Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card: Bring Your Lunch Contest


By Carlos Portocarrero

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For fresh, practical career advice, please visit CarlosPortocarrero.com.

It’s been almost two years since I wrote about my boring lunches and how much money they save me. It was a couple of years ago, but at the time I had saved $2,000 in three years.

One thing still hasn’t changed: I still take the same lunch to work every week. That’s five years of eating the same thing for lunch about 95% of the time.

People at work have caught on and ask me all the time:

Don’t you get bored?

Until recently, the answer has always been “No.” I was proud to call myself boring when it came to my lunches—I even created The Boring Challenge over at Wisebread.

But today I have to admit: I’ve finally gotten bored and I’m doing something about it.

The Bring Your Lunch Contest

What is it?

It’s a contest to see if anyone can come up with a cheaper, tastier replacement for my current lunches. The winner gets a $25 Amazon Gift card and the honor of having me eat the winning entry for at least a week.

How to enter:

All you have to do is

  • Follow @thewriterscoin on Twitter
  • Tweet this: Just entered the Bring Your Lunch Contest @thewriterscoin
  • Leave a comment on this post with your entry of a cheap, tasty lunch.

I will select the winner on Friday, January 21.

You must include how much it costs to eat your lunch for a week. If you want to email me an image, so much the better!

For example, here is what you have to beat: my current lunch.

Salami and cheese sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread (split with wife). Eight slices of salami and two to three of cheese per sandwich.
Jewel-brand cheese: $2.99
Hilshire Farm Hard Salami: $3.00
Half of a loaf of 100% whole-wheat bread: $2.00
Total cost: $7.99/week.

Old reliable

Think you can beat it? Give it your best shot—only one entry per person. Remember to keep it tasty!

Image by malias

This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories and the Totally Money Blog Carnival


28 Responses to “Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card: Bring Your Lunch Contest”

  • Jackie Says:

    My only suggestion is leftovers :)
    Even though you will still be eating the same thing 2+ days in a row, that will still provide variety in comparison…

  • Tweets that mention Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card: Bring Your Lunch Contest | The Writers Coin -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by thewriterscoin, moneycrush. moneycrush said: Just in time for lunchtime, @thewriterscoin is having a Bring Your Lunch contest. Winner gets a $25 Amazon Gift Card: http://bit.ly/hzydMs […]

  • Lazy Man and Money Says:

    I think you are asking a bit much to follow you and break down the cost of each ingredient. However, I think I can come up with something that is cheaper and better.

    I’m going to make the assumption that there is access to a microwave, because I’ve never been at a place that doesn’t have a microwave.

    I grill up a 2.5 pound bag of boneless chicken on Sunday to start the week. I slice it up into 1/4 thick ovals. You can use these in sandwiches (should be a lot cheaper and probably a little less sodium than the deli meats) . However, you can also mix with a can of pinto beans, salsa, and cheese to create a Mexican-like bowl. Pinto beans are typically pretty cheap and will keep you filled longer. This bowl will pack more protein and fiber than your sandwich which is a health win as well.

    In general, I would buy a block of cheese and slice it too because you’ll save a lot more over the pre-packaged deli versions.

    The cost per pound of almost all my ingredients should be cheaper, so it’s just a matter of setting up the same portions. Personally, I’m surprised that one sandwich is a lunch. I’m always pretty hungry if that’s all I have.

  • paul Says:

    wow-sounds like a banquet!
    1 slice of sliced ham 4.79 for 14 slices
    2 slices of 12 grain bread 2.75 for 22 sandwiches
    2 sandwiches/day for 5 day/week
    2 .52 X5=5.20
    These items are bought at the local small town (1200 pop.) grocery store. No cheaper big chain stores within 2 hours. I do eat a BIG breakfast and eat a lot when I get home from a 9 hour day.

  • Carlos Says:

    I like your thinking Paul, but I’m looking for a little bit of variety/change, so another sandwich probably won’t cut it.

  • Ray Says:

    Lean Pockets. I wait for them to go on sale….usually < $2 per box. Each box has 2 pockets and supposedly each pocket is a serving size but I eat both. Accompanying my Lean Pocket is usually a fruit cup. But here's the trick. I bring 4-5 boxes of Lean Pockets to work at the beginning of the week (we have a freezer at work where I can keep them). Before I heat up my first lunch on Monday, I open all 4-5 boxes and remove one from each box. Then, I think which ones would be a good compliment to the others and I put the Lean Pocket in that box accordingly (e.g. a meatball and mozzarella pocket goes well with a pizza pocket or today I had spinach artichoke chicken and grilled chicken mushroom with spinach). As the week progresses, I always have the fun of discovering which "wild card" Lean Pocket is in the box with other pocket which is pictured on the box. I'm telling you, they're cheap, warm, and tasty! There are also a lot of varieties. I really like: meatball and mozzarella, pizza, garlic white chicken pizza, chicken parmesan, cheeseburger, philly steak, chicken quesadilla, chicken fajita, chipolte chicken, Mexican chicken and cheese, chicken bacon dijon. They also have pretzel based varieties coming out. See here for all types: http://www.leanpockets.com/products/allproducts/index.aspx see here if you want to "like" Lean Pockets on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/leanpockets?v=wall#!/leanpockets?v=info.

    Okay that's enough…gift card please! JK

  • One Frugal Girl Says:

    I’m assuming you have a microwave available. If so I recommend making a week’s worth of pasta and sauce. You can buy an entire box of pasta for $1 on sale at the grocery store. A typical box yields eight servings. You can purchase pasta sauce on sale for a $1 or $2, but you can also buy canned tomato sauce which is significantly cheaper. If you buy the canned tomato sauce I recommend adding salt, pepper and other spices you probably have lying around like oregano or parsley. Boil the pasta in advance. You can make an entire week’s worth, though you might want to add a little olive oil after you cook it so it doesn’t all stick together. Cook the pasta sauce too. Then just portion out a serving each day. I bet you could make a week’s worth, (using sales and coupons), for around $4.

  • Music Teacher Says:

    I like to do infinite variations on English Muffin Pizza. I, too, am assuming that you have access to a microwave or toaster oven.

    I stock up on English muffins, store brand, in the store’s “Ten for $10″ promotions – $1 for 6 muffins. I buy a jar of Prego in the same sale – $1 for 1 jar. One block of Mozzarella for about $3.00, if you buy a decent brand.

    Ahead of time, I scoop several tablespoons of sauce into snack-size baggies. Then I toss the sauce bags into the freezer, so they last.

    In the morning, I simply grab a muffin, a baggie of sauce, and about 1/4 c cheese, either sliced or shredded. At work, I snip off the corner of the sauce bag (which has thawed) and neatly squeeze it out onto each half of the muffin, then top with cheese and heat. The basic pizza costs about $.70 per lunch, counting the baggie that you ruin. (3.50 per week).

    The best part is that you can supplement with seasonal or on-sale produce for nutrients and variety: Peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, and even a bit of meat all enhance the dish and add to its health, for a little extra cost.

  • blossomteacher Says:

    Similar to One Frugal Gal’s suggestion, but with a little more variety :) I plan an extra dinner every week, and take the entire thing to work Monday. I’ve taken enchiladas, soup, stew, casseroles, pulled pork & buns, spaghetti and meatballs, anything I’d eat for dinner. For example, a dish of enchiladas runs me about $4–$1 for corn tortillas, $1 for chili, $1 worth of shredded cheese, and $1 for a good onion. This way I don’t have to remember my lunch daily, and I usually have enough to share with a friend in need at least one of those days.

  • Lynda Says:

    leftovers.. OR

    tuna sandwich
    wheat bread (~$2.99/loaf)
    can of tuna (~$0.99/can but i usually get it when it’s on sale plus coupons)
    saltine crackers (pocketed from work)
    = less than ~$1.50 per sandwich

  • Carlos Says:

    Some interesting ideas here…I like where this is going. And yes, I do have access to a microwave, an oven, the whole shebang. Keep them coming!

  • Melissa Says:

    You eat a salami sandwich every day? With no lettuce or mayo or anything? All in the name of frugality? That is dedication.

    My solution to easy, tasty, healthy, cheap lunches is soup. I buy two boxes of soup, the kind with the resealable cap, and have one half of a box per day. I also buy one loaf of crusty bread, either at the farmer’s market or at the store if it’s fresh, to dip in the soup. The price varies depending on the store, but I got 2/$5 at Whole Foods last week, and a bakery loaf of bread is usually no more than $2 or $3. The tomato/broccoli/corn soup makes me feel healthy and the bread helps fill me up. The fifth day of the week is a variable, often leftovers from going out the night before.

  • carmen Says:

    A favorite hearty lunch option of mine is making tacos.
    – whole wheat tortillas (less than $2)
    – black or pinto beans (buy them dried and then cook them) $1 a bag
    – shredded cheese ($2/bag)
    – salsa ($2/can or homemade is even cheaper!)
    – dollop of sour cream ($1)

    For the complete assembly, it would only cost $9, however some of the ingredients could last more than a week (the beans, sour cream, especially). I think you’d still come in at or under your $7.99/week budget. Good luck!

  • carmen Says:

    also following on twitter @atlantagalknows and tweeted: http://twitter.com/atlantagalknows/status/25257368598093824

  • Julie Rains Says:

    Here’s my homemade soup: 17 Bean & Barley Soup using a bag of bean and barley (less than $2) from Trader Joe’s plus the recipe on the bag with a couple of adjustments:

    2 – 32 oz cartons of vegetable or chicken broth ($3.65 x 2)
    1 cup of celery $1.00
    1 cup carrot $1.00
    1 cup bell pepper $1.00
    1 clove garlic $0.25
    1 can of canned tomatoes (try fire roasted tomatoes) $2.00
    plus spices such as Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
    Makes several servings — should be enough for 2 weeks; carry to work in individual containers or a canning jar accompanied with a bowl and spoon (to prevent spilling during transport but still have what you need to eat the soup at work).
    Cost of $14.55 (approximately) for a couple of weeks worth of lunches.

  • Jane Sanders Says:

    Carlos,
    This delicious homemade chili recipe is healthy, cheap, and easy.
    -1 Can of black beans ($1.50)
    -1 Can of red beans ($1)
    -1 Can of corn ($1.50)
    -1 Can of diced tomatoes ($2)
    -2 Green peppers ($1)
    -1 Onion ($.50)
    -1 Stalk of Celery ($.25)
    Add some awesome spices and let it simmer for 1 hour.
    You’ll have an awesome, healthy lunch for 5-7 days!
    Total Cost: $7.75

    Great contest!
    Jane

  • blossomteacher Says:

    Tweeted and following!

  • Maria Malaveci Says:

    How about a Broccoli & Cheese Quiche?
    Cost Breakdown:
    Eggs $0.63
    Cheese $1.50
    Pie Crust $0.75
    Milk $0.19
    Broccoli $1.00
    Salad Mix $0.58
    Cherry Tomatoes $0.25
    Onion $0.35
    Garlic $0.04

    TOTAL: $5.29

  • Dawn Says:

    I agree with the homemade soup idea especially suring the winter. It is a great way to use leftovers and costs next to nothing. Otherwise, I do stir-frys. My husband and I live on a farm so we are able to eat a variety of vegetables for the cost of sweat equity. Add a few spices (a little ginger, soy sauce, etc which can be bought very cheaply with coupons) and serve over rice (which, again, can be purchased at a very low cost if bought in bulk and with coupons). I would think this costs us mere pennies per meal since we grow the veggies ourselves (using ones we have frozen in the winter.) It also takes care of the boredom factor since it can be a varied as the ingredients you have on hand. Great topic! Thanks for the blog!

  • Ryan @ Planting Dollars Says:

    Can’t beat the PB sandwich. Probably the most boring comment so far, but literally what I have for lunch almost every day.

    Bread – $2 a loaf.
    PB – $2.50 a container
    Apple – $2 for 5
    Carrots – $2 for a bag
    Water – Free
    Lasts me all week for less than $10.

    The Broccoli & Cheese Quiche Maria mentioned sounds really good though.

  • Ty Says:

    My idea is pasta and salad.

    Box of pasta – $.89
    Pasta Sauce – $1.99
    Bagged salad – $2.99

    Mix and match or have one or the other. The bagged salads come in different flavors so you can vary the choices from week to week. You can also choose different types of pasta such as macaroni, ziti, rotini, maybe add cheese or tuna some weeks to keep the variety.

  • Crystal Says:

    Smart Ones by Weight Watcher. I personally really like the Ravioli Florentine and Stuffed Cabbage. My husband has liked the Chicken Club Panini. They are $1.78 at my Kroger right now. :-)

  • Brian D. Hawkins Says:

    Wow, some fantastic ideas. I normally take leftovers to work for lunch. I don’t even heat them up. Cold spaghetti, tuna casserole or meatloaf? It’s all good. lol To drink I refill bottles from the water tap.

  • Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey Says:

    What’s funny is that I also bring whole loafs of bread along with deli meats and cheeses in to work!

    I just followed you on twitter and retweeted the post.

    My idea for a cheap lunch is a box of zattaran’s black beans and rice! Delicious!

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  • Ryan Says:

    I don’t have a twitter account, but here’s my lunch.

    Simple stir fry:
    1 lb chicken ($1.99)
    1 bag frozen broccoli ($0.99)
    1 bag frozen peas ($0.99)
    1.5 cups rice ($0.30)
    soy sauce and teriyaki sauce to taste ($1.00)

    Total cost: $5.30 for 5 servings

  • The Bring Your Lunch Contest: Winner! | The Writers Coin Says:

    […] been almost two weeks since I kicked off the Bring Your Lunch Contest and today I get to announce the winner. There were more entries that I thought would come in, and a […]

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