Money & Career

Save $3,380 a year simply by packing your own lunch

Brown-bagging your lunch can easily save you thousands per year. Here are some great recipes to get you started.

Healthy work lunch bowlood styling, Miranda Keyes. Prop styling, Rayna Schwartz.

Photo, Erik Putz.

You probably think twice before dropping your hard-earned bucks on a new TV, car or a $200 pair of shoes — but how often do you stop and think before you spend $5 to $10 on lunch? After all, it’s just pocket change, right? Well, not exactly. A 2012 study found that Canadians are spending thousands on lunch every year.

According to the data, 61 percent of Canadians are spending between $7 and $13 a day just to eat lunch at work. That’s between $35 and $65 a week or a whopping $1820 to $3380 per year. Talk about budget death by a thousand cuts! What would you do with an extra $3000 a year? Take a vacation or pay off your debts?

Brown bagging costs a fraction of that amount — you can tote your lunch for as little as $2 to $3 a day. Making the switch from buying lunch to bringing lunch doesn’t have to be a huge hassle, but it does take a bit of planning. Add lunch items to your grocery list at the beginning of the week or make sure you cook enough at dinner so you can pack a leftovers for the next day. Invest in some good lunch containers and you’re on the way to big savings.

Related: How to make grain bowls for a healthy work lunch

A few other interesting findings
Men spend more on lunch than women, forking out an average of $9.30 versus $8.30, respectively. And men also eat out for lunch more frequently (average of 1.3 times per week) compared to women (average of once per week).

Ontarians eat out for lunch most frequently; 20 percent eat out three or more days per week compared to the national average of 15 percent who eat out at the same frequency. More Quebec residents bring brown bags to work than any other Canadians; 50 percent pack a lunch every day, followed closely by Albertans (43 percent) and then British Columbians (39 percent). Young Canadians (aged 18 to 34) who eat out for lunch do so 2.3 times per week.

Need motivation? Think about the thousands of dollars you could save for something a lot more memorable than a gourmet sandwich gulped down at your desk.

Here are some great recipe ideas to get you started:
10 perfect-for-work wrap recipes
38 of our best sandwich recipes
30 of our best soup recipes
9 cheesy baked pasta recipes
11 best tips for big-batch cooking

*Visa Canada statistics from 2012

Originally published September 2014. Updated January 2017.

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