Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tightening Your Belt at Lunch

There’s a reason they call it tightening your belt. Food costs are a huge part of our annual spending, and if one is already frugal, the only way to trim costs is to be vigilant about the food budget. A simple, but very effective way to cut down on the food budget is simply to be sure to bring food to work, but New Yorkers are terrible at following this rule – most of us spend little to no time in the kitchen.

If one buys lunch every day, at the low-end estimate of $6.50 per lunch, that’s $32.50 per week, or about $1,625 per year. If one also grabs breakfast or a latte on the way in, it’s easy to spend $12 - $16 a day, or about $3,000 - $4,000 per year. And considering lunch is easily $8 - $12, it is easy for one to spend much more than this.

Alternatively, if one prepares food in advance, she may spend less than $2 per breakfast including coffee, and less than $3 per lunch, or about $500 and $750, respectively, per year. For both meals, that is a savings of around $2,000 per year, which can be added directly to one’s savings accounts, or if she is paying down a debt, applied there.

Here are a few examples:
-Oatmeal (regular, not instant): $3 a box, or about 30¢ per serving.
-Two eggs and cheese: $5 for ingredients, or about 83¢ per serving.
-Coffee by the pound plus milk: $14, or about 35¢ per cup.
-Peanut butter & Jelly sandwich: $7 for ingredients, or about 58¢ per serving.

And the bonus of packing a lunch is that the food one prepares at home is nearly always healthier than the food one buys while out. So the belt really does get to be pulled in a notch.

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