3 Steps to Losing 11 Pounds and Saving $2,695 During Your 40+ Hour Work Week

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Is it even possible to fit cheap healthy meals into your busy life?


We all know the convenience of fast food comes at a cost to our waistline and our wallets. 

Take for example, the common habit of a morning latte on your way to work. 

Look at how it affects your wallet.

  • 1 Grande Vanilla Latte/week = $4.15/week or $203.35/year
  • 5 Grande Vanilla Lattes/week = $20.75/week or $1,016.75/year

For the nerds: I figured 245 work days for calculating lunch. That’s 52 weeks/year – 2 weeks vacation – 1 week stat holidays (about 5 days). So 49 weeks * 5 days/week = 245 work days. Feel free to adjust days worked and lunches required based on your schedule.

Now let’s see how your drink choice could affect your waistline.

A grande vanilla latte from Starbucks has 250 calories with a breakdown of 22% fat, 59% carbs and 20% protein.

Calculating weight changes is less accurate than the simple math for saving money. There will be some estimations and assumptions but the results will help bring awareness to how your daily choices add up – pun intended.

Inside The Numbers:

Before exploring the potential numbers it’s important to understand body weight changes don’t happen in a straight line. Until recently, the rule of thumb was 3500 kcal = 1 lb. But new weight change prediction formulas take additional factors into account such as age, activity level, and the fact that as an individual loses weight their resting energy expenditure drops due to less body mass. In other words, your weight loss rate slows as you lose weight. For example, reducing calorie intake by 500 kcal per day should result in 52 lbs of weight loss over one year according to the 3500 kcal per lb rule. However, based on recent studies the new formulas provide a more realistic but slower weight loss result of 25 lbs over one year with another 22 lb loss over three years. Try our weight loss calculator
to get an idea of how long it will take to reach your body weight goal.

Our example is a 5’4” tall woman aged 40 weighing 140 lbs who consumes an extra 250 calories every day. Assuming she doesn’t change her activity level or diet, we can estimate she would gain 11.3 lbs after one year.

MonthWeight (lb)Weight Gain (lb)% Gain

The Real Cost of Your Fast Food Lunch

Buying lunch a few times a week may not seem like a big deal. But our latte example shows how a small daily habit can add up over a year.  Now let’s look at how your lunch choices at work can impact your health and bank account. 

As you might expect, lunch impacts your budget more than our latte example. Lunch prices vary considerably depending on restaurant types and location. We’ll start with a $10 lunch example but I’ve included a $15 example for those that work downtown in bigger cities.

The $10 Lunch

  • 1 lunch/week = $10/week or $490/year
  • 5 lunches/week = $50/week or $2,450/year

The $15 Lunch

  • 1 lunch/week = $15/week or $735/year
  • 5 lunches/week = $75/week or $3,675/year

As you can see, skipping a fast food lunch even once a week would save you almost $500 a year. 

The #1 reason people buy lunch is because they don’t have time to cook. I’ll show you how to bring a healthy lunch even if you’re too busy to cook. 

But first, let’s not forget about how your lunch and snack choices can affect your health goals over time. 

As I mentioned in our latte example, calories are not as easy to calculate as dollars. However, for simplicity, let’s continue with our 40 year old female who increased calories by 250 Cal per day and gained 11.3 lbs over one year. 

Rather than go over the math again, let’s focus on some different ways you could consume 250 calories:

  • Peach Chobani greek yogurt with ¼ cup of granola = 230 cal
  • ½ an avocado and 1 piece of whole wheat toast = 230 cal
  • One glass of rose (5 oz) + 1 oz of Brie cheese + 2 crackers = 240 cal
  • Suja Green Supreme juice (13.5 oz) and 5 dried apricots = 250 cal
  • One McDonalds cheeseburger = 312 cal
  • One chocolate glazed donut = 220 cal
  • Kind Bar – Nut Delight = 210 cal
  • Barbeque flavored chips (small 50g bag) = 270 cal
  • 1 bottle of Lagunitas (12 oz) and 14 Rold Gold pretzels = 250 cal
  • 1 handful (¼ cup) of M&M’s = 200 cal

These are only a few examples of how calories can sneak into your diet. Some may surprise you because they’re considered healthy. 

Yes, a green juice and apricots contain more nutrients than a cheeseburger. However, when you’re trying to lose weight, if the healthier juice and fruit take you over your recommended daily total calories, then the extra calories are working against your goals – no matter how many nutrients they contain.

3 Steps To Cheap Healthy Meals (Even If You Don’t Have Time To Cook)

I’m going to show you how to eat better and save money even if you hate meal prep and love fast food. 

Step 1 below makes it as easy as possible to start right now – no matter how much time or interest you have in making your own meals. 

 Don’t read this article and decide you’ll start tomorrow. Get started today.

Step 1: I’m not ready for meal planning

Pick one small change you can do today to eat better and save money.

Don’t believe it’s that simple? A small change to the daily latte example can help you lose weight.

The easiest change is choose a skinny vanilla latte over your usual vanilla latte. The grande skinny option won’t save you money but it does have 120 fewer calories. (Calorie breakdown: 0% fat, 61% carbs, and 39% protein.)

If you feel ready, switching to coffee without milk or sugar reduces your daily calorie intake by 250 calories. 

Suddenly the chart above showing weight gain gets flipped on its head.

MonthWeight (lb)Weight Loss (lb)% Loss

Small changes like this add up over time. 

Look at the difference adding or reducing 250 calories per day makes over a year.

Line graph showing weight gain vs loss for adding vs reducing calories


So it’s more important to start today with a small positive change than tell yourself you’ll make a bigger change starting tomorrow. 

Swap out french fries for a side salad. Use a little less dressing on that salad. Try sparkling water instead of soda or juice. Avoid the vending machine and bring an apple or banana to work for that afternoon craving. 

Some of these changes have the added benefit of saving you money with a little planning. Buying apples and sparkling water at the grocery store instead of vending machine will always be cheaper. 

You’re practising how to take control of your choices with simple, small changes that won’t disrupt your lifestyle.

When you’re confidently doing this small change every day for a few weeks, you’re ready for the next step.

Step 2: One small change is easy

Plan to eat leftovers on your busiest day of the week. 

If you know Wednesday is going to be crazy busy, help yourself out on Tuesday night. Plan enough food for lunch the next day. 

Leftovers might not be cool, but they will help you reach your health goals. Besides, is it really leftovers if you intentionally make extra food at dinner?

Grill an extra chicken breast or double your chili recipe. Spend a few extra moments at dinner to set yourself up for a better lunch. This way you can save yourself time, money and calories even on your busiest day of the week.

You’re practising how to anticipate and plan around less healthy food choices that happen when you’re busy, tired and stressed.

Step 3: I’ve accepted that eating well on a budget doesn’t happen by accident

You may not have realized it but you started meal planning in Step 2. If it was less painful than you thought, it’s time to take your meal planning to the next level. It might be uncomfortable at first, but it will get easier in time.

The key to lasting change is small steps. So if at any time you feel overwhelmed, go back to Step 2 for a week or two. 

You probably know it’s cheaper to prepare your own food. The convenience of eating out costs more than buying, cleaning, cutting and cooking it. 

What you may not know is healthy food doesn’t cost significantly more than less healthy options. It costs around $1.50 more per day to eat healthy. So if you’re committed to grocery shopping, trust that you can find health options on a budget.

Before going shopping, download our How To Grocery Shop guide to confidently navigate the aisles.

If you need more motivation to consistently bring your lunch to work, let’s talk money.

Here is a lunch idea that cost approximately $4 to build. If you precook the chicken and eggs and precut the veggies, they will take you minutes to prepare the night before work.

  • 1 medium chicken breast grilled
  • 1 egg hard boiled
  • 2 handfuls of spinach 
  • 1 handful of cucumber
  • ¼ of a red pepper 
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of Greek Vinaigrette 

A simple $4 packed lunch every work day costs only $980 a year.

Take a vacation or buy your lunch every day?

A $4 packed lunch every day saves you $1,470 per year over a $10 fast food lunch and an impressive $2,695 on a $15 meal. Bring a lunch to save 73%.

Which begs the question, how much do you love the convenience of take out meals? Is it more than a vacation in Italy?

If you’re feeling inspired and need healthy meal ideas, check out this list of recipes from a variety of food blogs.

A Couple Cooks –  Easy Dinner Ideas

Oh She Glows – Vegan Power Bowls 

The Stay At Home Chef – Healthy Recipes

101 Cookbooks – High Protein Vegan Recipes

Prevention RD – Quick Dinners

Fannetastic Food – 15 Minute Dinners

revel nutrition – Healthy Recipes

Remember, the most important thing is to get started today with one small change.

And maybe, a year from now, you’ll be strolling down the streets of Rome enjoying a caffè latte.

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