Packing a lunch or eating out is often a decision made out of habit or routine, rather than conscious choice. Considering the trade-offs and making a plan is the best way to ensure personal happiness and financial satisfaction.
To bring lunch in, someone needs to spend some time making it. If you’re lucky, your partner or other housemate may offer to do this for you. If you’re not so lucky or prefer to do it yourself, you’ll need time to shop for and prepare meals. And after an already long day at work and a mountain of other tasks that need completing, that can be a big ask. You may be able to cut down on the time commitment by bringing in leftovers from another meal or paying a bit more for ready-made meals from the grocery store.
Going out for lunch almost always costs more than bringing lunch in. You can generally expect to spend somewhere between $2 and $8 per meal when you’re making your own lunch. In contrast, eating out often costs around $10-$30. If you average that out to $5 for an at-home meal and $20 for going out and consider the difference for even a single workweek, you’d be spending $75 more by going out. Multiply that by an entire month and you’d spend $300 more.
Eating lunch with coworkers is a great way to build friendships and expand your work network, which can open you up to new opportunities. If coworkers frequently go out, you may want to join in. If not, consider forging new friendships by inviting a few people to occasionally go out with you. Of course, you can also build relationships sitting around a table in the break room together. Compromising for the group or an individual who is often left out can be a good way to build morale in the office.
While not always the case, a meal purchased at a restaurant is often less healthy than one that’s homemade. When you make your own food, you know exactly what’s going into it, which can help you be more conscientious and intentional about what you’re eating.
Your Lunch Break
Between travel times, waiting for a table, and the slowdowns of the lunch rush, going out to lunch generally takes more time than eating a meal you’ve already prepared at the office. If your work has a strict schedule, the pressure to get back on time can sour your lunch. At the same time, taking a full break out of the office can reinvigorate you for the latter half of your day.
Once you’ve considered everything, it’s time to make a plan. Deciding to eat out every day is great as long as you’ve planned for it in your budget. Deciding to bring lunch in every day is wonderful as long as you’ve included prep time in your schedule. And a hybrid approach is splendid as long as you do it with intention. What matters is that you make a plan, account for that plan as you make preparations for your schedule and budget, and stick to it.
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