Do you regularly go out for lunch at work? If so, this seemingly harmless workday routine may cost you more than you think.
Studies have shown that eating out for lunch can cost $1,500 to $2,500 per year if you eat out three times per week or five times per week, respectively.
Working without distractions is key to high workplace productivity. Yet going out for lunch can be a major distraction, and studies have shown that it takes at least 25 minutes to get back into the productive mindset after a distraction.
If your lunch hour is anything like mine, it involves quick decisions with co-workers for where to go, rushing to the chosen restaurant, waiting in line, rushing back, and eating quickly without having a moment to relax.
The cost of going out for lunch is high. So how does one easily bring a lunch to work?
How to Save Money and Increase Workplace Productivity by Brown Bagging Your Lunch
1. Make Larger Dinners by Doubling Recipes
If you're currently in the habit of cooking dinner (which I highly recommend), an easy way to ensure that you have a lunch to bring to work is to double what you cook the night before.
Doubling a dinner recipe doesn't double the time you have to spend cooking. A small amount of additional preparation (in the form of chopping meat and vegetables) is needed, but once you're cooking it takes essentially the same amount of time.
And not only does cooking at home allow you to eat healthier, it also helps you to avoid the hidden cost of food waste.
2. Keep Lunch Staples on Hand
Lunch is generally a simpler meal to make than dinner. Sandwiches, salads, and wraps are common lunch meals that are easy to make at home provided you have the ingredients on hand.
Keep your kitchen stocked with:
- loaves of bread, pitas, and tortillas in the freezer (so they stay fresh much longer)
- nut butters like peanut or almond
- raw vegetables like baby carrots, bell peppers, celery or broccoli
- deli meats like turkey, chicken, or ham
- canned meats like tuna or salmon
- any type of fruit
Having everything on hand will make it easy to prepare your lunch before work in the mornings and only requires a few minutes of time.
3. Prepare Your Lunch in the Evenings
If mornings are too stressful and busy, take 10 minutes in the evening to prepare your lunch for the following day. With the lunch staples you already have on hand, preparing a sandwich with vegetables on the side, for example, is a quick and easy way to ensure that you're ready to go in the mornings. If you've made a larger dinner, throw the leftovers into a lunch container and place it in the fridge.
4. Eating Dinner Out? Order a Larger Meal to Ensure You Have Leftovers
Brown bagging your lunch doesn't mean that you have to give up your evenings out. If you find yourself eating out for dinner, order a bit more than usual so you can bring the leftovers to work. Perhaps choose an entree and a small side.
5. Store Healthy Snacks at Work
If you have a desk drawer or community refrigerator at work, store some snacks that you can munch on throughout the day. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and hummus are healthy snacks that will easily fill you up.
Also, they'll ensure that your energy levels are kept steady throughout the day instead of having to rely on that mid-day cup of coffee.
Even if you do decide to go out for lunch with a coworker, you can save money and choose a smaller option knowing you have snacks back at the office.
Ok, I've Committed to Brown Bagging My Lunch. How Do I Make This a Habit?
Change is difficult, especially public change that will be noticed by your coworkers. If you find yourself drifting away from bringing your lunch to work, the following are three ways you can debunk objections and stay on course.
1. Get Co-Workers Involved
Institute a no-takeout policy with your coworkers so they can join you on your mission. Having a support group with the same goals as you will make all of you that much more likely to succeed. Get support!
2. Commit to Eating Out Only Once Per Week
If instituting a no-takeout policy is too difficult, try saving one day per week to get takeout with your coworkers. This will allow you to be social and will still drastically cut down on takeout expenses.
3. Pair Your Brown Bagged Lunch with a Smaller Takeout Item
Use the strategies above to bring your lunch to work. If you'd still like to go out with your coworkers, you can order a small item instead of a regular sized lunch. This will save you money and it will allow you to continue to be social with your coworkers.
For additional advice on avoiding excuses and objections, this Mint article is very good.
Save Money and Reduce Stress by Brown Bagging
Many people don't realize that going out for lunch is such a costly habit. Aside from potentially costing thousands of dollars per year, it also takes a toll in stress, health, and lost work productivity.
It doesn't take long to prepare lunch and doing so will allow you to save money, eat your lunch stress free, and even spend some quiet time to get extra work done. Give it a shot!
Do you have any additional ways that allows you to consistently brown bag your lunch? How do you deal with co-workers who want to go out for lunch? Leave a comment and let me know :)
*$112 / month is derived as follows. If we assume lunch costs $10 and you go out five times per week, that's $200 / month. However, making your own lunch isn't free. Generally it will be $2 - $3 per lunch, so if we choose $3, you will save $7 each time you bring your lunch to work. $112 is calculated as $7 multiplied by four (times per week to give you one day to go out), multiplied by four (weeks per month).