Brown Bag Your Lunch to Work Really is Sexy, Math Included Challenge Accepted

There are so many ways to go about saving money, some of which are big and sexy.  For example saving money on the Big 3 of Mortgage, Car,and Food financially beats cutting out your Starbucks coffee to save money.  It would take a a few hundred Cinnamon Dolce Pumpkin Spice Fat Free Cream Skim Latte’s to save the equivalent of a car payment.  I know the Big 3 are hard to beat, but I am a believer that the little things add up.  I wanted to share how much money I save by taking my lunch to work, I think you will agree by the end of this article that taking your lunch to work really is sexy.

Each day we wake up and make decisions, some of may look like this:

  • Should I hit the snooze bar?
  • Should I hit the snooze bar again?
  • What clothes should I wear?
  • Make coffee and breakfast or pick it up on the way?
  • Do I need to pack a lunch?

Yes, Yes, Who Cares, On the Way, and I’ll just grab a sandwich for lunch at SubJerseyWayJimmyMikeJohnPotBelly sandwich place are probably to often the answer for many of us heading out work at the 9-5 job.  For me it was common place, in fact I used to work at a place that didn’t really have a break room, so bringing my sandwich, drink, and piece of fruit were almost impossible since we didn’t have a fridge or a place to eat without chewing in front of customers.  A few years ago I switched jobs and was excited at the possibility of working in downtown Chicago, so many great places to eat and enjoy, plus I figured I would be busy working and would grab a burger, sandwich, or salad and continue with my work day.  My first day at work a few co-workers took me out to lunch and I asked the question, “Do you guys eat out all of the time”?  I was asking because I just ate $10 worth of lunch and doing some easy multiplication said that was $50 week or about $200 month and that was if I never drank coffee in the morning from Starbucks anywhere besides there. Which led me to thinking that kind of sounds expensive, since not long ago I was spending less than $200 on my monthly grocery bill.


The First Move

After the first month of mostly buying lunches at local restaurants near work I made a change, although a small one to try and at least limit the amount of money I was spending on my lunches.  I started by only buying the sandwich when I went to restaurants during my lunch break, so instead of $10 a day I was getting closer to $7.  With that small move I was saving $3 every day, $15 every week, $60 every month, and $720 every year.  Just by holding the soda, water, chips, cookie, pickle, side salad, fruit, ice cream to a No thank you and bringing these items from home.  OK you can’t bring ice cream from home it will probably melt, but also who offers a side of ice cream with their turkey club sandwich?

Then I Learned the Tango of the Brown Bag

As I read more about cutting expenses and worked hard to bring my budget to the lowest amount possible, I decided that spending $7 every day, $35 every week, $140 every month, and $1,680 still seemed like a lot of money.  I decided to pull out the brown bag, the Transformers lunch box, the plastic grocery bag special, or whatever your lunch carrying bag or box of choice and go right after the $140 a month on lunches.  I declared I would bring my lunch to work every single day, let’s Tango Brown Bag!  Here are my results:  FAILURE.

I found out that remembering your lunch on a Monday morning was possibly more difficult than deciding to get out of bed, sometimes the bed is just so comfortable I say to myself approximately 48 times a year on Monday (holidays not included).  I realized that on Friday’s I really did like going out to lunch with co-workers or friends in town visiting.  It just wasn’t working, I was already missing the bookends of the work week with Monday and Friday, which is calculated at the $10 cost of lunch, plus I’m not including any of the days that I woke up late or forget to bring my lunch or hated what I brought and purchased lunch anyways, come on you have done that, it happens.  I was trying to teach the brown bag how things worked on the dance floor of lunch, but if you don’t bring him/her then you will not learn how to tango.  This time $0 week turned into $20 week, which turned into $40 week and worse off than the First Move I tried to make from above.

Practice Dance Moves, Bring Dance Moves to Party, Repeat

I figured out that what I was doing was not working, in fact my latest attempt had the opposite affect on my finances and instead I was watching more money head out the door during lunch.  Then I did something that worked and I repeated this over and over, like learning the Cupid Shuffle or the Macarena, songs that once you learn them, just repeat the same moves over and over.  We usually do groceries on the weekends, so I started to plan out all of our meals for the whole week including lunches and dinners.  I know this sounds really simple and almost too easy, but this was the start of my ground breaking Dance Party moves that have revolutionized the Brown Bag lunch industry.  I had a plan, it was to write out on paper what I was going to eat the rest of the week.  It made grocery shopping that much easier and our grocery bill right where we wanted it since we weren’t grabbing every extra item that looked tasty that day, although you will on occasion see me grabbing the pepperoni stick for the ride home and usually later on the couch asking myself why I hate so much pepperoni wallowing in stomach pain saying I will never eat that much pepperoni again in my life!

Then I did something the Frugalwood kids would be proud of, I cooked either one really big meal that would last the first 2 or 3 days of the week or I would make Sunday and Monday’s dinner on Sunday, leaving at least 2-3 days of leftovers to start the week, sometimes even more.  For example just yesterday, I made some tasty fish tacos with 1.5 pounds instead of the recipe standard 1 pound and like Brown Bag lunch magic, I had just made my Monday lunch, because I am now playing on the Dance Dance Revolution Extreme version I made Beef Stew for Monday’s dinner, Mrs. Even Steven’s Monday lunch and most likely Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday lunch for me!  Let’s throw out some really fun math or the name of this post isn’t Brown Bag Your Lunch to Work Really is Sexy, Math Included!


All right Dance Dance Revolution on lookers, that math adds up to $4 per meal, which is way less than the $10 restaurant that we were looking at before.  Click on my Lunch Savings Calculator  PDF attachment and see how much I saved courtesy of Bank Rate Lunch Calculator, first off I didn’t really think that was a thing, but it’s true they do exist.   That’s exactly what I did I saved almost $3,000 over the last 2 years by preparing food on Sunday.  Usually what happens during the week is leftovers happen or I decide to make a sandwich through out the week and I’m covered for lunch for the whole week.

Screw You Guys I’ll Never Be Able to Dance, It’s Just To Hard

Well they don’t call me Mr. Even Steven Money Dance Dance Revolution Extreme or ESMDDR for those who I haven’t hung out with yet.  Here’s the thing, I couldn’t dance before either, but I practiced but stepped on Brown Bag’s feet a few times and then found out the moves I was really good at.  If I have completely lost you with my dance references, don’t feel bad so have I.  I basically had two choices for the Brown Bag Lunch Experiment:

  1. Pay a minimum of $200 month and never bring my lunches to work, save little to no money at all
  2. Develop a plan and a WHY I’m bringing my lunch to work, save some money 

I went with choice number two, I developed a plan and made the extra effort to bring my lunches to work because of my WHY.  I decided that if I could save $3000 just from making my lunches at home and apply this to my student loan debt, then it would all be worth it.  I also developed an Emergency Fun Plan for my lunch budget as well.  I decided that every week I would take out $20 cash from my account, during the week I could use this money on coffee, breakfast, snacks, and lunch whenever I felt like it, no questions asked.  If however I used up the $20, I could not reach into my account for more.  On top of that as motivation I having been taking whatever is leftover at the end of the week and putting it in my Mr. Piggy Bank, yeah I have a piggy bank and it’s green, nothing wrong with that in my book!  My numbers applied directly to student loans might be less than $3000, it might be less than that, but then there is probably another $500 sitting in Mr. Piggy Bank waiting to travel the world.

Your Chance to Dance with the Brown Bag

I challenge you this week to bring your lunch to work, one day or for the rest of the week. First time getting on the dance floor, want to do the chicken dance first instead of the full blown Tango, then bring your soda, water, chips, cookie, pickle, side salad, fruit, ice cream, or freezie pop to work instead, we accept who you are.

For everyone out there share what lunch you brought to work, how much you think it cost you, how much you saved (calculator link), or even just a Why you bring your Brown Bag Lunch of Happiness to work!  Think bringing lunch to work is for suckers, tell me WHY, we don’t judge!


15 Responses to “Brown Bag Your Lunch to Work Really is Sexy, Math Included Challenge Accepted

  • I have been doing much better in May and June with bringing my lunch to work. I am at close to 80% now, which is a good level for me. I had left over fajitas today…
    Vawt recently posted…How Much Is Your Vacation Worth?My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Bringing you lunch to work at 80% that’s awesome, leftover fajitas, sounds like a celebration, i’ll bring the salsa!

  • I will probably never bring my own lunch every day of the week. But I do feel really good about doing 4 out of 5 days. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I am more like 18 out of 20 days.

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Same as @EarlyRetirementAhead 80% is awesome and you know what I also feel like you need a day that’s free to try a new sandwich place or try something new.

  • Ugh, why did you have to remind me that this is one area I fail miserably. I have many reasons why I don’t do this on a regular basis, basically I’m an excuse train. I’d say on average I bring my lunch to work once a week, and then maybe work provides lunch another day, so I have to pay out of pocket about 3x a week on average. I have enough trouble preparing my dinners in advance so that I don’t have to take-out, but this is an area I really could improve. Once the cold weather comes, I’m more inclined to cook on Sundays to get me through the week.
    Fervent Finance recently posted…The MIA to LGA DebacleMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Well @FerventFinance I can read minds and knew just by writing this article I could say you thousands of dollars a year and jump start your early retirement by 6 months, your welcome and get to it!

  • I bring my lunch almost everyday. With the new job though, I do go out about once a week consistently, sometimes twice. This comes from our personal funds though, so I’m just robbing from myself. I’ve always brought my lunch though, but I found if I keep everything to make my sandwich in an open Rubbermaid in the fridge, I grab it and BAM! Everything is right there. Meat, cheese, mustard, bread ready to go. I usually do sandwiches, and breakfast – yogurt, protein bar and V8, but I love having leftovers because then I don’t have to make anything, just grab and go. I found doing that with sandwiches sucks, so I make those in the morning.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…June home repairs are killing me!My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      That’s a really good idea about bringing all the items for the sandwich, I like it, I’ve done that with yogurt at least, oh crap I know I just left some in the fridge last week, hope that’s still good. Still a great idea, especially if you are dedicated to sandwiches for the week.

      Robbing from yourself, call the police I tell you!

  • I almost always make a sandwich for lunch or put leftovers in a container and heat them up in the microwave. There’s a decent amount of my coworkers that do the same most days, but there’s also a good amount that are deciding where to go lunch almost everyday.

    I usually only go out to eat for lunch when we go out as an entire team, or when we’re going out for someone’s birthday or another special occasion.
    Debt Hater recently posted…5 Things to do When Buying a Used CarMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      That seems reasonable to me, I’m always curious of my co-workers financial standing for those that go to lunch almost every day, my guess is not that great.

  • I tend to do this dance in waves. One week I’ll be tearing up the dance floor every single day, the next week I get shy and leave the brown bag at home all week (which may have extended into much more than a week…). I do like the variety though, and the occasional social outings, so I’ll definitely try mixing it up a little more during the week.

    Although with my new job we have lunch catered for every Wednesday! (being today!!)
    Jason @ Islands of Investing recently posted…How do you score on the ‘Investing Serenity Scale’?My Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Nice perk of the job for catering, a former co-worker has that every Friday, I mean as long as they are not adding into your paycheck and making you pay taxes then that sounds pretty great.

      Dancing every single day can get tough, getting all sweaty but you do get in great financial shape;)

  • LOL, my brown bag tango is second to none. I almost always bring my own lunch (except for the occasional Wednesday team lunch). Normally I get my lunch ready the night before with leftovers from dinner.
    Brock @CleverDude recently posted…Be The Good Parent, Not The Cool ParentMy Profile

    • EvenStevenMoney
      1 year ago

      Very nice, not many can brown bag tango every day, it’s a craft and skill that takes much practice, I applaud you sir!

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