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Brown-bag your lunch & put the extra cash in your RRSP.

When it comes to lunchtime, 60 per cent of Canadians head to a restaurant at least once a week, which adds up to some serious money in the long run. Additionally, Canucks spend a national average of $8.80 for their noon-hour meals — and that adds up!

  • $915 / year if you eat out twice a week
  • $1,373 / year if you eat out three times a week
  • $2,288 / year if you eat out daily

Related: Change your spending habit into a saving habit

CA-dining-habitsLet’s include a coffee or snack and round up to $12. That’s a lot of cash you could be allocating elsewhere. What if you contributed that daily $12 coffee and lunch expense towards your RRSP instead? That could result in a $3,120 yearly contribution, and over 15 years, that’s $46,800 before adding interest!1So how do we curb this lunch-buying routine? Here are four ideas to help kick the habit and positively impact your short and long-term savings goals:

  1. Plan your lunch meal weekly: It’s easy to open the fridge or pantry and decide you don’t have anything tasty for lunch, so why not just eat out? If you take a few minutes to plot your lunches for the week, and incorporate them into your grocery list, you’ll be motivated to stick to the plan. Make sure you’re covering the basics: A main entrée or sandwich, a side and something sweet (choose a ripe piece of fruit to be health-conscious). Don’t forget to consult to see what’s on sale at your favourite grocery store.

    Tip: Need recipe inspiration? See what’s in season this month, according to the CPMA Fruit and Vegetable Availability Guide.

  1. Make your lunches ahead of time: You may feel there isn’t enough time during the week to make lunch — so use the weekend! Take a couple of hours out of your Sunday to prepare veggies, make a pot of pasta, bake a tray of chicken or steam some rice. Once you’ve prepared your favourite foods in bulk, portion it all out and pack your lunches in containers ahead of time. When the weekday mornings come, you’ll just have to grab and go. To get inspired, check out these 23 make-ahead lunches.
    Tip: Don’t want to cook alone? Invite a friend to split the work — and the home-cooked goods.
  1. Cook extras when you make dinner: Stretch your hard-earned grocery dollars by bringing your leftovers for lunch. When you’re cleaning up after dinner, pack up some of your meal into a container and have it ready to grab in the morning before you head out the door. If you aren’t keen on eating the same thing twice in a row, look to Health Canada’s quick and easy ideas for whipping up something new.
    Tip: Mix up your lunchtime meal by adding a couple of tasty sides (did someone say cheese?).
  1. Start a lunch club with work friends: If you enjoy connecting with your coworkers over your lunch break, create a small group to participate in a meal swap or challenge. Stay on track with a simple schedule, keeping in mind everyone’s lifestyles and other commitments. This model may only work for those who aren’t picky eaters or who share similar eating habits — but if you can make it work, you’ll be saving a lot of money in the long run. Again, cooking extra at dinner may work best, but these seasonal Eat Well recipes from are worth a try, too.
    Tip: Create a fun calendar at work to motivate you to pack your lunch daily — and inspire a little friendly competition.

Don’t forget to reward yourself with the occasional lunch out once you start this new savings routine. But after a while, you’ll realize how easy it is to bring your own, how satisfying it is to cater to your own taste buds, and how much money you’ll save!

Related: Coupons 101: How to save like a pro

1Figures based on a five-day work week, at 52 weeks per year

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