How to Eat Lunch on a Budget


If you’ve ever paid close to $20 for a build-your-own salad when you expected to pay less than $5, you’re probably a little bit more conscious now of the type of salad toppings you pile on your plate. Don’t let one instance of overspending at lunch leave you feeling too bad, though — it happens to the best of us! Learn from it and let it serve its purpose. Here are some tips on how to get the best bang for your buck for your middle of the day meals:

•Meal Plan and Brown Bag It
If you’re on a budget, brown bagging it is the way to go. Considering nearly a third of every U.S. dollar is spent on eating out, it certainly pays to cut that expense.1 The more meals you bring from home, the more money you’ll save – not to mention it can be a whole lot healthier if you make it yourself. Muster up the discipline and plan and prepare your meals for the week ahead on Sunday. Grill up some protein and divvy it out over some pre-made salads or make a big batch of chili or lentil soup for your weekday lunches. Alternatively, pack leftovers from dinner the night before. Do this as much as you can and the savings will add up – then you can afford to splurge on lunch with coworkers every now and then if you want.

•Go Vegetarian
Try skipping the meat for lunch and go for the often-cheaper alternative of veggies and/or beans. Eating vegetarian doesn’t always mean cheaper, but if you’re aware, you can make it work for your wallet and get more for your money. Skip the heavier salad topping options at the salad bar and aim to weigh in at that $5 mark or less. Find soups, salads, baked potatoes, veggie burgers, veggie subs and veggie plates and fill up on fresh fruits and nuts at your desk. If that’s not enough to satisfy you, being a vegetarian may lead to savings on healthcare costs, considering that vegetarians as a group are typically healthier that non-vegetarians and have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure, several forms of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.2 And yes, Millenials, this means you can have your avocado toast and eat it, too.3

•Know Where to Lunch
Saving money is all about finding the best deals no matter what you’re consuming. When it comes to buying lunch on a daily basis, finding the best deals in your area for your taste is key. Many lunching establishments offer deals of the day on certain days each week for a fixed price. Set a price for yourself – let’s say, $5 – and go find daily meal deals that fit the bill. A deli that offers a sub, bag of chips, and a drink on Mondays; a taqueria that offers $2 tacos on Tuesdays; a pizza joint that offers a slice and a salad on Wednesdays, etc. It’s really up to your taste. And you can find healthy options at fast food places, too! Check out websites and apps for coupons and additional savings in your area.

1, “Ag and Food Statistics Charting the Essentials,” Tuesday, April 25, 2017
2, “All Meat vs. Vegetarian Diets,” viewed May 18, 2017
3, “Fact Checking a Moguls Claims About Avocado Toast,” May 5, 2017


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