Off Topic: Lunch Money

Off Topic: Lunch Money

It’s an experience most people have or recognise from growing up — the packed school lunch, filled with treats, a sandwich wrapped in glad wrap, a roll-up or two, maybe a chocolate, slices of apple, dried apricot. You get the drill.

Some carry this habit into their working lives, preparing food, storing them in communal kitchens, whether it be at a nearby food court or cafe somewhere. Thing is, that costs a bloody fortune.

Also before we go further, let’s just take a moment to appreciate those unwashed, unpeeled carrots. Tasty stuff.

Anyway, I’m curious to know: how much does it cost you to buy your lunch on a daily basis? What do you usually get? Where do you get it from? Do you get a coffee as well? Do you have the kinds of places that will do a special deal after a certain hour?

I haven’t been great lately about bringing my own food, although I do have a reputation in the office for … er … coffee and yoghurt.

No, really. I’ll get some tinned fruit — I’ve got a jug in the office fridge full of the stuff — and I’ll put that in a bowl, lather it with yoghurt, and drop a ton of instant coffee on the stuff and mix it. It tastes better than it looks.

It’s also cheap as buggery; about $13-14 for two tins of fruit and a full tub of yoghurt. That’s better than going downstairs and paying $12-14 for a single meal that I’ll probably feel pretty bad about come the late afternoon.

For those of you who bring lunch from home, what do you like to bring if you have the choice? And how often do you do it?


  • Depends on what i feel like, more often i bring a sandwich or left overs from home, if i do buy lunch it is either Subway/Nandos or the local milk bar for some chips and gravy.

  • I do all sorts of things.
    Buy bread, lettuce leaves and meat and make sandwiches in the office for a few days.
    bring in left overs
    or go eat eat.

    The sandwiches set me back about $15 for 3-4 days.
    left overs are freeeeeeee
    getting food out ranges between $6 and $20, I try and eat more of the $6 meals than the $20 meals though. The cheap meals are rice and two dishes, the more expensive ones are sushi train, I also get other stuff as well, working in the CBD gives too many options.

  • Outside of special occasions I tend to skip lunch at work because I’m too lazy to bring food from home and buying takeaway every day is ludicrous but every few weeks I might indulge with some Subway which, for a footlong including a small drink and a cookie ranges from $13 – $15. A couple of times I’ve hit up Mad Mex for a burrito and that’s around $12 incl. a drink, I think? I used to regularly go to a place in the Pitt St food court under Myer called Burger Edge. They had amazing burgers and the best chips. A little pricier (I can’t remember but I think it might have been around $16 for a full size burger, chips and a drink) but they did a roaring trade before suddenly disappearing one day. 🙁

    Anyway. My lunch is anywhere between #12-$16, on the rare occasions I can be bothered.

  • I never bring my own lunch to work, always go out. Partly because I like to get out of the office and go for the walk, partly because I never really know what I’ll feel like when lunchtime rolls around.

    Generally ranges from $5.50 (vietnamese meat roll) up to $9.50 (roll from sandwich place or footlong sub from Subway), with various other options in between, price-wise. I never go over $10 (although I suspect inflation will soon put an end to that) and never buy a drink. I used to have a can of Coke with lunch every day. As soon as I stopped doing that, I dropped about 2kg in 2 weeks, so I’ve stayed off that ever since and just drink plenty of water over the course of the day.

    If we go out for a work lunch at a pub or restaurant or whatever, then obviously that’s different, but that’s relatively rare.

  • I’m not a tight arse in normal life (honest!) but I’ve never been a fan of spending money whilst at work. Seems counter-productive to me.

    I usually make a big batch of some pasta dish on Sunday night, split it into 5 containers and freeze 3 so that they are fresh come weds-fri. Total cost about $20 a week. Healthier than takeout options near me too.

    I also get good brand instant coffee which lasts me about a month for $10 and gets me 2 cups a day, which would be about $150 in the cafe in my building.

    So I probably save about $80 a week by bringing my own food and coffee, gives me cash for other stuff like dinner out.

  • I have Subway for lunch most days, otherwise whatever is close that’s relatively healthy. I try to mix it up a bit with some Sushi which is pretty cheap generally. I’m on the road a lot though for work so it’s easier just to buy something at work.

    Aside from that though, I typically go buy lunch because it gives me an excuse to have a break, and helps me schedule jobs. The day is so much better when you know you have a block of time in the middle where you can just turn off for 30-45 minutes. I remember when I used to bring lunch, I would just get up and grab my lunch and then come back and keep working.

  • Typically: Sandwiches 3 days a week at approx $15-$20 for me and my wife, so $10. Leftovers once and cafe lunch once. That’s a wrap and a coffee at about $12. So $20-$25pw for lunch.

  • I used to bring lunch or buy it. But now I actually just have a meal replacement shake, I actually like it a lot better than the lunches I used to have and now I will go for a walk instead. Saying that I am actively losing weight so this may change down the line.

    • If you don’t mind me saying, I think those meal replacement shake things will be beneficial for a little while, but eventually you might want to start looking into whole, nutritious meals rather than those shakes.

      Those shakes are great for initial weight loss, but not good if you seek long term results.

      Good to hear you’re losing weight. Keep it up. 🙂

  • I bring leftovers 3 days of the week and buy from the cheap and filling Japanese place nearby the other days.

  • Mine is boring, the same thing most days (unless there are left overs).
    White bread with a slice of cheese, and a slice of ham (usually the $5 bulk pack from Aldi).
    No butter as it’s faster to make and no dishes.
    1 muesli bar
    3 Ultimate Choc Chip Cookies (Coles, they contain 40% chocolate). After my morning coffee these are the best part of my work day.
    1 Apple (usually eaten while I have a walk).

  • tuna, microwavable rice and a tin of whatever vege i put my hand on – corn, capsicum, mushrooms etc etc all covered in chipotle hot sauce
    Costs me maybe $20 for a week of lunches depending on what vege I grab.

  • I’m on a prescribed diet for my training program, so that generally requires me to make my own meals and bring them in from home.

    I’ll generally spend anywhere from $40 – $70 a week on groceries. This is chicken breast (about two and a half to three kilograms worth), rice, curry sauces, free range eggs, almond milk, oats, fresh vegetables etc. Sometimes I may spend more money than I should if certain supplies run low, e.g. protein powder, but luckily large containers of protein powder can last a couple of months. To try and save money, I look for things on special at Coles or Woolworths.

    It takes about three hours in total every Sunday to do my food. This includes travel and shopping, preparation, cooking and storage. I’ve been thinking about doing my grocery shopping on the Saturday, that way I’ll have more time on Sunday.

    The first few meals go in the fridge (Monday and Tuesday), the rest will go in the freezer. I’ll typically make ten meals, which I’ll bring two with me to work Monday to Friday and have two a day… so two lunches! Each of these pre-made meals consists of about 250-300g of chicken breast, 80-100g of rice, an XL (67g) hard boiled egg and 67g of broccoli, mixed in with a light curry sauce. When you think about it, my meals technically cost $4.00 each, or $7.00 each, which is FAR cheaper than eating out for lunch everyday. I can also take my lunch break at work to do other things like… maybe go to the bank, have a walk or maybe do some sketching.

    On the weekends I can be easier with meal prep as I have the free time to make my food at home. Certain meals, like breakfast and dinner, can be made quickly on the spot either at work (breakfast) or at home (dinner). The big meals, what I have for my lunch and essentially my second lunch, are made on the Sunday.

    The key to successful meal prep is organization and preparation. The earlier I can get up on a Sunday morning, the better, it means I can do my food in the morning/early afternoon and have the rest of the day spare. By having all my food ready, all I have to do is heat it up in the microwave at work.

    Sometimes I might only make nine meals instead of ten, that way I can go out at least once for lunch during the week with a friend or something. I usually go out with my work colleague or other friends for lunch, but I’ll be that awkward guy who doesn’t eat because I’ve already eaten and have more food waiting for me in the office.

  • Depends what I’m feeling like.

    On a random rotation:
    Sometimes I’ll walk that extra distance for a Per Peri Chicken Burger from Jimmy’s Burger Bar.
    Sometimes subway. It’s cheap for a six inch, and I get pizza with no sauce, lettuce, olives,chipotle southwest sauce.
    Sometimes Maccas.
    Sometimes if I’m feeling fancy there’s a local place that serves Korean Fried Chicken burgers that are amazing and you can buy cheesy bacon fries.
    Sometimes Grill’d, those new schnitzel burgers are pretty good. Schnitz sometimes, but their herb fries are too sweet.
    A sucuk pide or kebab from the kebab store. Golzeme from the local food market on fridays sometimes.
    Somtimes sushi.

    All between 8 – 15 dollars. I’m not rich or fat, btw. I just really like tasty food.

      • Howdy neighbour!

        I’m located on Crown St, near Dicey Riley’s pub. Junky central!

        You in Wollongong too? Where you at?

        • Other end of town, down on Kembla. Used to be up that way until a couple of years back, then we moved. Should be enough info for you to guess where I work 🙂


  • Big batches of dinner usually a couple of times a week and buy lunch on Fridays is the usual plan for me.

    Considering it’s $12-$15 for lunch vs about $20 for 8 meals last night when I made a cacciatore like chicken dish… You can see where the money can be saved pretty quickly 😛

    So yeah, batch meals for dinner so left overs last 2-3 days and then cooking at home those nights becomes much easier 🙂

  • I must be the odd one out here, because I dont mind buying my lunch. The variety and convenience is worth the $10-$12 I average paying in my eyes. If I want thai (like today), then getting a green curry chicken, or panang chicken is a nice walk and $10. If I’m lazy, KFC or McDonalds (note: RARE visits to either) its the same, or their is Subway or a fish shop, or any of a range of options that I simply cant match at home.

    If I want something, I’ll buy the ingredients on the way home and cook it up, but for lunches I just dont want the hassle. So in general, pay around $10-$12 on average for lunch.

  • I rarely buy lunch, because most of my options are too unhealthy and I rarely make good choices when I’m hungry. I make two serves for dinner the night before and pack the leftovers for lunch. I also pack healthy snacks to stop myself eating the office fundraising chocolates.

  • I generally bring in lunch from home or have lunches from the supermarket. Around $5 gets me a frozen meal or sunrice noodle/rice pack.
    Ideally I will bring left overs in from whatever I had for dinner, don’t have enough plannign to cook specific meals for lunch.
    If I buy my lunch it normally costs me around $10 – $15 and do that may weekly/fortnightly

  • I don’t see the sun at all in my office, so there’s no chance in hell I’m spending my lunch break in the staff room unless it’s cold as dicks outside. I’ll normally go grab a salad sandwich and some juice or water somewhere around work. ends up being about $10-15 per day, which considering I barely get to eat breakfast either isn’t that much.

  • Lunch used to always be leftovers of last night’s dinner, but when I started working only 9-2 I switched over to having a larger breakfast and just skipping lunch, so I could leave to go home sooner. Then would just have a small snack or something to tide me over til dinner.

    • I work those hours too, and I really look forward to my little lunch break, even if it’s just 20 minutes to sit with a sandwich. So good to get away from the computer!

      • I looked forward to my lunch breaks on 9-5 because it meant I could dick around on internets instead of doing work, and/or sneak in a little nap while everyone else was out getting food 😛

        Easier to just push through with the lesser hours, especially since everyone else disappearing for their lunch meant the office still went quiet and empty enough to feel like a break period.

  • I aim to have lunch for everyone in the family most days of the week, usually leftover dinner for Dad, a salad or sandwich for me, and Mr5 at school gets *three* meals – crunch and sip (fresh fruit or veg in a snack box at 10am), recess (today is a bit banana bread and a yoghurt), and lunch (cold ham+cheese toastie, cucumber and few banana chips). I always try to aim for a rubbish free lunch – my only exception is the occasional popper of plain milk.

    Home made food is so much healthier than takeaway, which is either loaded with fat, salt and sugar, or just in crazy big portions.

    If I do buy lunch, I get a filled roll from the local bakery for $5-6.

  • I’m an English teacher in Japan, I eat school lunch with students. Costs me 205 yen/day (so about… 2-3 bucks), it’s an amazing deal, except that I don’t get to choose what I eat. Some days are amazing like spaghetti or curry, other days are… ugly fish and wet vegetables.

  • 200gm chicken, 1/2 cup of rice, and a cup veggies and some spices or sauce. I take 3 of those to work a day and still spend under $20 a day.

    If I know I’m not going to annoy anyone I’ll mix it up with Tuna but am well aware that the smell is unpleasant for some. Depends which office I’m working from.

    Fuck paying $13-15 a meal every day.

  • I spend $8 for one week worth of Lunches. I go to Coles once a week during the day, and buy:

    5 x 95g Coles Tuna tins ($0.80 each – always)
    1 x Heins Steam-Fresh Vegetables 5-pack bag ($4 on special – buy in bulk and freeze)

    (5 x $0.80) + ($4.00) = ($4.00) + ($4.00) = $8.00 per week

    This was part of a 12-week health challenge, and helped me to loose 13kg of fat and gain many hundreds of $$$ back into my wallet!!! I have saved over $500 in this time by not eating take away.

  • Definitely one thing to consider in all this discussion, is that while $10 for lunch every day might not seem like a lot of money, it adds up. It’s $50 a week, and $200+ a month. For people working part-time, families living off a single income, or just anyone who is trying to save money, $10 a day on lunch just isn’t possible, and for some, even $4 a day for a coffee is an extravagance they can’t afford. As a few people have mentioned here too, if you have strict dietary requirements, eating out can also be very difficult.

    I’ve been in workplaces where “going out to lunch” is pretty much the only social interaction that happens, and for people who can’t afford it, they can feel left out, or risk being labelled as antisocial because they’ve chosen to bring their lunch from home.

    So perhaps, now and again, consider getting some lunch delivered to the office and eat together, or choose to eat outside in a park so people can byo. And make sure that there are other ways for people to hang out that don’t involve them spending a lot of money, like a walking group or bring a plate morning tea.

    *climbs down off soapbox*

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