It saves money.
No, I joke.
I mean, that is a fine reason to bring lunch to work. Let’s say you pick up lunch every day at $9/ meal. Say you are a typical lawyer and work 49 out of the 52 weeks in a year. That’s a little north of $2,200 annually on lunches. If I saw $2,200 lying on the street, I’d pick it up. So, it might be worth your time and effort to bring lunch to work just on a cost basis alone.
However, saving money alone rarely does it for me in terms of thinking about whether to do/not to do something. I mean, you only live once, right? Why not spend your hard earned cash every day on a delectable artisanal sandwich with some fancy bubbly water, or fantastic Thai food washed down with some iced tea to reward yourself for all your hard work?
Take out is very very bad for you.
Food you purchase from takeout places is almost inevitably loaded down with fat, more fat, salt, and more salt. That’s what makes it delicious and hard to resist. As a working mother, I don’t precisely have time to spend at the gym working off calories. (Although reserving an hour and a half every few days to luxuriously exercise on a treadmill with no screaming baby, undone laundry, or pile of dirty dishes in sight does sound rather lovely). Even worse, although we don’t keep soda in our house, it is so hard for me to walk by the rows of tasty looking Cokes and Ginger Ales in my favorite lunch spots. So, I end up not only buying the most delicious-looking fatty sandwich item on the menu BUT also a sugary soda. And sometimes a cookie.
Not good for my goal in life, which is to have a long, happy and healthy existence. With minimal trips to the dentist.
It creates waste.
Also (and this might just be me) but it always strikes me as wasteful. I feel guilty at the end of the day if the trash can besides my desk is piled high with take-out containers, soda cans, and paper coffee cups. Um, and some chocolate wrappers. I wouldn’t call myself a super duper environmentalist, but I try to be conscious of waste. And buying lunch out does seem to create a bunch of it.
Decision-making about small day-to-day activities is hard. There’s no one right way, but there are three big factors for me: (1) health; (2) cost; and (3) the environment. If something is good for your health, and good for the environment, AND saves money, I try to make that choice. I’m looking for that “YAY!!” spot in the Venn Diagram below. And bringing lunch to work falls into it.
But how do you do it?
This is going to be pretty personal to you. For me, 80% of the battle was figuring out how to get food I actually wanted to eat to work. I’m not super into sandwiches (working in a deli in high school and cleaning the meat slicer turned me off deli meat forever). I have . . . um . . . issues with leftovers. I don’t know why – if I ate it for dinner, I just do not want it for lunch.
Tips and tricks that might be helpful:
- It’s nice to have a mini fridge, if your office allows it or you are comfortable breaking the rules.
- Keeping a box of cereal in the office is useful for when you forget to bring lunch/need a snack (I keep a box of granola, and my work supplies the milk).
- I don’t really have time to make a cooked lunch in the morning, so I often just throw some cheese, fruit (either fresh/canned) and chopped carrots/cucumbers into my bag. Then I’ll hop out during lunch to buy a round roll to eat with my cheese.
- I like to eat some salad with lunch, but again don’t really have time to make a complicated salad each morning. On Sundays I buy a head of lettuce, tear off the leaves, rinse each leaf, and put them all between two paper towels, and put the whole thing in a Ziploc. (This article explains it better than I can). Then each morning I pull out some lettuce, toss it in a tupperware, add salt, and add a clean, closed baby food container with some oil and vinegar. Mix it all up at lunch time, and hey presto – salad!
- If I’m feeling particularly hungry, I’ll also bring cottage cheese or a hard boiled egg.
Like I said, I found that most of the problem was figuring out what I wanted to eat/had time to prepare. Many people probably would not be happy eating a green salad, fruit, bread, cheese, and cucumbers for lunch. I am. Furthermore, those are all things I have time to bring for lunch, since it mostly involves just tossing things into my bag before heading into the office.
Do you have lunch tips and tricks that work for you?