Bringing lunch to work = higher bills for groceries - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have recently started bringing my lunch to work. I know i should have been doing this already but I got in such a habit and grabbing something to eat at my desk was easy and convenient. I have been spending my blow money on lunches and pretty much had no money left for other things.
Now, with bringing lunch I am noticing the need to get extra stuff at the store. I hope to still manage within our current budget but not sure yet as I haven't made it through a month yet. So, I am still planning on spending my blow money. If our grocery budget has to be increased then I am not really saving money. Still have the benefit of eating better and the fun of my blow money

Anyone made this transition? How did it effect your grocery shopping and budget?

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#2 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:25 PM
 
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Your expenses at the grocery store may increase a little but it should nowhere equal what you spend to eat out every single day. I guess the question is what are you buying to take to work?
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#3 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:29 PM
 
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It really depends on what you're taking for lunch. If you're buying convenience foods, then it may not be much cheaper. I always pack lunches full of leftovers, fruit and veg, maybe some cheese or PB. So nothing special, nothing that requires extra effort or extra budget, just maybe a little more volume.

There were times I was eating out at lunch, and lunch was $3... that's not too bad. But sometimes it was $10 or $15. But even if it was only $3/day - for $15/week I can make an entire casserole JUST to be put in my lunch and have enough left over for DH's lunch as well. And the quality of the food is not comparable.

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#4 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:40 PM
 
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Given the markup on restaurant food, I would think that even with the expanded grocery budget, you would save. You might wind up with half the blow money going on lunch groceries, but you'd still have the other half available for fun.

When I bring lunch, I generally make myself a sandwich or bring leftovers from home, and what it costs me to do that is far less than it would cost me to buy the same stuff. For $10 - $15, I can get half a pound of turkey, a loaf of bread, a tomato, a few apples and some cartons of yogurt. To go out for lunch and buy a sandwich and a yogurt would cost $7 - 9. So even with extra groceries, I come out ahead.
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#5 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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To answer your question.

This week I brought spinach salad with fruit, nuts and homemade balsamic dressing 2 days and today I made a bagel sandwich with left over roasted chicken, cheese, cucumbers and tomato.
All things we have on hand but I am realizing that after 2 days of salads we are almost out of spinach and will need to stock up on both fruit and veggies much sooner than normal.

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#6 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:45 PM
 
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I don't find it to be much of a big deal. It impacts my grocery budget by maybe $3/week. I usually bring a yogurt and a banana or some leftovers.
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#7 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:46 PM
 
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My guess is you could end up spending less money on food by bringing your lunch depending on what extras you bought. My DH buys lunch everyday and spends about $6 per day, sometimes a bit more. I'm sure if he ate leftovers or made a sandwich or what have you he could eat for closer to $3.

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#8 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:52 PM
 
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I know from experience that it's much cheaper and healthier for me to bring lunch from home than going out to eat because, and believe me I have lots of experience in eating lunch out, I can pack leftovers or make a dish that I will take everyday for the week, fruits, veggies, yogurt than if I grabbed lunch to go. I know I can buy all that for about $15 if I don't buy expensive fruits and veggies or make something extravagant. I know for a fact that I can make a lasagna for about $7 with lots of cheese, add in 5 yogurts and 5 pieces of in season fruit and it's less than it would cost me to eat out about 1 1/2 days a week. I can easily do a fast food meal for $6 or more each day.

You can do it and will find it is worth it once you get the hang of it.

P.S. since I start back to work next week after being unemployed I intend to pack a lunch everyday, carry my coffee from home in a travel mug and either eat breakfast before I leave the house or make a peanut butter sandwich or something along those lines to eat on the way to work, I will have a commute of more than an hour... as well as packing a snack to eat on the way home so I'm not famished when I get here. I gotta plan my meals so they're ready at the end of the day or I'm gonna be doomed! Crockpot here I come.

Good luck!
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#9 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 09:53 PM
 
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I am careful to pack cheap lunches for DH - usually I try to pack leftovers from the night before or a sandwich (pb&j is cheapest but sometimes I make him a turkey & cheese sandwich). It does make us go through fruit & yogurt faster when I pack those, but it's nothing compared to how much it would cost for him to buy his lunch each day.

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#10 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 10:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Pernillep View Post
To answer your question.

This week I brought spinach salad with fruit, nuts and homemade balsamic dressing 2 days and today I made a bagel sandwich with left over roasted chicken, cheese, cucumbers and tomato.
All things we have on hand but I am realizing that after 2 days of salads we are almost out of spinach and will need to stock up on both fruit and veggies much sooner than normal.
Those are awesome lunches that would cost you waaaay more money to buy than to make and bring. The salad you describe would cost about $7 at Panera. By contrast, organic baby spinach at S&S costs $4 for 7 oz (2-3 salads worth), seasonal fruit is ~$2/lb... You saved money the days you brought salad in, even if you need more spinach now.

I am dying in envy of your sandwich. You couldn't have bought something that tasty, the closest pale imitation would have been another $7.

You're coming out waaaay ahead here.
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#11 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 10:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by cristeen View Post
It really depends on what you're taking for lunch. If you're buying convenience foods, then it may not be much cheaper. I always pack lunches full of leftovers, fruit and veg, maybe some cheese or PB. So nothing special, nothing that requires extra effort or extra budget, just maybe a little more volume.
I make soups, risotto, casseroles, curries, freeze them and my husband takes them for lunch. So it is a bit more in the grocery budget. Maybe $1 a day?
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#12 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 11:08 PM
 
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I agree, it depends....for example, it is generally cheaper for me to buy lunch for me and the kids than cook and we're all happier for it to. but most of the time, I think you can eat healthier and cheaper by making it yourself.

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#13 of 30 Old 04-29-2009, 11:17 PM
 
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I think when DH was bringing lunch to work we were looking at an extra $80 a month in the food budget

Example of 1 week lunch cost
bread $2.50
lunch meat $3
apples $5
slice cheese $2
chips $3
soda $4

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#14 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 01:22 AM
 
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I really am not meaning to sound snide but I am afraid that it will come across that way I think that your expectations are unrealistic. Right now you are spending $X from your blow money on lunch and $Y on groceries. If you are spending less then $X + $Y now on general groceries and lunch groceries then you ARE saving money. It really depends on how generous your grocery budget is now and if you are able/willing to replace or cut down on some of the more expensive items to accommodate your addition lunch groceries. This is more of a budget issue. If you want to have a certain amount of blow money excluding lunches then you have to increase either your grocery budget or your blow money or squeeze the lunch groceries into your current grocery budget.
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#15 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 01:53 AM
 
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I have not notice a big impact to my budget as I have also started taking my lunch. I try and just make a bit extra at dinner time so that I have it for Lunch the next day. Also my family is not big on Leftovers so I have just package up everything and just have it in the fridge. Also if I notice I am getting a lot I toss stuff in the Freezer so that I have back up if there are no left overs.

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#16 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 03:01 AM
 
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Dh started taking lunch and snacks a month or two ago. Before that he just wasn't eating even though I thought he was. That really isn't acceptable even if it saves money on paper.
It really hasn't made a huge impact in the budget even though it increased the amount of some items we needed to buy.
Dh takes things like yogurt, sandwiches, leftovers, trail mix, hummus, pasta, fruit. Nothing very expensive. If we are out of something dh eats what we have until the next grocery shopping day. He is fine with a pbj or leftover soup.

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#17 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 04:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rebeccalynn View Post
I really am not meaning to sound snide but I am afraid that it will come across that way I think that your expectations are unrealistic. Right now you are spending $X from your blow money on lunch and $Y on groceries. If you are spending less then $X + $Y now on general groceries and lunch groceries then you ARE saving money. It really depends on how generous your grocery budget is now and if you are able/willing to replace or cut down on some of the more expensive items to accommodate your addition lunch groceries. This is more of a budget issue. If you want to have a certain amount of blow money excluding lunches then you have to increase either your grocery budget or your blow money or squeeze the lunch groceries into your current grocery budget.
Yeah that....
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#18 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 09:36 AM
 
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I do think providing five additional meals a week/per person is going to add to the grocery bill. The only exception might be if you are normally throwing away a lot of food from your meals at home, and you start taking that food for lunch. I usually buy stuff on sale for lunches, and try to limit the amount of lunch meat and single serving foods that I buy. This week I have been bringing

cream cheese and avocado on whole wheat
bread 1.99 on sale-I'll use 1.50 this week
cream cheese 99 cents on sale
avocado 99 cents on sale

carrots (cut into sticks by me) about 50 cents for five days
grapefruit 4 dollars for five

baggie of dry cheerios (on sale) about 1 dollar for five days

some days I bring extra veggies from my farm box, or a cookie if we have some hanging around.

So overall that is around $10 for five lunches. I could spend less if I wasn't obsessed with grapefruit. It's hard to find a prepared lunch near my work for less than $5, and those lunches tend to be light on fruits and veggies, so by taking lunch I'm saving at least $15 a week.

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#19 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 10:24 AM
 
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I do think providing five additional meals a week/per person is going to add to the grocery bill.
But unless you are skipping meals entirely, you aren't adding five meals because these meals would either be consumed at home (already part of the grocery bill) or purchased pre-made at work (more expensive than buying groceries).
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#20 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 10:43 AM
 
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Your lunches sound awesome.

I agree with everyone that you should be saving money overall anyway, but it may be unrealistic that your grocery bill wouldn't change at all... depending on your bill and what you take.

At my house, I generally take leftovers for lunch at least half the time, and the extra bit of casserole or pasta or whatever is not really high-impact on our grocery bill. Often it's a matter of a handful more of barley or beans in the crockpot. I use leftovers in other ways too, like using the scraps of meat off a chicken for a chicken salad wrap, leftover potatoes for potato salad, and so on. Cooking a roast now and then provides less-preservative-laden meat and by shopping on sale the cost goes down.

The other thing that is relatively low-cost that I do is make a pasta, rice, barley, couscous, or wheat berry salad. The cost depends on what you throw in but I usually decide that based on sales. Probably the cheapest one is a rice and chickpea salad with curry flavouring and a handful of raisins, or a black bean and corn salad with olives. For about $3 I get enough for several lunches.

I'll bet you'll refine it as you go along.

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#21 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 10:54 AM
 
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But unless you are skipping meals entirely, you aren't adding five meals because these meals would either be consumed at home (already part of the grocery bill) or purchased pre-made at work (more expensive than buying groceries).
Agreed. If you read my last paragraph you will see that I make the same point you are making. I guess I should have said, if you add five meals to the food you are paying for out of your grocery budget, your grocery bill will go up a little but your overall expenses will go down.

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#22 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 11:26 AM
 
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Dh started taking lunch and snacks a month or two ago. Before that he just wasn't eating even though I thought he was. That really isn't acceptable even if it saves money on paper.
Mine too! : I was furious when I started doing the post month financial review and saw NO charges from his cafeteria. Since he doesn't eat breakfast either I had to point out that he comes home starving and immediately starts devouring all our snack foods, which are by far the most expensive things to buy!

I only noticed a $3-5 a week increase in our grocery budget as well. I pack leftovers half the time, and half the time he gets the standby 2 sandwiches, an apple, and a yogurt. Considering the very cheapest thing he can buy in the cafeteria is a soup for $2.50, just two days in each week and we are ahead in the budget.

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#23 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 12:04 PM
 
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Not really. We usually take leftovers as lunches. Usually in the winter, I'll make a big pot of potato soup (free potatoes, leftover ham bone or bacon) and we'll take that. Or sandwiches with sliced meat I've already cooked. Sometimes I do buy extra eggs if they're on sale and use those alot for lunches, but it really doesn't increase my grocery bill that much, especially compared with how much dh and I would spend eating out everyday.
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#24 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 01:32 PM
 
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I pack my dh's lunches and breakfasts for him to take. I don't do it on Fridays, because sometimes I need a day off from chores, too, lol.

I pack a big variety of things (he quit drinking beer and found that his appetite has increased ALOT--and no, he didn't drink beer during the day, lol, but he drank each evening and on the weekends). I guess that's a whole nother thread, though...

I pack 2 oranges (I buy them on sale for 10/$1) or 2 apples (whichever is on sale). I pack a couple of boiled eggs, a baggie of carrot and celery sticks, or a baggie of whatever other snackie veggie I bought on sale, or currently I'm sending radishes out of the garden. I pack a baggie of nuts or wasabi peas. I pack a baggie of cheese sticks I cut up myself. I pack a baggie of lunch meat rolled up. I also send a bowl of whatever we had the night before. And I'll send a couple of muffins or cookies. Eating all this he lost 8 pounds in 2 wks, lol. He comes home starved and eats an apple or some cheese to hold him til supper.

Buying stuff on sale or picking out of the garden is how we can send so much and not really spend much more $. I'm hoping his appetite will calm down some soon, but if not, it's ok. So, if you only buy what's on sale, and make enough supper to have a bit left over, your bill shouldn't increase a whole lot.

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#25 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 01:56 PM
 
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Yes, your grocery bill goes up a little, but you still save money overall. The key is to look at the big picture.

Another idea is you can use your blow money to buy things from the store to pre-pack your lunch. I mean, if your blow money each week is $10, then that is $10-worth of grocery items you can buy and convert into lunch food. This could possibly mean, depending on where you live and how much you eat, a head of lettuce, a bag of bread, and some deli meat -- enough for a week's worth of lunch (well, for me anyway). That same $10 would get you a soup and salad for one day or maybe two days, if you were to buy at work?

Hope that makes sense.
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#26 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 02:20 PM
 
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Your grocery budget will obviously get a bit higher - but i wouldn't think by much???

DH used to buy lunches out every day before we moved in together. Now that I'm here and doing the sahm thing I make lunches. SOMETIMES it's leftovers, but usually it consists of:

Sandwich (whatever lunchmeat is on sale, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes,mustard,mayo,bread).

Yogurt

Banana

Treat (couple cookies, brownie, granola bar, etc - sometimes homemade, usually not).

I probably spend hmmmm...maybe $20 for 2 weeks on his lunches? Probably less, actually. But even then, it's only $2 a day and a lot healthier than a big mac and fries on sale at mc d's
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#27 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 03:04 PM
 
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I bought a bunch of the 2 cup glass containers made by anchor.They are the perfect size for one serving of something.After dinner I pack at least one of these with leftovers.Sometimes I have 2 or 3 packed and I put them in the freezer.After a while there is a little variety of things in the freezer so my hubby doesn't have to eat the same thing the next day.Sometimes I am super nice and make things that only he likes for frozen lunches. He gets excited about the big pot of curry that doesn't take much time for me to make and my son is excited that he never has to eat curry. It is a win win situation!
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#28 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 03:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys.
I definitely agree that this is better both for my waistline, the growing baby and my pocket book in the long run. What I need to do this month is figure out how much my grocery budget goes up and then decrease my blow money accordingly. From what a lot of you say it doesn't look like it will have as much of an impact as I originally had feared. Nothing that will break my budget. I do make extra for dinner so we can take it to work with us but DH usually gets that as he really needs the hearty dinner food more than I do. The guy can eat constantly and is still a walking stick. I am still learning how to make enough that we will eat it but not so much it will go bad.
I will still come out ahead since I will actually have blow money to spend on fun stuff and not wasting it on eating lunch out during the day.

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#29 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 03:25 PM
 
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I find I need to think economically about lunches from home too.

I was just at the grocery store and saw some canned soups I like. But at $2-$3 a can - no thanks! Frozen entrees, fancy deli meats, even produce can add up.

Like many previous posters have said, I try to pack lunch with what's on sale. If there was a good deal on bananas, that's what I'm taking. If this week they are offering cheap apples, guess what's in my lunch.

I also make my own frozen convenience foods - rice & beans with ham hock and salsa, divided into single serving containers; egg burritos with garden veggies and homemade or on-sale sausage; single portions of leftover that we are bored of eating.

Now, if you are switching from a $7 sandwich out to a $2.50 sandwich from home, that's a great savings! But I probably eat a lunch that costs less than $1 on most days.

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#30 of 30 Old 04-30-2009, 04:50 PM
 
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I send lunch for my dh and dd every day. They work together so I can just send a casserole dish or 2qt crockpot for them. It's more of a pain than I like. It's difficult for me to make enough food to have leftovers.

What I've found is that having the stuff on hand makes all the difference. I don't necessarily meal plan lunches, but make sure I have tuna, cheese, salad fixings, etc. on hand at all times. DH keeps a supply of kosher ramen noodle in his desk, just in case. Between leftovers, misc. lunch fixings and his desk stash they usually do okay.

By the way, Sam's or Costco should be a great source for salad greens if you're going through them fast.
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