Saving Money

How To Save Money To Travel: Packing Lunch Edition

“In this country you can make one million dollars in a day and manage to spend two million the next.” -Mom

You get three main options when it comes to getting rich money-wise. Increase your income, decrease your expenses or find ways to pay Uncle Sam less. You can of course do all three or any combination. However, of the three options, one stands out needing daily discipline and is the most destructive when untamed: expenses.

Spend, spend, spend! Living in a consumerist society where buying the latest pre-release iPhone, that ridiculously expensive, must-have purse or weekend drinks which innocently begin with fireball shots and disastrously ends with tequila is the social norm around the country. However, since we want to open our minds and travel the world we need to discipline ourselves in how we spend.

There are many ways to save money. You can wait for that shirt to be on sale, take the subway instead of Uber, or pack your lunch. But how much do you really save on any of these options? There’s only one way to find out.

This week’s study: Packing your lunch.

Lunch time

So, what do we know? Well, I know for sure that when I buy lunch at work/around work (in NYC) it’s about $10 (it ranges from $8-$12). What about when I pack lunch? How much does that cost? Not so sure because when I go to the grocery store I buy a bunch of food but I’ve never calculated how much a meal actually costs. So let’s find out.

Packing Lunch: Crock Pot – Ingredients

Cooking with a crock pot is one of the easiest things to do. I went to the grocery store and purchased the below for a week of lunch. Please note that in NYC there’s no sales tax on groceries.

Grocery List

Turkish girlfriend for scale:


Mishka tried to get some of that meat:




Cook Now, Math Later

There’s no point in talking about how much we can save by cooking at home if we don’t at least have a recipe! Based on what I bought, here are my crock pot ingredients:

Crock Pot Ingredients

Instructions (Prep time 15 mins):
  1. Wash what needs washing and chop what needs chopping. Mishka’s turn to be scale:


2. Honestly, I have no idea what the exact measurement of salt, pepper, cumin and oregano are for your large piece of meat. However, I cover both sides of the meat in the same order just mentioned and it looks like this:


3. In your crock pot put the red potatoes (I don’t chop them) at the bottom, followed by the meat, garlic, onions and celery. Pour about half a cup of water as well.

4. I usually cook on Low for 6-7 hours (High for 3-4 hours would be the equivalent). After 3-4 hours on Low, throw in the carrots right on top. If you put it in the beginning it usually gets smooshy but if that’s how you like life then you do you.

5. Obviously check the meat and potatoes to make sure they’re just how you like it. That’s it!


Zoomed in deliciousness:


You can literally throw whatever you want however you want in a crock pot. It’s easy and the results with little effort is amazing.

Okay, Math Time

I can get 5 meals out of what I put in the my crock pot. Based on the amount of ingredients used and dividing by 5 afterwards, we can easily calculate the cost per meal:

Crock Pot Summary

P.S. I took a wild guess on how much Salt/Pepper/Oregano/Cumin I used. I honestly have no clue but wanted to include a ballpark cost.

Let’s not forget the other costs:

Cooking Investments

P.P.S.S. I’m not sure how much I spent on my crock pot or glass Tupperware. Looking online, my crockpot looked to be about $20 given its size but I put an average of $30 to be conservative. Also, $5.69 is the cost of one glass Tupperware at the grocery store near me. Definitely can be cheaper if you buy a set.


A few things to note:

  1. The cost per meal stays constant each day for both cooking at home and buying at work.
  2. I divided the cooking investments by the number of days I’m analyzing to calculate the true cost per day for packing lunch.
  3. Utensils, napkins and water are free at my job, so not included in costs. Don’t do or drink coke. It’s unhealthy.
  4. I look at business days (e.g. one week = five days, one month = 20 days and so on)

Time to compare!

Packed Lunch vs Eating Out


Before you go jumping to conclusions let’s be real on a few things. No, I am not saying you need to eat the same meal everyday. The crock pot meal is a good example of what an average meal at home can cost you. You can go cheaper and make a sandwich, switch to chicken, exclude meat, eat rice or a simple salad instead. You can also go more expensive by buying more expensive ingredients such as quinoa or avocados. Regardless of how you pack your lunch, the truth still holds. You can literally save over $1.5k annual just by bringing your lunch to work.

One simple daily change to your life can add money to your savings/investments or pay for your next adventure.

Eat healthy, stay curious and have a safe trip!


© 2017, Traveling is my Religion, All Rights Reserved

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