food smart

Dvorkin On Debt: No Free Lunch

Part of my job is rummaging through a dozen or so weekly reports and polls about the financial woes of Americans. For example, first-time home-buyers have dropped for the third consecutive year, and 80 percent of the country believes “it is harder to be middle class today than it was 25 years ago.”

However, that wasn’t the most depressing news I read this week. This is: Americans Report They Spend an Average of $2,746 on Lunch Yearly.

Why would this news concern me when only 41 percent of employees “see health care as affordable five years from now” and only one in five workers are “on track to retire at age 65”?

My answer is simple: Most financial problems are complex and require expert help to solve. That’s why is here — to provide free consultations on a slew of expert debt solutions.


Lunch, however, is an easy way to save money. You don’t need a CPA like me to advise you. That’s why these conclusions of a survey commissioned by Visa disturb me so much…

  • Workers spend an average of $53 a week on lunch.
  •  They “purchase lunch from a restaurant an average of nearly twice a week.”
  • 1 percent “reported spending more than $50 per lunch on average or more than $9,000 a year.” While you might guess this 1 percent is wealthy, in my experience, that’s not the case.

Then there’s this result I just can’t fathom: “Unemployed Americans reported purchasing lunch out more than once a week on average, spending over $15 on average weekly.”

In my second book, Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny, I dedicate six pages just to grocery shopping and frugal eating. In fact, I tell the story of one client of mine who lost her job at the same time her son suffered an accident that required expensive medical treatment.

While she used a number of tactics to make ends meet and stay out of debt, shopping smart about food was a potent one — because we all need to eat, and eat often. As I wrote…

She makes a very detailed shopping list and sticks to it. Her previous routine of buying coffee every morning has been replaced by drinking coffee at home from a coffeemaker she found at a yard sale for $3 — and it was still in the box, not used. Once or twice a month, she and the family go to a local pizzeria that offers large pizzas for $7.99. It feeds everyone, and they order water with lemon. The extra savings allow them to give the waitress a slightly higher tip. The wait staff remembers them, and their service reflects it. You see, she isn’t being cheap, she’s being smart and frugal.

Here’s the fascinating moral to the story: Even though my former client found a new job and is back on her financial feet, she still practices the frugal living she was forced to do when she was suffering. Why? Because like I said, it’s just smart.

How food smart are you?

Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.

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