I've noticed an interesting trend over my last few years of working. It seems like those who make the lowest salaries seem to consistently eat out the most. It is ironic that these are the same people who are always waiting for their next paycheck so that they can "pay their bills.” They are always complaining that "they can never get ahead.”
To make matters worse, they often eat lunch at the most unhealthiest of locations: McDonald’s, Tommy’s burgers, and Panda Express. It’s also common to see these same individuals come into the office with Starbucks coffee in hand or McDonald’s Egg McMuffins and Hash Browns in the morning.
I’d estimate my coworkers are spending $7 to $10 per day on food, drinks, taxes, and vehicle expenses. When it comes to the lowest paid office workers, they are essentially spending the first hour of each workday just on paying for lunch. These people truly believe that the only way to get rich is to win the lottery, marry rich, or get an inheritance.
Maybe you’ve noticed this trend at your office? Are you are part of the trend?
Recent polls also confirm that 70% of US Workers go out for lunch, and they spend an average of $936 a year doing so. Americans earning less than $25,000 annual income spend 22% more than those earning over $50,000 per year. I find this interesting.
When going out to eat lunch, it’s not only the cost of food that should be considered. Don’t forget about the cost of gas, taxes on the meal, and time spent getting to and from the restaurant.
What do we do for lunch? We brown bag it! One simple health and wealth change we've made is to stop eating out so frequently and to make lunch and dinner ourselves.
Bringing your lunch saves you time
Pre packaging your lunch can be extremely convenient and is definitely a time saver. Most people who eat out claim that they “don’t have time to make lunch.” They forget about the inconveniences of eating out: driving, finding parking, waiting in a line, a drive thru, or at a table.
Your time is valuable and you should spend as little of it waiting in a car, in a line, or at a table. Several of my coworkers have to commute over 40 minutes to get to the office. Driving out to get lunch away from the office adds an extra 10-15 minutes of commuting time to their day.
It doesn’t take me long to eat lunch. Bringing my lunch allows me to enjoy more of my lunch hour doing the things I like to do. In my abundance of free time, I like to read books checked out at the library for leisure. This is time that can be used to be productive. I also like to chat and socialize with others who also bring their lunch to the office. I hope to serve as an example to my coworkers on how easy it can be to save money by packing my lunch.
Bringing your lunch doesn’t have to take a lot of effort
One easy way to have tomorrow’s lunch prepared is to simply bring leftovers from tonight’s dinner. Last I checked, it doesn’t take much more time to make a larger portion of spaghetti, curry, or baked fish for dinner. Save an extra portion for lunch the next day. If you don’t want to have the same food again the next day, consider freezing single serving sizes and have a “fresh and new” meal next week.
Other foods can be prepared fresh at work. If your office has a break room with a refrigerator, consider leaving your lunch items in the work fridge. Salads and sandwiches can be easily prepared in a few minutes at the start of your lunch. My previous office had a panini maker, which I would use to frequently grill my sandwiches. I have no need for one now as I’ve cut out eating bread. If you are into juicing, you can leave your juicer in the office along with your fresh fruits and vegetables.
You control what goes into your food
When you go out to eat lunch, you have little to no control over added fats, salts, sugars, and processed foods.
Did you know that Wendy’s fast food restaurant dips their “natural-cut” fries in sodium acid pyrophosphate and then powders them with D-glucose crystallized from corn to prevent fries from browning? Let me also remind you that Taco Bell was serving “taco meat filling” that contained only 36% real beef (plus a 64% combination of chemicals).
Although you can pretty much find chemicals and preservatives in everything that we eat, preparing your own food allows you to use fresh and natural ingredients.
Eating out all the time will make you fat and lazy
Sadly, I’ve seen employees slowly gain more and more weight as time has passed. Getting into the habit of eating out for lunch daily leads to becoming lazy and dependent on others. It’s easy to get adjusted to having others prepare your meals.
Too tired to make lunch? It’s okay; just pay someone else to make your food for you! Continuing to let fast food companies and restaurants fill your plate with unhealthy food fattens your waistline and not your wallet. Unhealthy foods end up draining your energy, making you less inclined to exercise and more likely to gain weight. Too tired to make dinner? It’s okay; just eat out! (sarcasm)
Research continues to show that workers who eat healthy all day long have better job performance and are less likely to be absent. Healthy employees were 20% more likely to be more productive. In addition, employees who exercised 3 times a week were 15% more likely to have higher job performance.
What we eat for lunch
Our lunches usually consist of meals with lots of protein and fiber and few carbohydrates. We’ve replaced rice with quinoa. We get our protein from eggs, chicken, turkey, beans, and mixed nuts. We try to eat a lot of vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli. We always have some type of fruit with our lunch, like bananas, pineapples, oranges, or pears. We get most of our food from Costco or Trader Joe’s. At a cost per meal of $1.98, this has helped us save thousands each year. We’ve improved our mental focus, physical health, energy levels, and portfolio balances along the way.
If you can save $7 a day on eating out each day of the work week, this adds up to $140 a month, $1680 a year, and over $24,000 when you invest that amount over 10 years.
Yes we enjoy eating out
I’m not going to lie - we love dining out. We love eating out and socializing with friends. However, I’d much rather spend 2 hours eating and laughing with friends over a leisurely meal, than 40 minutes rushed to go eat junk food at lunch before getting back to the office. We budget several hundred dollars a month for eating out and consider eating out a reward for having no debt, a high level of savings, and a steadily increasing net worth.
What we will NOT do is eat out for lunch every day of the workweek.
It’s your finances
Do you eat out for lunch on a regular basis? Remember that only you can prioritize your own finances. The less you save and invest now in your youth, the more years you will have to work before retirement.
Here's a fun infographic on what Americans spend on lunch: