The Challenge

Bring my lunch to work every day for a month without resorting to pre-packaged frozen meals.

The Starting Point

Currently, I eat out on campus 3-4 times a week. When I do bring my lunch, it’s leftovers, usually from a restaurant, and the cost is adding up.

The Plan

Packing 20-plus lunches in a month is a daunting task, so I’m starting small. Week one was loosey goosey, just to see how hard this would actually be. In weeks two and three I’ll plan ahead to bring a mix of home-cooked leftovers and healthy packed lunches that possibly incorporate ingredients and leftovers from home-cooked meals.

Week 1: Winging it (Preparation: none)

Monday: BBQ beef brisket and French fries (leftover from Sunday’s lunch), bottled fruit smoothie

Tuesday: Cereal with soy milk

Wednesday: Turkey, salami, and provolone sandwich, kosher dill pickle spears

Thursday: Turkey and mozzarella sandwich, banana

We left town on Thursday night for a long weekend, so there were only four days of lunches to bring this week. I definitely wasn’t prepared for this. Cereal on day two was probably the low point of the week—a co-worker offered me half his chicken wrap when he saw what I brought for lunch, and I was desperate enough to stop by the store on the way home for some bread and lunch meat. I turned down lunch with co-workers twice but had a mid-week lunch with a friend who also brings her lunch out in the nice Miami weather. It was a great reminder that bringing my lunch doesn’t mean I have to eat at my desk.

Expense Report

My four packed lunches cost me about $11. That’s breaking down the price of each slice of bread and meat. More than half of the week’s total spending came from my leftovers on Monday. (My meal on Sunday was $12.50, so cut that in half and Monday’s lunch cost me $6.25.) The sandwiches and cereal averaged $1.58 per meal. That’s less than I expected, and a significant savings off my typical fast food lunch that costs $4-7 per meal. Let’s see how much more I can save this month!


Home-packed lunches definitely do not come naturally to me and my current lifestyle. This is going to take some work. On the plus side, I did discover a great way to pack cereal for work. Maybe I’ll start packing breakfast, too.