Take a Bite Out of Your Food Expenses

This week marks the 13th anniversary of the bite felt around the world. In 1997, Mike Tyson – while doing battle with Evander Holyfield in a heavyweight championship boxing match – apparently decided to do more than punch. He opened his mouth, and bit his opponent’s ear. Ouch.

Now, in honor of taking a big bite out of things in a different, how about taking a big bite out of your expenses?

One great way to do that is to watch what you bite and chew. Really.

Sure, you could get free food at work.  But what I’m getting at is the idea of eating homemade meals vs food prepared outside.  Buying groceries and cooking at home or taking food to work can save a lot of money over eating a restaurant meal, or lunch from your workplace cafeteria.

Here’s an example:

For breakfast, I had previously eaten on the go while driving to work, or purchased food in my company’s cafeteria. Eating on the go, I would typically get a bagel and cream cheese. I recall this costing somewhere around $1.50 at the time. Or, I would buy oatmeal from the company cafeteria. I recall this being sold for approximately $0.70.

Let’s assume that I got a bagel 3 times per week, and oatmeal at work 2 times per week. That’s $5.90 per work week for breakfast. With the bagel and cream cheese, it’s not the most nutritious either.

Now, let’s assume that I ate oatmeal at home, or filled a bowl with hot water at work. This cost me just $0.09. When multiplied by 5, it results in a weekly cost of $0.45. Now, if I loaded it with extra nutrition by adding a banana, flaxseed, and blueberries, the cost would be $0.74 per day. That’s just $3.70 per work week for a frugal and healthy breakfast.

$5.90 vs. $3.70 – it’s an easy choice, especially when the latter option is a better way to start the day. That’s a $2.20 per week impact – totaling $105.60 assuming 48 working weeks per year.

That’s $105.60 saved by 9:00am, and we haven’t even talked about:

  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Snacks
  • Drinks

It just takes a few different choices to be made, and the savings add up. There is much power in substitution, especially when it comes to food.

On top of this, we can consider the long-term benefits that a healthy diet will provide by putting you in a position to spend less on medical issues.

All told, you could save your family thousands per year by making smart food choices. Not a bad way to bite into your expenses, and grow that income minus expense gap!

Have you made any changes to your food consumption that have resulted in savings? If not, do you know where you could be saving – but just haven’t done it yet?


  1. says

    I pretty much refuse to buy just about anything at the grocery store at full price. Ideally, I buy things that are on sale and that I also have a coupon for.

    What has also saved money is planning ahead. Planning ahead meals for grocery shopping and also packing dinners to take when my kids have sporting events or whatever during the dinner hour. If you really plan ahead, you can eliminate fast food. Of course, we still eat some fast food, but when I have time, I prefer to pack a ‘cooler dinner’.

  2. says

    Food is a huge spending problem for a lot of Americans. Eating out at restaurants and even carrying-out to eat at home. We are conditioned so much to think that the dollar menu is actually a good value, and we fall for it hook, line, and sinker. If we could exhibit better control over what we ate, it would definitely benefit the savings account.

    Wealth Artisan Team Member

  3. says

    Good realization, eating out is way to expensive!

    I’ve been running an experiment around lunch, were I pack instead of eating out and then take what I save from packing instead of eating out and put in my brokerage account. Next I take that saved money and invest it in dividend stocks. The idea is to eventually use the dividends to pay for my lunch :)

    If you are interested, check out my initial post http://www.moneyreasons.com/2009/11/paying-an-adult-allowance/ .

    • thewisesquirrel says

      I like your formula. Save and directly invest. Often times people save one place and spend another. Taking money saved and specifically allocating it for dividends is great! Sounds like you read my mind:)

  4. says

    yeah, did you watch the documentary on Tyson? It was so sad…you can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

    Anyway- i completely agree. I used to eat out all the time for lunch (back when I was working RETAIL for goodness sake- that’s pretty much the entire day’s pay!!) and now I pack my lunch every work day. Sometimes I treat myself for a coffee (e.g. once a month) but that’s about it.

  5. says

    My mom used to make chili with a pound of ground beef. I make it with about 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound and it still tastes good to me. I also use dry pinto beans, which I make in the slow cooker. Also I’ve discovered that diced chicken or turkey make great chili and these are on sale regularly. In fact, the last turkey I bought was only 29 cents a pound. Since I find turkey and chicken breast to be somewhat dry, I now simply don’t eat them — after the birds are done, I dice and freeze the meat in chili-sized portions.
    Since I’m single I can eat whatever I want. When I’m facing a lot of deadlines I’ll make chili every week and eat it for about three or four days. It’s an incredibly cheap meal, easy to reheat and tasty. What’s not to like?
    Sometimes I think I should be a single GUY.

  6. says

    Thanks for a terrific illustration, Squirrel, on how easy it is to save money when it comes to our food bills.

    The savings get even bigger when you consider the costs of feeding the entire family. I wrote a post back in January 2009 that used my spending data from the previous year to show that, for my family, dining out was five times more expensive than eating at home. That is significant hit on anyone’s budget over the course of a year.


    Len Penzo dot Com

  7. says

    We went from eating out 5-6 days a week last year to only 2-3 times a week this year and were doing really well (saving about $100-$150 a month)…but then summer hit. My husband’s a teacher and was eating lunch in the cafeteria for $2.15 a day, now he eats with his summer coworkers at $6-$8 a day three-four days a week. I want to strangle him…I know they all eat together, but why can’t he eat off the value menu at least?!

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