Going out to lunch during the workday is taking a big bite out of employees' wallets, new research shows.

A study by Visa found that the average American is dining out for lunch an average of twice a week and spending close to $1,000 a year. While that pales in comparison to the 1 percent of employees who spend more than $50 per lunch, or close to $5,000 a year, it is significantly more than the 30 percent who don't ever spend money on lunches out.

The research revealed that the less money someone makes, the more they are likely to spend on lunch. Specifically, those surveyed who earned less than $25,000 a year spent more per meal, $11.70, than any other income bracket. In comparison, those earning more than $50,000 per year spent an average of $9.60 per meal, a 22 percent difference.

Nat Sillin, Visa's head of U.S. Financial Education, warns employees against blowing their budget on burgers and fries.

"Eating lunch at a restaurant isn't a bad thing, but it has to fit within your budget," Sillin said. "Going into debt for a tuna sandwich isn't worth it."

He advises clipping coupons, choosing less expensive items on a menu or bringing lunch from home as ways to save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.

The research shows that it's men doing the bulk of the eating, having outspent women on a weekly basis by 44 percent. In addition to gender, the research found there were a number of regional disparities in spending as well.

Southerners are the top spenders each week, shelling out $20, while Northeasterners ate their lunches out the least, just 1.5 days a week. Westerners mirrored the national average, spending $10 per lunch 1.8 times a week, with those in the Midwest dining out 1.7 times a week and spending just $8.90 per meal.

The research was based on surveys of more than 1,000 U.S. adults.

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This story was originally written for BusinessNewsDaily and has been republished with permission here. Copyright 2012 BusinessNewsDaily, a TechMediaNetwork company.
How much do you spend on lunch?
Even dining out for lunch twice a week can really add up.