Money

7 Clever Ways to Avoid Eating Out at Work (+ 25 Lunch Ideas!)

Whether you’re trying to eat healthy, save money, or both, bringing your own lunch to work should be a top priority. These packed lunch ideas come with clever strategies to save your hard earned dollars, and help jumpstart a healthy lifestyle!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Pack your lunch. It's such a simple statement, but did you know this simple act can save you $500 or more each year?! So what's holding you back? Do you need packed lunch ideas...or more specifically work lunch ideas? These 7 creative ways to avoid the eating out trap at work, will not only save money, they'll also help jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Let's face it—healthy work lunches make you feel 100 times better than fast food ever could! #healthyworklunches #worklunchideas #healthylunches

Just want the recipes? Click HERE.

Before I quit my job to work on Creative Savings full-time, I worked in the billing department of an OBGYN office. Wait, let me take that back. I was the billing department. It was a very small practice!

Except for the times when I had to beg hormonal women {understandably so!} to pay their bills, I loved every minute of it.

My co-workers were amazing.

The doctors were funny.

And we always had dozens of crazy stories to swap during lunch hour.

Most of the time, I tried to be really good and pack a lunch—saving money and all. But inevitably, an obnoxious growl would signal the 11:30 mark, and someone would suggest everyone get takeout from the new deli down the street.

Suddenly, the squished sandwich I threw together that morning didn’t look so appealing anymore. Come to think of it, the apple I packed for a healthy snack isn’t going to tide me over either.

So I would give in, and consume an $8 professionally made sandwich bundled with chips, soda, and a cookie. Then totally regret it when I found three crinkled receipts {from the same place} stuffed into the bottom of my purse.

*Sigh*

Let’s face it—when you work outside the home, packing your own lunch {and remembering to take it} is hard!

We *know* this is the most cost-effective choice to make, but it’s much easier to grab a meal through the drive-through or split a sub with a co-worker, then rush around in the morning trying to get everyone out the door and assemble a healthy lunch on top of everything else.

The solution?

I’ve found a combination of tricking yourself, mixed with clever prep ideas, will turn boring lunches into meals you can’t wait to eat.

1. Buy a pretty lunch bag

Brown bags are cheap enough, but you always have to buy more. Plus, they’re boring!! Snag a reusable bag you’ll love taking to work. It will inspire you to fill it up every morning.

Here are some super cute lunch bag options:

2. Make snacks ahead of time

Grab and go snacks make it easy to add items your lunch, and can be prepped at the beginning of the week. Fill up food storage containers with the following snacks, so you don’t have to divvy out portions during the morning rush.

3. Pack it the night before

If you’re not an early riser who loves waking up at 5:30am everyday (can you tell that’s not me??), you’ll want to pack your lunch the night before.

Make a sandwich {pack mayo separately if you’re worried about soggy bread}, or scoop up a serving of leftovers from dinner. Because you already have snacks prepped from the beginning of the week, it’s super easy to assemble a healthy lunch.

Related: How to Make Your Mornings Insanely Productive (Even if You Hate Mornings)

4. Write a reminder note

If you forget to take your lunch and leave it hanging out in the fridge, put a sticky note on the front door as a reminder. Forgetting it would mean you have to stop by Chick-Fil-A, and while their chicken is AMAZING, we’re trying to avoid unplanned stops, remember?

You don’t have to do this every time, just until you get used to taking your lunch with you.

5. Keep limited cash on hand

Less cash in your wallet means you’re less likely to contribute money to the lunch fund. You can’t do much with a card unless you volunteer yourself to pick it up, and it’s kind of embarrassing to write a $5.00 check to your co-worker. That is, if you even write checks anymore!

No cash…no temptation.

6. Stock Groceries at Work

If you have the space, load up on boxes of granola bars and other snacks so even if you forget your lunch, you still don’t have to eat out. You can even keep sandwich fixings in the fridge (if there is one), and assemble a meal right then and there.

Bonus: You’ll get an extra 10 minutes of sleep in the morning, and won’t feel rushed.

7. Indulge Every Now and Then

Obviously, packing your own lunch is ideal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t splurge intentionally. If you love eating out, go ahead and budget for a treat every now and then.

Knowing you have a fun lunch to look forward to can help you make it through other meals. It will also make that one day all the more special.

Need (Not Boring) Lunch Ideas?

Pack your lunch. It's such a simple statement, but did you know this simple act can save you $500 or more each year?! So what's holding you back? Do you need packed lunch ideas...or more specifically work lunch ideas? These 7 creative ways to avoid the eating out trap at work, will not only save money, they'll also help jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Let's face it—healthy work lunches make you feel 100 times better than greasy fast food ever could!
Use this list to spice up your noon-day meal:

  1. Pizza Buns
  2. Italian Sausage Vegetable Soup
  3. Simple Southwestern Salad
  4. Skinny Taco Salad in a Jar
  5. Turkey Ranch Rollups
  6. Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
  7. Light Egg Salad
  8. BBQ Chicken Salad
  9. Pita Pizza’s 
  10. Fajita Quesadillas
  11. BLT Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap
  12. Cheesy Bacon Mini Quiches
  13. Hummus & Chicken Wraps
  14. Quinoa Taco Bowls
  15. Easy Chicken & Avocado Burrito Wraps
  16. Honey Sesame Chicken Lunch Bowls
  17. Homemade Instant Noodle Cups
  18. Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  19. Homemade Hot Pockets
  20. Chinese Chicken Salad
  21. Black Bean Quinoa Salad
  22. Chicken Pesto Sandwich
  23. Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Wrap
  24. Easy Chicken Gyros
  25. Chicken Caesar Salad

With a plan of action and yummy recipes in hand, you’ll be well on your way to save at least $500 per year….simply by not eating out.

Now comes the fun part. What to do with that $500?! Hmmm…

Which lunch idea will you implement this week?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Rest assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m fortunate enough to work close to my home. So during my lunch break I go home and whip something up quick. There have been many times where I’ve ordered Jimmy John’s instead though. But we’re getting better about that.

    1. That’s awesome, Lindsey. It’s funny how something simple like packing a lunch can feel like such a chore. When you live right near where you work, “forgetting” to pack one can turn into a good excuse to get out of the office. 🙂

  2. This is exactly the pin that I needed to come across today…as I’m sitting at a coffee shop having a professionally made sandwich on my lunch break. As a working mom, this topic is one of my budget busters because there aren’t enough hours in the day! I love your ideas and am anxious to dig into your recipes!

    1. I’m so glad you stopped by! Eating out is so convenient and is such an easy habit to get into. I promise you though, if you see that cash in your bank account instead of on receipts, I think you’ll be pretty excited about the change. 🙂

  3. I pack my kids a lunch 3x/week and if it’s a meal I like, then I make one for myself as well! Otherwise, my plan has always been to just eat leftovers. Problem is, as my oldest son is getting older I’m noticing fewer and fewer leftovers! Glad to have more ideas for lunches, thanks for the post!

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