You’re in the office and your tummy starts grumbling. You have many options for lunch but which one is best for your wallet? Options include eating out, brown bagging and re-heating a frozen entree.
Pros: This option is convenient and depending on where you work, you have an array of foods at your fingertips. There is no need to pack a lunch the night before or wake up extra early to prepare something. Eating out with coworkers can be a bonding experience and if you can chose the eatery, you can make sure you have an Entertainment Book coupon. Cons: This can quickly become an expensive habit if you don’t find deals for eating out. If you stick to dollar menus to minimize the cost, your waistline and health may take a toll. Cost: $10 per meal x 5 days a week = $50 per week
Pros: Keep an eye on your wallet and your waistline with this option. Brown Bagging can be more environmental if you use a reusable lunch bag, bring utensils from home instead of using disposables and pack a reusable water bottle. Being your own chef allows creative meal planning, especially if you use a multi-compartment easy lunch box. Re-heat dinner leftovers for a tasty meal. You can eat quickly at your desk or find a nearby park. Brown Bagging is nearly as fun as eating out with a favorite co-worker. Cons: It gets boring fast if you stick to the same meals and requires advance planning. Cost: $2.60 for a sandwich + .40 for baby carrots or fruit slices = $3 x 5 days a week = $15
Pros: Prepackaged foods are very convenient and easy to grab on your way out the door in the morning when you’re in a hurry. You can stock up when they go on sale and keep them for weeks in the freezer. You can eat quickly at your desk. TV dinners used to have a bad rap for being unhealthy but there are now healthy options. Cons: Many TV dinner are loaded with salt and lack fiber and vitamins, taking a toll on your health over time. Portions are often so small you head to the candy machine for an afternoon snack. Cost: The entrees cost around $5 and sometimes cheaper when you can find coupons. $5 x 5 days a week = $25
Eating out costs significantly more than brown bagging or relying on frozen meals, but also takes a lot more time. What’s your frugal lunchtime option?