Shopping Smart

The $3 Treasure Hunt: Panera Edition

By | Tuesday, September 22, 2015


It’s the tenth week of the $3 treasure hunt and the mission to find the best buys at our favorite stores continues. Last week, we looked at how to find the best deals at Good Will. This week, I wanted to go back to some of the early $3 treasure hunt suggestions, so I did a deep dive on the Panera menu. (Twist my arm.) I am still always taking $3 treasure hunt suggestions. If you have a brand or store you’d like to see covered, email me:

There’s good news and bad news that comes with the Panera treasure hunt. The bad news is the more nutritious Panera options are, unfortunately, not under $3, for the most part. The good news is Panera is a good go-to if you’re trying to grab a quick, affordable snack. When I worked at an office, as part of my effort to stop buying lunch out, I instead allowed myself to occasionally get a midafternoon treat. If you buy lunch out every day of the work week, it can cost you $50 or $60 per week. If you buy a snack for under $3, even three times a week, you’re spending $9.

So, with that in mind, here are the best $3 treasures at Panera:

One Baguette Portion


Price: 75 cents

Sometimes if I brought a salad for lunch, but wanted to get out of the office, I’d go to Panera and get a piece of bread and butter. It’s a solid way to elevate your lunch for under $1.

Muffies (Muffin Tops)


Price: $1.70

Scones: $2.88

The breakfast options are fairly reasonable, but personally, I’m all for the “muffies” over the scones, because they’re honestly delicious. When I worked in an office, I was in charge of ordering food (because I was the lowest rank on the team). If I was ordering breakfast for the department, I’d use that opportunity to pick things I liked and then save the leftovers. Free breakfast for the week!

Medium Iced Tea or Coffee


Price: $2.09

Other beverages:

Medium Coffee (Iced or Hot): $2.09

Espresso: $1.79

Hot chocolate: $2.99



Price: $1.54

Bagel with Cream Cheese: $2.99


I think there’s a way to capitalize on the bagels and cream cheese and still encourage yourself to eat at home. If you are someone who always buys coffee and a bagel out, discourage that behavior by buying yourself bagels and cream cheese for the week and storing them at home. If you buy them in bulk, it will cost a lot less. If you’re not hungry before your commute, buy the bagels and cream cheese, and keep them at your office instead.

A dozen bagels: $10.99 (That’s 91 cents per bagel, which is a decent savings.)

The cream cheese is, unfortunately, not a $3 treasure because it’s $3.39.



Price: $2.88

Pastries other than this delicious-looking bear claw, including the danishes, etc. are $2.88 as well.

Fresh Fruit Cup: $2.99

Instead of indulging in one of these at breakfast every morning, save yourself for a treat when you need one (i.e.— Wednesday at 3 p.m. when it feels like all hope is lost). Compromise by making yourself a cup of coffee or tea at the office, or your house, and then splurge on a pastry to go with it. (That way you’re cutting your splurge cost in half.)




Price: $2.34

My go-to afternoon treat is a cookie, which is, admittedly, not the healthiest selection. But it’s by far my favorite sweet, and seems like a better work snack than a pint of ice cream. Panera is a cookie lover’s mecca, and in my defense, they’re cheaper than the pastries.

Main image via Pexels

Body images via Panera


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