Spending

How much money you can save by making lunch to bring to work

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Americans spend an average of $2,746 a year on lunch, according to a Visa report. The cost per day depends on a lot of factors, including how often you pack lunch, and how often you dine out.

It's generally understood that bringing lunch instead of buying it can save you money, but just how much? In the Visa analysis, the average spend per purchased meal was $11.14, versus $6.30 per packed lunch. On average, men spend 60% more than women on dining out as they do it more frequently than women and buy pricier meals.

To find out how much you could save by packing your lunch in New York City, three Grow team members tested different approaches. Neha and Courtney cooked at home and brought a packed lunch every day. Ian bought his lunch every day.

Check out the video to see just how different their spending was and if, in the end, shopping and cooking felt worth the time commitment.

VIDEO8:0308:03
We tried meal prepping and buying lunch to determine which method is best

If you're looking to cut costs by dining out less and packing lunch more frequently, here are some Grow resources that can help:

Restaurant-style recipes that are easy and cheap

Avoid the sad desk lunch by cooking this $2 mac 'n cheese recipe, which was created by Emmy-winning TV host and chef Frankie Celenza. You can also try making this $3 burger recipe, approved by one of the "most trusted" burger reviewers in New York City.

Smart grocery store strategies

By buying store-brand groceries and cutting back on meat, you can curb your food spending significantly. Consider frozen produce, too, as it's often cheaper, can last longer, and can actually have more nutritional value than fresh.

If you decide to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, go for whole instead of pre-cut. Hone your knife skills and you can save a lot of money.

Apps to cut your bills

Check whether your local grocer has coupon-dedicated apps, as many do. And saving apps like Shopkick let you collect points while you shop and then redeem them for gift cards from a variety of stores including Target and Amazon.

Not recommended: Swiping someone else's lunch, which American Express found is something 18% of Americans have done.

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