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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brown Bag It

If you haven’t already figured this out, pay close attention: If you bring your lunch to work, instead of buying lunch out, you can save thousands of dollars a year.

Above and beyond the cost savings -- according to Mona Meighan and Sara Dehart in their book What Are You Doing for Lunch? -- you’ll be getting better nutrition; but first let’s focus on the savings.

Here are the results of a recent study from Canada:  

  • 60% eat lunch out at least once a week and spend $7 to $13 each time
  • Many of those eat out at least three times a week, and at the $10 midpoint spend $1,500 a year
  • Those who eat out every workday spend $2,500 a year

What does this means over time:
  • If you spend $10 a day on lunch (as opposed to packing a lunch from home at $3), you’ll save $17,500 over 10 years (5 days per week/50 weeks per year). If you invest that at 2% a year you’ll end up with $21,678.49.

  • To further hammer home the point, if a 22 year-old saves $2,000 per year on lunch and puts it in a 401(k), they would have more than $600,000 at retirement age (assuming a $34,000 salary and typical 50% match up to 6% of pay).

Bonus: you'll be in control of your calorie, fat, sugar and salt intake ... What Are You Doing for Lunch?.includes about 70 recipes (with nutritional analysis) that take about 15 minutes to prepare. Each recipe includes a cost comparison for preparing each recipe versus buying a similar meal at a restaurant, such as:

•Basil and tomato on wheat Cost to make: $1. Restaurant price: $5. Annual savings (eating once per week): $192. Annual savings over a $10 lunch: $450. Calories: 273.

•Chicken salad on wheat Cost to make: $3.50. Restaurant price: $7.50. Annual savings: $192. Annual savings over a typical $10 lunch: $450. Calories: 299.

•Peanut butter, apple and granola wrap Cost to make: $1. Restaurant price: $4.50. Eat that just once a week and you will save $168 in a year. Your actual savings over a more typical restaurant meal of $10 would come to $450 a year. A similar savings all five days would come to $2,250 a year. Meanwhile, you are consuming just 473 calories (and a fraction of the fat) vs. nearly 700 calories with a cheeseburger and fries.
So, what are you packing for lunch tomorrow?

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