Are Bento Really Cheaper?

I was going over some prices trying to decide if bento are really cheaper than bringing a more standard lunch.  It will quickly become obvious that a bento is much cheaper than going out for lunch, even getting fast food!

After talking with a friend of mine and doing some research for a class I want to do, I sat down with some of my old receipts and started pricing out bento I have actually made.  The prices involve the food alone.  I don’t count the cost of plates for dinner and if you’re buying hundreds of dollars in bento equipment, you have no-one but yourself to blame.   My stash cost a LOT less than that. Just sayin’.

So, on to the food.  A really cheap bento might cost me a buck.  I only did that once, and it wasn’t as balanced as I like.  The most expensive one I’ve actually made cost $1.76, and was using some pre-packaged food.  The average amount I usually spend on food for a bento is somewhere around $1.25.  While it’s not at the dollar a meal food stamp level, I’m fortunate enough not to have to go there right now.  I consider spending a buck and a quarter on a meal completely acceptable.  I was not necessarily going for the cheapest meal I could make in making these things, but just buying meat cheaply and not sweating anything otherwise.

It’s cheaper than a school lunch ($2.35 at my son’s school).

So what about the classic fruit and a sandwich?

It depends.   Right now, a bananna and peanut butter sandwhich is pricing out at about $0.73.  More expensive fruit, and a sandwich with lunch meat and veggies is going to run you closer to $1.75.  That’s still hardly bank-breaking, though close to my most expensive bento.  For an  entire working month, that bento is going to come out as ten dollars cheaper, if you’re bringing the apple and lunch meat sandwich with veggies.  Start throwing in chips and the price goes up a little.  I have no idea what chips cost.  I don’t buy them.


That’s also going to depend on what you usually eat.  For my household, it would be comperable to my usual bento.

If you’re buying lunch, you’re probably spending at least five dollars a day doing it.  So, the takeaway here is that bringing your lunch is astronomically cheaper. Bento is just a fairly frugal hobby if you do it right.

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