How Cheaply Can You Brown Bag Your Lunch?

July 15, 2008

Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article ($) comparing the cost of taking your lunch to work or eating out. Here’s their comparison:

Homemade Lunch:

1/4 pound of turkey – $1.99
1/8 pound of swiss cheese – $1.00
2 slices of whole-wheat bread – $0.28
Tomato – $0.38
Lettuce – $0.20
Chips – $0.30
20 oz. Soda – $1.09
TOTAL – $5.24

Lunch from an Upscale Deli:

Sandwich – $7.95
Chips – $0.99
20 oz. Soda – $1.75
TOTAL – $10.69

I think their homemade lunch is too expensive. Here’s how I’d do it:

For one, I would bring tea or water in place of the soda. I have no idea how much I would save but I have to think it would cost me less than $1.09 to make my own tea. Estimated savings: $.50

The example in the paper shows one of those small bags of chips that typically comes in the multipack. We all know those are a lot more expensive than buying a large bag of chips and making your own smaller serving. Of course that means that you can’t eat the chips during other parts of the day! LOL! Estimated savings: $.15

There’s nothing worse than a soggy tomato on a lunch that’s been packed for several hours. So, I would cut out the tomato. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Estimated savings: $.38

An eighth of a pound of cheese? Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot of cheese? Based on my numbers, that’s like 3 slices of cheese. I usually use one slice. Estimated savings: $0.66

Finally, 1/4 pound of turkey seems a bit much to me. I usually just throw two or three slices of meat on a sandwhich. I’m almost certain it’s less than 1/4 pound. If I had to guess I would say my sandwiches usually have 1/8 pound of meat on them. Estimated savings: $1.00

JLP’s Total Homemade Lunch Cost: $2.55
JLP’s Total Savings: $2.69 per day
JLP’s Estimated Annual Savings: $645 (48 5-day weeks per year)

What about you? How cheaply can you take your lunch to work?

58 responses to How Cheaply Can You Brown Bag Your Lunch?

  1. 2 or 3 of my husband’s weekly meals are dinner leftovers which beats buying the lunch fixing. Otherwise his lunch is under $4 a day with tuna or meat sandwiches, yogurt, carrot sticks and homemade cookies (the bread is sometimes homemade too.

  2. I get my bread from the bread outlet stores. It’s always cheaper and I just double bag and freeze it. I watch the sales and get store brand deli meats and cheeses only when they are on sale.
    I take chips and fruit whatever is on sale.
    Frugal shopping is the key to frugal meals. Also, it’s a not a bargain if you wind up throwing things away.

  3. Sam #24 was (in jest) taking about rummaging through the fridge at work to eat out of other peoples lunches.

    I knew a guy who did that and then would complain about the type of cheese I brought in. — Some people 😎

  4. I love tomato, but I put it in a separate bag so it doesn’t make my sandwich soggy.

  5. You guys got nothin on me.
    11 oz can pork & beans, 3 for $1
    2 esskay beef franks, 8 for $1
    free work coffee

    beans and franks for $.58

    yeah, i had to look to find those prices, but then i bought a mess of them.

    you got nothin’ on me. sweet potatoes go for 50 cents/lb, microwave a big one, another lunch for under a buck.

  6. seriously, have any of you guys ever been poor? chicken bologna sandwiches, ramen, kool aid, pasta, chicken dogs

  7. I make large pots of coup/chili on the weekends and then put them into individual serving containers to freeze for use whenever I don’t have left overs for lunch. 6 servings of chili only costs about $7.50 to make (3 cans of beans, 2 lbs potatoes, 1 can tomatoes, corn and veggie stock) Then I buy a loaf of bakery WW bread and a bowl of soup and 1/6 a loaf of bread only costs about $1.50 a day. Its also very healthy and filling.

  8. I have a job where I need to take clients to lunch 4 days a week (of course paid by the company). Since I get bored of restaurant stuff, it’s a delight to eat my own stuff. Here’s what I usually have:

    – 1 cup of brown basmati rice (.25$)
    – spinach (.15$)
    – onions (.15$)
    – soy (.15$)
    – chicken breast (1.50$)
    – naan (.25$)
    – sour cream (.25$)

    For a little less than 3$.