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Finances & Money Frugality

Frugal Lunch by Clever Dudette

Looking to save some money on your work lunches? Check out these three delicious, nutritious, and cheap lunch ideas and save yourself hundreds of dollars per year!!

I would like to announce the first guest article by my wife Stacie, aka Clever Dudette. Stacie is a Registered Dietitian in the D.C. region, and runs her own nutrition site at Building Nutrition.

Clever Dude and I frequently disagree on lunch purchases. I work in a hospital (and therefore have ready access to the cafeteria) but have packed my lunch daily for over 6 months. The Dude works at a client site with expensive lunch options (cafeteria and food court). I believe that to be frugal (and health-conscious) for lunch, it is imperative to pack your lunch!

Average cost of an insulated lunch box:
$10 at Walmart or on You can use the product search on the sidebar.

What are good and healthy options for lunch?
Let’s assume that you have a refrigerator but no microwave to heat foods:

Monday Lunch:Peanutbutter Sandwich
PBJ sandwich on wheat bread, raw carrots, baked chips and an apple:

  • Peanut butter ($0.11)
  • jelly($0.07)
  • wheat bread ($0.30)
  • raw carrots ($0.12)
  • bag of baked chips ($0.28)
  • apple ($0.50)
  • water from the fountain (free). It’s safe, except where the Dude works, but they provide water coolers.

Cost: $1.38

Tuesday Lunch:Turkey Sandwich
Turkey sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, light mayo, carrot sticks, canned pears in light syrup and a snack pack of Oreos (the Dude’s favorite):

  • turkey sandwich on wheat bread ($1.30)
  • lettuce ($0.25)
  • tomato ($0.25)
  • light mayo ($0.14)
  • carrot sticks ($0.12)
  • canned pears in light syrup ($0.69)
  • snack pack of Oreos ($0.41)
  • fountain or cooler water again (still free)

Cost: $3.16

Wednesday Lunch:Tuna Salad Sandwich
Tuna salad sandwich, banana, celery sticks with peanut butter, baked chips

  • tuna sandwich (light tuna canned in water on wheat bread with light mayo) ($1.00)
  • banana ($0.25)
  • celery sticks with peanut butter ($0.25 + $0.11)
  • bag of baked chips ($0.28)
  • the infamous water from the water fountain (free again)

Cost: $2.00

Thursday lunch:
Repeat of Monday.
Cost: $1.38

Friday lunch:

Repeat of Tuesday—have to use that lunch meat!
Cost: $3.16

So to calculate the comparison costs, let’s ignore that you may work from home some days, or don’t work all 52 weeks each year:
Cost of eating out (average $6 a day) = $30.00
Cost of packing a lunch for 5 days = $11.00
Total savings = $19.00/week * 52 weeks = $988.00!!!

What if you have no microwave and no refrigerator?
You could spend $10-15 for a lunch bag that comes with a freezer pack. You can also just throw a few ice cubes in a re-usable Zip-lock bag to use as a “free” ice pack.

Each of these lunches will provide about 600 calories, which is appropriate for the average man or woman. So, not only are they inexpensive, but they are healthy too!!!

Photo Credits to [Progodess], [basykes], and [RatRanch]

About the author

Clever Dude


  • You mean that we can save upto $1000 in a year if we pack our lunch? Amazing statistics!! Thanks!!!! I’ll pack my lunch hereafter.

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  • I work for an airline and pack a 4 day lunchbox. The ziplocks with ice usually leak so I invested in a $12 medical icebag made of rubber from the local pharmacy. Works great and is worth the investment. I also love Trader Joes for their no chill needed menu items. They have ziti & lasagna for $1.99 that are shelf stable. Yummy too.

  • I don’t usually drink any kind of soft drinks or soda. But the other day I got a small container of ginger ale (it was next to the tonic water at the grocery store). I’ve been drinking it slowly, DILUTED! I put a lot of ice and water in a cup, then add about one tablespoon of ginger ale, more or less. Tastes fine to me! Would be even better with sliced lemon added, I bet.

  • Just came across this site. Love it! I now work at home 95% of the time, but even when I was in an office, I generally would take leftovers from the night before for lunch the next day. This saved a ton of money, and gave me the “ethnic” food I loved. When leftovers weren’t available, then I’d do the tuna sandwich, PB&J or PB&Banana. Saved a lot of money this way, and ate healthier. When making dinner, I try to plan enough so there will be leftovers. For example, pasta with meat sauce (dinner for 3 and one or two lunches); pot roast with carrots and mash will easily make enough for 2 dinners, and 2 lunches, and if meat is left it can be made into a 3rd dinner by adding to pasta sauce, or make gravy and add sliced meat, and some rice, add veg you are done. I find thinking this way challenging and I enjoy being food frugal. I hate wasting the fresh fruit and veg that always get forgotten in the fridge. Have a cure for that?

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