How I blew £1,000 on lunch in a year

19 June 2014
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I’m not very good at getting up early, so I never have time to make myself a sandwich for work – nor am I organised enough to box up leftovers to have for lunch either.

I’ve just realised my laziness has cost me at least £700 in shop-bought lunches over the space of a year.

To work out exactly how financially lazy I’d been, I trawled my bank account statements for the last year and discovered I had visited Pret-a-Manger – not the cheapest sandwich shop in the world but it is directly beneath my office – a whopping 60 times.

The cheapest transaction was £1.20 (I do love their croissants, but I’ve eased off in the past few months, ever since the Aldgate Mansell Street branch decided they should be the colour of coffee, not golden syrup – big mistake).

But the most I’d spent in a single visit was £7.80, which I guess would have been for a salad with bread, a diet coke and a slice of banana cake – I must have been hungry.

On average, I was spending £4.40 a day – much more reasonable, but handing Pret £268.40 over a year does seem a trifle indulgent!

At Sainsbury’s, I clocked up a £136.31 bill over 39 visits, averaging out at £3.49 a trip (so it’s official, the supermarket is cheaper than the sandwich chain. Not much of a journalistic scoop is it?). In Itsu, I averaged £6.20 but my bank records show I only bought lunch there five times in a year.

But my £700 total lunch bill for the year is only half the story. Over the course of the 47 working weeks of the year, the £700 works out at an average spend of just under £15 a week. However, I know this to be untrue.

Seeing the very short list of Itsu transactions on my bank statement  – when I know I’m in there around once a fortnight – made me realise that while £700 is a lot of money, my real annual work lunch spend must actually be much higher.

This is because all the figures I’ve shared so far are based solely on lunches I paid for using my debit card. It completely ignores the ones I buy with cash.

I’ve probably been to Itsu, say, another 25 times over the past year, and I must have paid cash. At my average spend of £6.20, that’s another £155 to add to the running total.

I also tend to pick up lunch from local market stalls once a fortnight – that usually costs £4.50 a time. So that’s probably added in the region of £105 to the total as well. So my £700 lunch bill is actually more more likely to be around £960 – just over £19.50 a week and the best part of £1,000!

But the thing is – and I know it sounds bad – I’m actually slightly impressed with myself. Figures compiled by O2, show that the national average is £4.40 a day for lunch – so I’m spending far less.

O2 also says that, at just two shop-bought lunches a week, the average worker will spend £18,000 on lunch throughout their lifetime. That means if I carry on the way I’ve been going for the past year, I’m on course to spend – wait for it – £45,000.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll whip up a cheese sarnie at home this evening.