At the beginning of every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.
Since we’ve been married, we’ve saved thousands of dollars alone just by packing sack lunches. While Jesse was in law school and we were living on a beans-and-rice budget, brown-bagging it was a must as there was no way we could afford even eating off the dollar menu on a regular occurrence.
But even though we brown-bagged it out of necessity, we found lots of ways to make it easy and yummy — so it really didn’t feel like a sacrifice. Plus, the money we saved made it every bit worth it!
How Much Can You Save?
If you’re willing to put in a little time to plan ahead so you have the necessary food on hand and then to take a few minutes every evening or morning to put together a sack lunch, the return on this small investment of time can be quite remarkable.
In fact, I figured out that most of the lunches I’ve packed for my husband cost anywhere between $0.75 to $1.50 each (remember, that’s mostly because I’ve shop the sales, used coupons, and stocked up on items when they are at their lowest prices!). A lunch at a fast food restaurant is likely going to cost at least $4-$5 at a minimum.
Based upon these calculations, it is very safe to say that packing a lunch has saved us at least $3 per day. Over the course of the year, that’s $750 saved!
And that’s a low figure. If someone is eating out at nicer restaurants most days and spending $7-$12 per lunch, the savings are significantly higher!
In addition to the savings, there’s also the added benefit of homemade lunches also often being much more healthful for you as well–especially when compared with fast food meals.
Amber emailed in and shared how they were saving $200+ per year by packing lunches:
We save $200+ a year by packing my son’s lunch for school. The daily lunch at our school costs $2.15, so for the 180-day school year, the cost of buying lunch is $387.00!
I have found that I am easily able to pack my son’s lunch including a healthy entree, salty side, fruit and “treat” for no more than $1 a day. I’m blessed that he prefers his filled water bottle to a more expensive drink, however, even adding a drink would still have significant savings over the purchase price.
This year we will save about $200 (I’m figuring there will probably be 10 lunches that will end up being purchased over the course of the year). Yahoo! Given the potential savings, I decided I would purchase a thermal entree container to send his favorite leftovers. It will be a $3.99 well spent.
And Illysa wrote and said she figured they were saving $225 per year by packing lunches:
My children’s school charges $2.75 a day for lunch. That works out to be about $495 each school year (per child).
Since I’ve never been pleased with the school lunch options (a typical week at my child’s school looks like this: tacos, pizza, spaghetti, grilled cheese, nachos… ugh!), I decided to make sure my kids had a healthy, delicious lunch packed for them each day. It takes a little extra time each evening, but it’s worth it!
– Homemade pizza. An entire cheese pizza can be made for about $5. A slice in the lunchbox would cost about $0.60.
– Quiche Cup: (Can be made in a cupcake tin) A dozen eggs and a brick of cheese can make 12 quiche cups. The cost per cup is about $0.30.
– PB&J Sandwich: Costs about $0.35 to make at home.
Organic baby carrots go on sale at my grocery store for $0.49 a bag. They run this sale about once a month. I always stock up, because one bag lasts me a week. That’s only $0.10 a day! It’s a perfect side item in the lunchbox!
Crackers can be found for about $2 a box (without coupons). One box should last about 2 weeks. That’s only $0.20 a day. Cheese bricks often go on sale for $2. You could slice it up and add it to the crackers. One 8 oz brick lasts me about one week. Only $0.40
Yogurt easily found on sale for $0.50 each.
You can easily put together a combination of these items for $1.50. And you can search through your stockpile to find items that might be even cheaper. At $1.50 a day, you’ll save $225 over the course of the school year. -Illyssa
Download a free lunch box planner printable from A Little Delightful.
Sanity-Saving Sack Lunch Ideas:
One thing that has helped me in packing lunches is to divvy up serving-size portions of muffins and cookies in baggies and stick them in the freezer. Then, when I’m packing lunches, I can just pull a few of these baggies out to add to the lunch and round things out.
Baggies of muffins and cookies are also great to have on hand for when we’ll be out and about running errands. Being prepared with our own food means we divert the urge to make a quick stop through the drive thru!
I’ve also found that doing sack lunch prep the night before makes it so much easier. For some reason, I’m much more motivated and creative at nighttime than I am most mornings. Take a few minutes after dinner to figure out what you’ll be packing the next morning and even get as much as possible ready. You’ll never regret this in the morning!
If you’d like to pack lunches for your kids, but just don’t have the time to do it on busy school mornings, here’s a great idea from KJ:
I have four children, including a newborn. I drive my older two children to school so all of us need to be ready to go in the morning.
In order to make the mornings go smoother, I wanted to have my two school-aged children pack their own lunches. I also wanted a variety in their lunches and not all cheese sticks
So I posted this on the fridge:
- (1) sandwich/granola bar/bread or muffin
- (1) fruit/veggie/yogurt/cheese
- (1) drink
- (1) cracker
- (1) dessert
- Have your lunch packed by 7:45
- Pray before you eat
- Have a great day!
On the weekends, I will bag the desserts and crackers. I then put the baggies in a large bag labeled desserts or crackers in the pantry. I make the PB&J sandwiches (put in freezer), and bag the fruit or veggies. I will also make the granola bars or homemade muffins. There is also a shelf in the fridge that is “their shelf”. That is where we keep the drinks, fruit, homemade applesauce, etc… for their lunches.
I timed it once and that whole process from start to finish took me 20 minutes! Much quicker than trying to put everything together in the mornings.
I like it because it is one less thing I have to do in the mornings. They like it because they can choose what they put in their lunch that day. It works well for us!
One quick & easy way we’ve sped up sack lunch preparations is by making up a bunch of Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches for the freezer. Looking for more make-ahead sack lunch ideas? Check out my Lunchbox Freezer Cooking series.
Need some more budget-friendly sack lunch ideas? Check out the comments on this post.