack lunch in the morning so, to make it easy I mostly pack Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones that I buy in bulk when they come on sale. I usually pay about $2.50 each day. I also bring my own reusable bottle of water. Cost about $13.00 a week. The frozen meals make it a no excuses thing.

Eileen
Eileen
7 years 10 months ago

Here’s a tip that doesn’t necessarily involve saving money, but it might save your bananas. Don’t put bananas in the refrigerator. The skins will turn black. (Remember, they’re tropical.) The bananas inside are fine, but black bananas are not exactly appetizing. 🙂

Funny about Money
7 years 10 months ago

Good, solid advice.

I don’t eat lunch at work. We don’t have a refrigerator at the office–GDU rules prohibit using departmental funds to purchase anything in any way related to food, and as generously paid state employees none of us can afford to purchase a mini-refrigerator that will probably end up being sacrificed to the cause. No edible food is sold on the campus: all food services have been subcontracted to junk-food franchises.

With no way to store an actual meal, I bring a bag of nuts and snack on them to keep from fainting from hunger.

Angie
Angie
7 years 10 months ago

This will save me about $21.00 per week.

Ashley
Ashley
7 years 10 months ago

I have a different approach to this. I get the $2 frozen dinners from Kroger, whichever ‘diet’ brand is on sale… it’s less expensive and healthier than making sandwiches. Less expensive because I have to buy ingredients in too large of units; the excess bread and fixin’s invariably go bad over the weekend. If there are leftovers, I have leftovers instead and the frozen dinners are quite content to wait for another day.

Cymbidium
Cymbidium
7 years 10 months ago

I’m a stay at home parent so I eat leftovers or make something “special” that the kdis don’t like so I can eat it all week. Crustless quiches, soups, etc.

The big savings for me is not buying water/drinks/snacks while we are out. We bring water bottles (refillable!), and pack healthy snacks (carrot sticks, local apples, popcorn, etc.)

This saves us about $50/month.

My husband is packing his lunches every day as well.

That saves us about $100/month.

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years 10 months ago
This is a great tip. My husband and I try agreed that we can each eat out one time per week. Sometimes I do not eat out at all in a week and sometimes I eat out twice in a week. So it kind of evens out for me in the end. The other thing I do besides taking leftovers or bringing a frozen dinner is keep an “emergency lunch” in my desk. I am embarrassed to admit it but there have been several times where I have forgotten to bring my lunch but at least I had something to… Read more »
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Roz
Roz
7 years 10 months ago
Aloha, I’ve been packing lunch for years, at first more for convenience b/c my office was located on a military base where the food court was just mediocre, and driving “off base” was such a hassle, but now it’s a habit. I’ve found that leftovers work better than anything else. As my husband and I are cleaning up after dinner, I’ll pack lunch for the both of us (resuable containers) at the same time I’m putting leftovers into the fridge so the next morning I just have to throw the containers into my lunch bag before i walk out the… Read more »
Rachel
Rachel
7 years 10 months ago

I only eat out for lunch 1-2 times a week so by packing my lunch those days I’ll save about $15/week for this month, totaling $60.

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Joyful Abode: Domesticity by Trial and Error
I already do this; always have. Another tip: If you’re in the office all day, make sure you have plenty of “interesting” snacks and drinks stashed… When I taught in a school (now I teach in my home), I had tea bags (different flavors), granola bars, baggies of crackers and stuff (which I bought in large bags/boxes and transferred to smaller servings myself, rather than buying the more expensive smaller packages). I had a mini fridge with individually wrapped cheddar cheese pieces (because they don’t go bad as quickly as if you bought a whole block), yogurt, cans of fruit,… Read more »
Andy
Andy
7 years 10 months ago

To repeat above comments succinctly and probably offensively: how do we save money if we’re already not retarded?

hungryelmo
hungryelmo
7 years 10 months ago

Funny about Money and others who work at places without a refrigerator
or a microwave, you can pack your lunch in an insulated container such as
Mr. Bento from Zojirushi and lunch tote and jars from Nissan Stainless.
They are insulated, so they keep food hot for hours.
My Mr. Bento keeps miso soup hot for at least 4-5 hours.

If you are worried about food spoiling from lack of refrigeration,
you can pack your lunch with small ice packs and also use an
insulated lunch bag. My mom did this with egg salad sandwiches
she used to pack for our day trip.

Iwantatoyhauler
Iwantatoyhauler
7 years 10 months ago
I will eat out once a week, normally on Thursday when I run financial errands for our business. The cost savings will be $32 for the month. I’ll deposit the amount into savings each week. However, a family goal has been to purchase a toyhauler and return to traveling with our daughters. Therefore we are currently working on a process to evaluate everything we own to determine whether to keep it, sell it or donate it. We have a daughter with special needs attending private school. Her education expenses were not in our financial plan and have set us back… Read more »
Jim
Jim
7 years 10 months ago
I think this is – in general – a common sense tip. It’s an easy and obvious way to save money, and as lots of people here attest, it’s commonly done. What I think is great is the suggestion of making your 3-5 lunches all at once and bagging them separately. I consistently buy supplies to make lunches on Sunday night, and then proceed to sleep as long as possible before I have to get up and find I don’t have time to make a lunch. Then I end up buying a lunch that day and spend twice the money!… Read more »
JJ
JJ
7 years 10 months ago

This one is obvious, true. But I still can never seem to do it. The trick seems to pack a lunch you’re going to WANT to eat when your colleague brings in Thai food from that great place across the street. Still, doing this should save me approx $20 per week.

CL
CL
7 years 10 months ago

This will save me about $40/month…I usually go out 1-2 times a week, but my current plan now is to go out once every week. I find it very hard to go cold turkey, call me weak!

Nicole
Nicole
7 years 10 months ago
I agree with John’s comment about not skimping on health in favor of lower cost. Remember to prioritize and think about the big picture! A daily diet of snickers, PB&J, and ramen is a cheap and filling way to go, but hardly optimal for your health – and health bills. Consider three months of skimping on vegetables and fruit. Your body will not thank you. It will survive, sure, but if you want your brain and body to operate at full function during your day, try to remember that “cheap” doesn’t always equal “best.” A lot of people seem like… Read more »
Claire
Claire
7 years 10 months ago

This is a great tip that I’ve been doing for awhile.

Today’s savings: $0
Cumulative savings: $0

Charles
Charles
7 years 10 months ago
This is a great tip. Perhaps you saved money you didn’t give yourself credit for saving. Yes, you may be a brown bagger from the dark ages. Do you however, assign a savings value to what you are carrying. Even if its the actual cost down to the penny. Also what would you eat and what would it cost if you didn’t carry your lunch. Many efforts are not appreciated because they have no value assigned to them. Such as the negative responses to this tip. It a person’s choice to value or deem something worthless. Attitude is the actual… Read more »
TC
TC
7 years 10 months ago

I appreciate the no-B.S. promise, Ramit. I prefer realistic changes that save time and money, not changes that take 5 hours and only save $1.

I eat breakfast at home and pack snacks & lunches for work already, so savings for today is $0. For the others who do the same, make sure you’re doing the extra things Pip recommends – pack your snacks and drinks too. I haven’t been doing this part very long, but it has made an impact. How much are you spending at the vending machines, that could be reduced?

Erica
Erica
7 years 10 months ago
I have tried to implement this one in the past, but never with much success. At work I always buy from the salad bar. I have yet to find a way to make a salad at home with all the ingredients I want, in a manner that will survive a 16-or-so hour wait in the refrigerator. (Figure I make the salad at 8pm the previous night, eat it at 12pm the next day.) I could put all the ingredients in their own containers and then mix them together at lunchtime, but of course that is silly. I tried making sandwiches,… Read more »
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Barbara
Barbara
7 years 10 months ago

I am look forward to learning more tips. I already bring my lunch to work which most of you do. I saved about two hundred a month when I started last year. I know there will be tips for everyone to use you all just need to be patient.

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 10 months ago

Haven’t been out to lunch since…um…1990. Yup. 1990. I have been out on business lunches since then all of twice and someone else paid. So I can’t claim any savings on this tip.

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago

I never go to the vending machines. Actually, I have eaten at home for so long now that I am really starting to burn out on eating at home.

Cynthia
Cynthia
7 years 10 months ago

Unlike most folks, I eat out quite a lot. So bringing my lunch should save me as much as $50 per week – even more since I love to get sushi at least 3 times per month.

I also eat breakfast out each morning. That will be harder to change, but i’ll work on it.

Carla
7 years 10 months ago

I’ve been packing my lunch (and snacks: hard boiled eggs, fruit, veggies) about four days a week for years. I usually treat myself one day a week. I don’t eat junk so I don’t do vending machines or convenience stores. A typical lunch out costs about $13 so that saves me about $52 a week. I would save more if I did it five days a week though.

Nick
Nick
7 years 10 months ago

Lunch is a killer. Even though most places have lunch deals and whatnot, which may make it a better deal than dinner, it’s still not very economical.

Kurt
Kurt
7 years 10 months ago
Thank you Gloria!!! I just started this too and the first 3 savings items I already do to some extent nevertheless, what these are really do (to this point) is bolstering my own resolve to keep things simple and look for new ways to better what I am already doing – for instance – instead of packing a lunch in disposable containers I now use more reuseable containers and also think more of the bulk buys I can make during the week to maximize my lunch spending. I also am looking more for value in foods and what keeps me… Read more »
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Ethel
Ethel
7 years 10 months ago

When I buy lunch, I tend to spend $3 or less, and I already usually bring in my lunch (whenever we have leftovers / easy stuff to bring in). So I’m not really saving anything (additional) because I already do this as much as I can.

But it’s a great tip; even $3 a day adds up.

Joel
Joel
7 years 10 months ago

Well, hopefully future tips will be more applicable to me. I don’t eat out and my office provides me with a $3.50 per day lunch cooked by a chef, which while I could pack a sandwich and some chips, the food at work is generally much better, and really not that much more expensive.

Closeupman
Closeupman
7 years 10 months ago
Ramit: I disagree with you response to Chris. You stated at the beginning of this challenge you wouldn’t give any stupid frugality tips….. Well THIS is one of those COMMON frugality tips. If more people were married in a traditional marriage knowadays, it would be utilized even more. I did this when I was single as well, though my lunches weren’t as good as what my wife packs me. Also, due to the fact that we’re muslim, we can’t eat out that much and cook at home(I’ve become quite the baker…I love making chapti’s!). You could’ve added in your tip… Read more »
Berit
Berit
7 years 10 months ago
New to the site, but loving the idea of this fun challenge! Though it is likely that someone has already pointed this out (so many comments, wow!), be careful about (don’t) pre-packing bananas in paper bags several days ahead! Placing a green banana in a paper bag overnight is an old trick for ripening it BY THE NEXT DAY. I think this may be true of some other fruits as well. So, a few days in a bag is enough to make your nice, streamlined pre-packed lunch gross for you! 🙁 Avoid Brown-Bag boredom that can make you throw in… Read more »
Lena
Lena
7 years 10 months ago

So far so good. My husband and I have lunch together mon-thurs (fridays at home). This month we have decided to brown bag it every day except wednesday. An average lunch for us is $12.
$12×3=36.00 per week
$144 monthly savings

ET Mister
ET Mister
7 years 10 months ago

This is very strange to see this challenge and tip come across my RSS feed at the same time I made a commitment to try to knock a $1000 off my monthly budget. I have started planning on packing lunches starting this week. I am glad to see I am not alone in this challenge.

Closeupman
Closeupman
7 years 10 months ago
Give me some time and I will. At least for this tip, I would add, go to Costco(or go with someone who has a membership if you really want to save money) and stock up on essentials that you can brown bag with. 1. Buy the HUGE canned fruit(e.g. pear slices, peach halves, etc). Those can be put in tupperware. Those make good(and cheap) desserts for your lunch or just snacks for work. 2. If you like tuna, you can get a good deal on those at costco too, just don’t buy the prepackaged ‘tuna kits’, buy just the tuna… Read more »
allen
7 years 10 months ago

I’m in walking distance of home, so i walk home. Saves me money, and i get out of the office for a while. of course, that’s why i choose my place…

No savings for me, as i’m already doin’ this.

Evie
Evie
7 years 10 months ago

I have been doing this for several months now and have really seen the difference both financially and in my health. It’s easier to manage calories, fiber, sodium intake, etc. I like using my crock pot since I can dump all sorts of wonderful things in there, turn it on, go to sleep and wake up in the morning to a delicious soup, stew, etc. that will last me for more than one lunch. I enjoy making lunch my biggest meal (which also helps with weight control).

Strong One
7 years 10 months ago
I realized the impact of this tip years ago. As a nurse it’s so easy to get caught up not having the time to actually eat a lunch. So we tend to eat whatever is most available. That comes in the form of the oh-so cheap cafeteria food, or worse we scrounge up more money to have our lunch via the vending machine. I calculated it once some time ago, and I save somewhere between $20 -$40 a week simply by planning ahead and bringing my own lunch as well as my own snacks. Oh and not only is it… Read more »
Sarah
Sarah
7 years 10 months ago

I’ve known I need to do this for a while now, but my husband and I work together and he’s not as keen on the idea. We spend an average of $100 a week on lunches out (two of us combined), so we could save quite a bit!

Ricardo
Ricardo
7 years 10 months ago
Pack lunches? Check. I have a rewards membership at the local A&P, so I usually buy cold cuts based on what’s on sale that week. So now I’ve been turned on to low-sodium ham. =) The savings as compared to eating out during work are thus: Eating out = 5 x $7.50 = $37.50 Packing lunch = 5 x ($0.10 + $0.50 + $0.50 + $0.25 + $0.05) = $7.00 (This is an estimate, but the addition covers two slices of bread, a couple slices of meat, then cheese, lettuce/spinach, and finally mustard) Savings = $30 / week = $120… Read more »
Amanda
7 years 10 months ago

For this one, I blew it yesterday….BUT.

I pack lunches nearly every single day, and maybe eat lunch out once every two weeks (dinner out less often even than that–maybe once a month), and it’s because I like my co-workers and don’t get to hang out with them outside of work. So at most by doing this I would have saved $15 this entire month, and it’s not worth it to me because I rarely get to enjoy these people’s company. :/

But yeah, I blew it. Still going to try to do all the other tips though!

Alice
7 years 10 months ago

I’ve been packing my lunch for years. I can’t imagine shelling out $5.00 a day for packaged lunch that won’t taste as good or be as healthy as the one I’m bringing for less than $2.00, and is homemade from mostly organic ingredients.

Lorie
Lorie
7 years 10 months ago

I already pack my lunch. But I think an interesting twist to this is to have my kids pack thier lunches which currently cost me in excess of $30 a week! I am challenging my children to pack at least three times a week. Savings = roughly $18 week or about $72 for the month. That’s a great start!!

Chad
Chad
7 years 10 months ago

I usually eat out for lunch every day when I am at work. So this adds up to about (5 days * $6 * 4 weeks) = $120 just for lunch in a month. I aim to just start bringing my lunch twice a week, so this will cut down eating out to (3 days * $6 * 4 weeks) = $72….. and bringing my lunch (2 days * $3 * 4 weeks) = $24. So this will end up saving me: $120 – ($72 + $24) = $24 a month? Hmmm…

Mo
Mo
7 years 10 months ago
I started taking my lunch a few years ago because I was trying to eat healthier foods especially food with less sodium. I hated having to get a lunch ready each morning to I started making a whole weeks worth of meals to pick from. I spend about an hour or so on either Saturday or Sunday morning getting it ready and then put it in the fridge. Everything is wrapped and ready to go. I use a lunch size cooler bag and each morning I open the fridge and pick out something for breakfast and lunch. I like having… Read more »
Rhonda
Rhonda
7 years 10 months ago
As with many of the other participants I already brown bag it most of the time, and the few times I do eat out I usually keep it on the cheap, between 3 & $6 at the local food coop. But as Tina, Lisa and Lorie mentioned, I can extend this idea to my school-aged son and make sure I stock the house with ingredients for him to pack his school lunches. This is one of those things that we do sometimes, and he doesn’t mind packing his own lunch, but when things get busy we run out of easy… Read more »
Keeley
7 years 10 months ago

We already started doing this a while ago. Here’s my calculation:

lunches 5x/week@ $7/day x 4.5weeks/mo minus
$6/week x 4.5weeks/mo for cost of bagged lunches

= $157.50 – $27 = $130.50 Total savings.

sailor
sailor
7 years 10 months ago
Don’t forget the gas you probably save driving to lunch. Yep, have been doing this one too. Good Tip from me: Make sure when you are planning your lunches that you use what you have at home. Can’t tell you how many times things go bad because I forget I have them. Bummer = waste of $. Another tip: plan meals and all necessary items for one whole week (7 days, not 5) and write that down. Buy when you can or if freshness is important and you have time, shop every few days. JUST SAY NO to your inner… Read more »
Rosemary
7 years 10 months ago
I have always packed my own lunch, and my husband just recently started in an effort to save money. Needless to say, we’ve seen a huge drop in our food bill just from him joining me. We stock up on snacks like nuts, dried fruit, yogurt and granola bars to keep at work, and then daily pack something simple – either leftovers from dinner, a salad with chicken and soy nuts, or a sandwich, along with fresh fruit. Erica – it’s really not that hard. We make two lunches in about 10 minutes every morning, so there’s no need to… Read more »
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JE
JE
7 years 10 months ago

I agree with everyone who’s unimpressed with this tip. If you’re going to promise “no stupid frugality tips”, then you probably should have started off the series with something a little more original than the most basic of frugality tips.

Mark Oates
7 years 10 months ago

Eating out frequently is my worst financial sin and biggest crutch. I’ll probably save more than $200 with this.

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[…] Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week Good idea….I do that most days, so it isn’t going to save me any money, but it is a good valid international tip. […]

Me
Me
7 years 10 months ago

Every day for lunch one person from the office goes to the grocery store and buys stuff to make sandwiches and we split the cost. It work well and we normally end up spending less than 3 dollars.

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[…] Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week […]

Gretchen
7 years 10 months ago
I didn’t go through ALL the comments (there are lots), but I wanted to mention a trick I use. I also “pack” breakfast. I never have enough time in the mornings, and breakfast is important, so I keep a box of cereal in my desk and a carton of milk in the staff fridge. Before I started doing this I was hitting the snack shop even though I had brought my lunch. A cup of tea and a bagel with cream cheese is $4.00 – so I figure I’m saving $20 a week minus the cost of the cereal and… Read more »
Diana
Diana
7 years 10 months ago

This will save me € 80,- (i’m from Holland)
Thats $ 101,78!!!

The first $ 100,- for me this month!! thanks for the tip!

Sarah
Sarah
7 years 10 months ago

If you can’t see the svaings… check out bankrate.com’s calculator.

http://www.bankrate.com/brm/calculators/savings/lunch_savings_calculator.asp
This is some serious savings!

G.L.
G.L.
7 years 10 months ago

Wow, that’s a lot of comments. 🙂 I feel like I’m a bit late to the party, so I’ll just jump right in:

Alas, this tip doesn’t apply to me because I work from home and thus rarely if ever go out for lunch…

Julie
Julie
7 years 10 months ago

I already work at home and don’t usually eat lunch. This will save me 0$

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago

I have been coming home for lunch for over three months now and I am really burned out on it. I want some Chinese food, but I have gotten so use to taking my lunch and the budget is so tight now.

neelam
neelam
7 years 10 months ago

I have packed lunches for my whole family for over 3 decades & I love it. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

Alexandra
Alexandra
7 years 10 months ago

this is to Mo re: Bacteria in ziploc bags.
I’ve been reusing bottles and ziploc bags for YEARS and have never had any kind of illness or bad reaction.
I think the bottled water industry plays that up to try to keep us BUYING more rather than re-using.
We’ve been pakcing our lunches for ages too. SAved a boatload of moola.
I keep a pack of hot dogs and a bag of buns in the freezer at work for days i forget my lunch.

Dale
Dale
7 years 10 months ago
This one isn’t as much of a money saver for me personally, because when I do eat lunch out, it’s rarely an expensive lunch. Even so, packing lunch does save me money. I’ve found a couple of things that help keep me on track. I keep some prepared foods that can be stored at room temperature in my office. That way, when I do forget to pack a lunch, I have something on hand to eat. I also keep some snacks around. Mostly, I prefer nuts for a snack. They are nutritious and not too bad if you are trying… Read more »
RookieMom Heather
7 years 10 months ago

We did it. We packed lunch all week. I average about $12 per lunch out for 4 times this week. Alec averages about $8 per lunch for 4 times this week. $48 + $32 = $80 this week. I estimate that we’ll need to ease up in the coming weeks and let one extra day out into our lives so that’s $60 times 3 more weeks for a total monthly savings of $260 on this tip alone.

Aaron
Aaron
7 years 10 months ago

Although I do this, it is a great idea for people who don’t. What I like most about it is also saves me on calories!

Susan
7 years 10 months ago
Hi Ramit, You’re right, of course, packed lunches are cheaper and can be very yummy if you know how. However, 2 things stop me: 1. TIME. Preparing my lunch takes me a critical amount of time in the morning that I just can’t afford to spend. I’m not willing to get up earlier to get my lunch ready and so I always struggle with having enough time for this. I’m not sure that the extra time spent is worth the money saved. 2. NETWORKING. At my workplace, going out to lunch with people is a critical component of networking. It… Read more »
Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago
Okay, guys, I couldn’t take it anymore so I finally broke down and ordered Chinese takeout for dinner on Friday night which cost us about $30.00 and we ate out on Saturday night which cost us about $52.00 including the tip for a total of $82.00. Although it was expensive, boy it sure did feel good. I felt like I had been denied for so long. Now, back to going home for lunch and eating dinner at home. We bought groceries this weekend so we are having tacos today and tomorrow for dinner. Every now and then give yourself a… Read more »
Barbara Jean Walsh
7 years 10 months ago

I work from home and never go out for lunch. Just by coincidence though, my weekly dinner group decided on a picnic this week, and so did my movie group (we’re all going to a drive-in where we can sit in lawn chairs and feed our faces). So, I’ll be saving something there, after all.

Rob
Rob
7 years 10 months ago

I even have one better than this. My office provides groceries for us to make sandwiches, snacks, etc. etc.

Aspen
Aspen
7 years 10 months ago

I am just now reading this blog – tips are up through 7 now, but I was loving what I was reading so I went back to tip 1 and look forward to joining the challenge! Broke at the moment, Friday is payday, so will go do my lunch shopping and get started next week! My goal will be to start with 4 lunches packed, since I usually do 3 already. All that $ I would spend gets put away… Love it!

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[…] Photo Credit: Ramit Sethi […]

Tom
Tom
7 years 10 months ago

I found this great little chinese place near work. If I drink water, it costs me slightly less than $25 per week to go out for lunch. I get soup and an entree. I usually cannot eat all of that and eat it for dinner too. 🙂 $25/week for lunch and dinner…although I could save more, I still feel proud of myself

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago

Tom, that is very good. If I were you, I will continue to eat out until I got tired of it and then I would eat at home. You can not cook a meal at home, lunch and dinner, for $25 a week. I love eating out but it is just so expensive.

PDXGirl
PDXGirl
7 years 10 months ago
In theory I already pack lunches, in practice I end up eating out as much as 3-4 times a week, sometimes getting breakfast and lunch out. I can make a really delicious lunch with snacks for the daytime for under $2 here’s what I have this week: Turkey mini meatloafs Roasted potatoes Pudding Yogurt microwave popcorn chips That total comes to $1.91 per lunch, versus $5-$12 if I eat out, so we’ll call that $8 each on average, 3 days a week that’ll be $24 I would have spent replaced by $5.73 actually spent for a savings of $18.27 this… Read more »
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[…] Tip #1: Pack Lunches for the rest of the week The first tip is to go to the grocery store today and pack lunches for yourself all week. Sounds obvious, but below I’ll include some specific tips and social-psychological techniques to make this actually work. […]

alexinmadison
alexinmadison
7 years 10 months ago
I got lazy a long time ago – around the time I started being able to “afford” to eat out – and I eat the majority of my meals out now. For me, this is getting back to basics and I will be implementing this tip immediately. Back in my poor days, when I couldn’t afford to eat in restaurants, this is what I did: Each Sunday I’d make a large pan of something – lasagna, casserole, a good heavy soup, etc. It has to be something you really enjoy. When it’s done cooking, parse it out into individual servings… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years 10 months ago
I learned this tip pretty much straight out of college. It’s an oldie, but reliable. I grew up cooking for my family of 4. I never really learned how to cook for one — except in matters of things like steak which I no longer eat and salad which I eat in excess — so my first few months of living alone in an apartment on a meager salary meant I was taking leftovers for lunch every day. Fortunately, I already liked the food! Those were in the days when I still used the microwave (a whole ‘nother story). I… Read more »
Lane
7 years 10 months ago

Lunch is free at my job. Next tip.

CarolAnn
CarolAnn
7 years 10 months ago
There are 3 girls in my office and we take turns providing lunch for all 3 of us. On your day you bring in enough food for 3 people either sandwiches/wraps, salads, or even something that can be nuked and served hot, (making things in bulk is cheaper too) then we all eat the same thing and enjoy it together which means we’re not bumming out about what we have versus what someone else has that day and the next day it’s some one elses turn so we don’t get totally bored with 3 days of salad with turkey on… Read more »
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7 years 10 months ago

[…] E a solução? Fazer lanchinho em casa e levar para o trabalho? O nosso colega Ramit Sethi do Iwillteachyoutoberich diz que sim. Mas a dica dele tem mais a ver com economizar em períodos de crise do que com […]

Lynn
Lynn
7 years 10 months ago

Well, this WAS helpful for me. Yes, it’s obvious, yes, I should have been doing it all along.. but I wasn’t. I especially like the suggestion to make all thelunches at one time and lable them. What often hinders me is having to make a lunch every day.. duh. I don’t know WHY I wasn’t doing this already.. anyway it was helpful for me, so thanks

jon
7 years 10 months ago

i eat out quite a bit for lunch, and nearly every day for breakfast.

breakfast: avg $3.50 * 5 = 17.5/week
lunch @ 2x/week = $20/week
37.5/week * 4 = 150.

I will save $150 in a month by eating breakfast at home and carrying in lunch every week.

nil
nil
7 years 10 months ago

This is terrible advice for anyone who works at a company that provides free meals (for example: Google)

Amy
Amy
7 years 10 months ago

Jon, don’t forget about the cost of purchasing the items to make your breakfast and lunch. You must subtract these expenses from your savings.

Erica P
Erica P
7 years 10 months ago

This is something I’ve already decided I need to do… but the idea of packing ahead of time (because I do tend to oversleep and then say, “screw it, I’ll eat out today.”) will DEFINITELY help me.

Tom Ricks
Tom Ricks
7 years 9 months ago

Nil (and everyone else out there with their heads up their you know what), Ramit provdies these tips to help others save money. Obviously if you receive a free lunch at work, you would not benefit buy packing a lunch. I know I have no clout here, but seriously if the tip doesn’t apply to you or if you have nothing positive to add, why not say nothing?

nil
nil
7 years 9 months ago
Google isn’t the only company providing free meals. Even Transmeta provided free meals through the early part of the company’s history. The moral of my comment is that you could save even more money if you became a talented software or hardware engineer in the right part of the country where such benefits are more common than some people commenting on this blog make them out to be and you limited your employment search to those places that serve free meals you stand to come out far ahead on meal costs. I know of real estate companies in Texas that… Read more »
Joe
7 years 9 months ago

Working in Boston, I can verify that 99.999999% of employers DO NOT offer free lunch. Viga, Metro Cafe, Sebastian’s, and other lunch places each get several hundred customers pouring in at lunchtime. Seems like this is good advice for them. I suppose the other percentage can spend their (free) lunch hour browsing this blog for other helpful tips. 🙂

Amy
Amy
7 years 9 months ago

The thing for all of us to remember is that all of us are looking for ways to save money, some more than others. Although some tips may not apply to you, some do and for those of you who are missing 50% of your household income due to the economy such as I, you are probably doing all you can do right now to save and have probably exhausted your savings and working on credit card debt as well. Remember on the plus side, things will pick up.

Reno Fernandez
7 years 9 months ago

I am a bankruptcy attorney, so bringing my lunch has had a twofold impact: (1) I save about $100/week; and (2) I am more available at work, which impresses my clients and my boss. In addition to bringing a sandwich, I keep a basket of fruit in my office, which keeps my energy up and is cheaper than coffee overall.

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[…] Photo Credit: Ramit Sethi […]

Jan
7 years 9 months ago
Hey Ramit, Great post and great blog! I very much like this suggestion of packing your own lunches. It’s something that I’ve already been doing for a long time. Being a student, I can certainly use the extra cash saved from not going out to lunch. And usually it’s healthier and a lot tastier too if you bring your own food! I thought I’d pick up on this post on my own blog and combine my interests in personal finance and food. I’ll try to post a different lunch idea for a week or so, to give people some extra… Read more »
Vivian
Vivian
7 years 9 months ago

Hey, I’m already doing this for lunch (lucky enough to have a parent who owns a store and on my way to work!!) but I guess I should do this for dinner … many times, I’ll buy food for when I’m on my way to my second job or school …

what I will be saving:
currently spend = $40/week
“lunchbox” meals cost = $15/week
go out to lunch 1x/week = $10/week

Total Saving = $15/week, roughly $780/year or $65/month

not a bad start …

phillygrrl
7 years 9 months ago

Definitely something I’ve been making a point to do for the past few weeks with this bad economy. Thanks for the breakdown!

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[…] list of tips Pack lunches for the rest of the week Turn your thermostat down 3 degrees Sell something on eBay today Involve your friends in your […]

Diana
Diana
7 years 9 months ago

I eat out 5 days a week for breakfast and lunch plus I get coffee everyday. If I eat breakfast at home and pack my lunch (from leftovers) and make coffee at home, I would save $95 week

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[…] in 30 days Challenge over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich.  Some of the options are no brainers (Pack lunches for the rest of the week), while some are pretty innovative (Use gas prices to become your own hedge […]

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[…] you to be Rich has a lot of money saving tips for those who are new to tightening their wallets.  Tip #1: Pack lunch for the rest of the week can make a great start for […]

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[…] ¿Qué papel juega el inglés en todo esto? Un papel importantísimo porque el inglés te abre las puertas a la información planetaria, sí exactamente, no sólo a la información de tu país, si no la del mundo mundial. Y de ahí, puedes coger muchas, muchas más ideas e inspiración no sólo para crear algo y ampliar tu audiencia, sino también para resolver problemas. Mira aquí cómo Ramit Sethi nos enseña a ahorrar (en inglés). […]

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[…] Batch your lunch preparation: prepare lunch for the entire week […]

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[…] on Sunday for about a month and a half now.  We make them for the whole week at once.  This was Ramit’s first tip in the save $1,000 in a month challenge.  We had been trying to bring our lunches for a while but […]

jana
7 years 8 months ago

i used to pack my lunces in most of my jobs bar one, and now i kinda have to because lunch possibilities in the area where i work are very limited. i cannot count the exact amount this has saved me but it did, a lot. only thing i have changed is i do not spend my lunch break working as i used to – i use it for walking etc., as it is healthier (plus has many psychological benefits comprade to just working longer hours), or for reading mags or calling friends/fanily, as it is more fun.

Amy
Amy
7 years 8 months ago

I also use my lunchbreak for walking, eating lunch, and running errands.

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Brian
7 years 6 months ago

I was eating out almost every day for lunch. On average I was spending $5-10 per day. Hell…I was even eating breakfast out at $1-2 a pop. I started testing out the microwave meal fare at the local grocery. I know which ones I like and I keep an eye out for when they go on sale.

I was spending about $10 per day before, now I’m spending closer to $5!

Drakosagev
Drakosagev
7 years 5 months ago

Cool, I start now.

by the way, I already do that.

PD: Sorry for my english, im 24 and live in Chile

MH
MH
7 years 3 months ago

I have been bringing my breakfast and lunch to work for years! one – I enjoy leftovers from dinner the previous night two – I keep enough lunch food in the house to eat the rest of the week and three – it controls what I eat. I look forward to other tips

Lynn
Lynn
7 years 2 months ago

I already bring lunch every day, but it is a good tip. I can eat a complete, healthy meal for $4 or less from the grocery store. You can rarely do that eating out.

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[…] cutting up your fruit as soon as you bring it home from the grocery store, packing your lunches all at once, or re-adding the attachment to a followup email so the recipient doesn’t have to look for it […]

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[…] Sethi’s Full list of tips Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week Tip #2: Turn your thermostat down 3 degrees Tip #3: Sell something on eBay today Tip #4: Involve […]

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[…] Sethi’s Full list of tips Tip #1: Pack lunches for the rest of the week Tip #2: Turn your thermostat down 3 degrees Tip #3: Sell something on eBay today Tip #4: Involve […]

Appliquette
1 year 2 months ago

Hi All,

As an app developer I decided to come up with an app to help prompt & remind me to pack my lunches daily! If you’re looking for a simple tool to assist you in the day-to-day routine of packing a lunch check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/id1011051213

I’ve managed to pay for the app with the savings made not buying lunch every day & i’m hoping it can be useful to others too!

Enver
Enver
8 months 29 days ago

I started packing lunches for university because I got bored of the campus food selection. I became hooked on making salads with homemade dressing and I saved money too!

When I’ll start working, I’ll do the same. It’s not just the money, but cafeteria food is very bland and I’m making the sort of dishes that the top restaurant chefs make for less money than eating out.

One tip: look at restaurant copycat recipes for salads and sandwiches. One way to resist temptation is to bring something better than what is served in the cafe. 🙂

Kimmy
Kimmy
8 months 11 days ago

I’ve been doing this for years. When I first started, the hardest part was remembering and/or taking the time each evening to prepare a lunch for the next day. I solved this by finding soup, chili and one-dish meal recipes I could make ahead and freeze. I always make a double or triple batch of whatever I make. Then all I have to do is grab a dish out of the freezer and a piece of fruit.

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