New York

How to Save Money on Lunch as Inflation Squeezes NYC’s Return To Work

Americans are feeling the pinch of inflation in many areas of their finances, especially when it comes to feeding themselves and their families.

After the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of New Yorkers to work from home, many are now transitioning back to the office to face a new time of uncertainty: lunchtime.

Despite a recent drop in gas prices, the rising cost of food helped push inflation higher in August across the United States, straining household budgets even more.

The food-at-home index – which measures the change of food prices at grocery stores – increased 13.5 percent year over year, a 43-year high, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data. The index for food away from home wasn’t quite as bad, but it was still up 8 percent year over year.

With tight household budgets and the skyrocketing costs of rent, food and other bills, here’s how New Yorkers can save money at lunchtime as they return to work at the office.

Eat like a New Yorker

New York City’s bodegas and storefront pizzerias are always an option when hunger strikes and funds are low.

However, many small businesses, including bodegas, are also feeling the pinch of inflation.

“Bacon, egg and cheese — you can’t take that sandwich away,” Francisco Marte said earlier this year as inflation squeezed the bodega he owns in the Bronx.

Marte said he had to increase the price of BEC sandwiches in his store from $2.50 to $4.50, in addition to raising the prices of many other items on his store shelves.

The prices for chopped cheese sandwiches have also risen in bodegas but can vary depending on the neighborhood.

While $1 pizza slices may be (mostly) a thing of NYC’s past, cheesy slices for well under $5 can be found in may pizzerias around the city.

Look for lunchtime deals on apps

Eating out can sometimes be less expensive than cooking. Using apps like Yelp, Uber Eats and DoorDash can help hungry workers find nearby restaurants offering lunchtime deals.

Yelp Tip: Make sure “Offering a deal” and “$” are both checked.

Brown bag your work lunch

While packing a lunch from home may be the most practical way to save money when midday hunger pains hit at the office, there’s a couple of things to consider.

  1. When you go grocery shopping, buy items in bulk.

The per unit on many everyday pantry items may be more expensive today than they were a year ago. Consumers may often find better deals and cheaper per-unit prices when shopping at wholesale store such as Costco’s, Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

2. Plan your lunches

When weekday meals are planned, shoppers will likely stick to items on their list rather than going up and down grocery store aisles tossing random items into carts. A recent study found that American shoppers now spend an average of $314 every month on impulse buys, up from $276 in 2021 and $183 in 2020.

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