Eating Lunch Out For Less Than $2 a Day

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The challenge: eat lunch out every day for a full work week and spend less than $10 total. Can it be done? Sure. Added bonus: you'll discover you don't need to eat as much as you thought you did.

The following post comes from Aaron Shepherd at ThreeThriftyGuys.com.

Last month, I floated the possibility that eating out might actually be cheaper than eating in. So this month, I decided to push this a little more and give myself a little challenge.

Cue the trumpet…

The challenge:

Eat out every day for an entire week. Spend only $10.

Why do this:

Inspired by Enemy of Debt’s “No Restaurants in November” challenge and a recent article about why dining out is cheaper than eating in, I decided to do a little investigation of my own.

Now I’m certainly not dissing the don’t-eat-out-make-your-own-lunch crowd here. I believe there are real savings to be had by preparing your own lunch every day for work.

However, there are always two sides to every story. And, with costs of grocery food going up, perhaps it may be worth looking at the dining-out-vs.-eating-in question in another light.

The rules were simple. Grab take-out food – anywhere around my place of work – and spend only $10 for the week. Here are the results…

Monday

I decided to start first at one of the more premiere take-out establishments in my area: Wendy’s. Who doesn’t love Wendy’s? There’s an assortment of items from cheap to pricier – and most of the ingredients are pretty good quality. For a Monday, I thought I’d take er easy and not get too carried away…

1 sour cream and chives baked potato = $1.60

Taco Tuesday

To celebrate Taco Tuesday, I hit up an old college friend: Taco Bell. I was craving a seven-layer burrito, but the price has gone up since graduating. I opted for a MexiMelt instead.

1 MexiMelt = $1.92

Wednesday

Ah, Hump Day. Since Wendy’s was so good to me the first go-round, and since they offer such great prices on some pretty filling items, I revisited. I got a small chili with two cracker packages. I have to say, their chili is pretty darn good.

1 bowl of chili = $1.71

Thursday

OK, now you’re going to think that this is some ad for Wendy’s. Yes, I hit it up again – but only because I had a coupon for a free W burger from a friend. So today wasn’t quite as healthy as the other days. Because my burger was free, I was able to apply my budget to some fries. I went all-out and got the medium fries.

1 W Burger and 1 medium fries = $2.03

Friday

Today I had a little extra in the tank, so I went out and got one of my faves: an egg roll from Big Bowl. It was a little toasty on the outside, but it did the trick.

1 egg roll = $2.13

All told, I spent $9.40, so I had a few cents left over for good measure. I tried not to use any coupons so as not to skew the results (well, except for Thursday). You could get more food than I got if you chose to use them.

I think one of the biggest things I’ll take away from this week is that I don’t need to eat as much as I’ve been eating. I’ve gained a few pounds since marrying (nothing against my wife), so trying to eat on $10 or less each week is probably a good goal.

Eating out is a pricey endeavor, though. Most items on the menu are more than $5, so you really have to look at the a la carte menu. Wendy’s in particular has a good assortment of items that are fairly filling and won’t cost an arm/leg.

How do you think I did?

Stacy Johnson

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