At times I feel like a bit of a soldier in my office, complete with frugal armor, and surrounded by sword wielding spenders intent on destroying their hard-earned income as fast as they can. How can one simply see $10-$12 per day, OR MORE, exit their wealth empire without even flinching? The sad truth is, they purchase a hot lunch each day from a local establishment at a hefty price. Even worse, some will drive their automobiles to do this.
How I stock my work lunch
There is no one right or wrong way to pack a work lunch. Some will bring food, daily, from home. Since I bike commute to work, I prefer to skip carrying a backpack. Instead, I utilize unused space in my office, as well as use a shared freezer, which is lightly used due to its secret location (behind a maintenance door).
I stock the office with a jar of peanut butter, raisins, diet mountain dew, multi-packs of chips or popcorn, almonds, and granola bars. I stock a freezer, that I have access to at work, with a loaf of whole wheat bread.
Each Monday when I begin the workweek, I buy groceries to re-stock it as needed, such as bananas and a carrot. If I ever forget this step, there are enough long-lasting items in there to allow me to create a lunch to get me through until restocking. I am lucky that I have a Whole Foods market near work, which is within a short walking distance. While it’s not the cheapest store by any means, bananas there aren’t terribly expensive and it’s far cheaper than buying a prepared lunch from a local restaurant. So back off haters 🙂
Don’t let bread spoil
I’m ashamed to admit that when I started buying loaves of bread to stock at work, I would keep them in my office without refrigerating them. This would, inevitably, lead to mold where I had to throw out portions of unused bread. That’s a frugal fail. Therefore, I resolved to figure out a way to eliminate my waste. I learned, from a google search and research, that the best way to keep bread from spoiling was to freeze it, until needed.
I keep my bread in a work freezer, in an area that isn’t heavily used since this particular refrigerator/freezer is in a maintenance closet that keeps people from using it. Each day, I pack a paper bag with everything I want to eat that day, and I head to the freezer to pick up two slices of whole wheat bread. I then head to our shared work cafeteria/eating space where I use the toaster to heat the frozen bread. Within two minutes, the bread is ready and I spread that bread with my peanut butter.
Pricing out my lunch
I think it’s always important to analyze what we are doing, financially, to see if it really saves money OR if there is room for incremental improvement. Therefore, I am sharing with you my “typical” cost computation of my work lunch. Are you ready for the exciting details?
As you can see above, in the column labeled “daily unit price,” I estimate the cost for the volume of each item I consume each day. It’s likely that, in any given day, I won’t eat this much food for lunch. However, I will eat one of the items between meals. Therefore, I calculate the “grand total” as all the food I may eat in a day, while at work.
$2.73, that’s what I spend for an entire day at work, that’s it!. Compare that to the $10-$12 others spend, each day, for a restaurant lunch. It’s even more impressive when you realize that I make almost no effort to control the cost of my work lunch. For example, Whole Foods is about the most expensive place on earth you can buy bread. Still, two slices of whole wheat bread only set me back 0.53 cents. If I made an effort to optimize, that $2.73 would come down further.
Where I eat my work lunch
The remainder of my food is carried in my brown bag, and I have a quiet place away from my desk, where I can eat my frugal lunch in peace. Of course, the work break room is filled with vending machines and other temptations, but I rarely purchase anything due to being well stocked. I grab ice for my diet mountain dew, and am able to step away from the work grind and and eat in peace.
I am aware that some people like to eat at their desks. This has never been a particular favorite of mine. As an aspiring early retiree, I try to step away from my work as often as possible.
The results and dividends of my work lunch strategy
I estimate I have saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by eating a lunch that is grocery store purchased, vs. the much pricier options offered at area restaurants. That savings, compounded in the stock market in a low cost index fund, means I have added a valuable tool to my early retirement tool-shed, that will allow me to retire even earlier than the people I work with each and everyday. The irony is that some of these people I work with even earn much more than I do, which means that what you make isn’t nearly as important as what you keep.
What is your work lunch strategy? Are you ready to fess up that you still go out and buy hot lunches daily? I know I have done this in the past. What types of things do you bring to work to eat on a daily basis?