Why Bringing Your Own Lunch Is the Best (Even If People Might Think It’s Lame)

As the saying goes…the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. 

Last week, a little blizzard (and the 26″ of snow it brought to NYC) threw our travel plans out of whack, thereby throwing our week (and us) all out of sorts. 

That’s the extent of my complaining though, as we were “stranded” in LA for an extra 2 days where we got to enjoy gorgeous 65+ degree weather, time with friends, hikes, and walks along the beach. Tough life, I know. 

We usually try to schedule redeye flights home, in order to avoid losing a full day to travel and getting to sleep on the plane. And when you do a redeye home Saturday night and get home Sunday morning, you have the full day Sunday to be a zombie and nap, resting up and prepping for the week ahead. Part of the prepping always involves grocery shopping, as I like to leave the kitchen fairly empty when we go away. 

Sooooo needless to say a redeye home Monday night that got us to NYC on Tuesday morning was pretty rough — I had enough time to drop my stuff off at home, shower quickly, and rush into work. The thought crossed my mind to go out and grab lunch at work that day, since we didn’t have much in the fridge. But then I ran through a list of reasons why I hate buying lunch at work:

  • The food is never that great and usually salty unless I get a salad, which brings me to….
  • The fact that salads are stupidly overpriced and always lackluster. Always. 
  • THE CROWDS. OH GOD THE LUNCH CROWDS IN MIDTOWN ARE THE WORST. If you’ve never experienced it firsthand, then thank your lucky stars. 
  • I end up eating lunch at my desk, so I’m spending $15 dollars to something that I don’t even really enjoy…all by myself. 

With those reasons swimming around my head, I ended up throwing together a seemingly boring yet healthy and free (free as in we paid for groceries, and there is no additional out of pocket expense) lunch that consisted of chickpeas, a sweet potato, and navy beans with some sriracha. 

And you know what? It totally hit the spot. Let’s lowball NYC lunch estimates for a minute here — say you’re able to get a lunch for $10 (more like $15 and probably closer to $20 including a drink).

THAT IS $2,500 A YEAR ON WORK LUNCHES. (5 days a week x 50 weeks a year (assuming some vacation days) x $10 a day). 

For comparison, our household grocery costs for our family of 2 for a YEAR averages $4,200 (~$350/month). 

The most common reason I hear people give about not bringing their lunch is that they don’t have time to pack it in the morning. Heck, even I don’t have time to pack lunch in the morning usually! Which is why I rely on my tried and true lunch-packing method that I’ve been doing ever since I graduated college. 

  1. GRAINS. On Sunday, cook up a big batch of grains (rice, quinoa, millet, etc.,) 
  2. VEGETABLES. Chop up a bunch of veggies (I usually do raw in spring and summer, roasted in fall and winter). Right now I’m on a kale, chard, butternut squash, and sweet potato kick. 
  3. BEANS. Either cook some tried beans if you have time, or crack open a few cans of your favorite (chickpeas, lentils, black beans, adzuki…)
  4. ADDITIONAL PROTEIN. I usually add tofu, tempeh, or seitan.
  5. Set out 5 tupperware containers, and distribute your grains, vegetables, beans, and additional protein evenly. 

Tah-dah! Throw those in the fridge and grab one every morning as you leave for work. I prefer to add sauce in the morning, but that’s only personal preference. Use whatever sauce you want — there are tons of recipes online for different flavors, or Trader Joe’s has some delicious, inexpensive sauces. I’m partial to a tahini drizzle, some sriracha, or balsamic vinegar.  

It might take some getting used to, but after bringing lunch daily for a few weeks, you’ll be hooked on your new habit. And if you ever find yourself getting bored of having the same thing 5 days in a row, take a peek at your checking account and feel proud that you’re not only saving money, but you’re saving money AND getting healthier. WIN-WIN! 

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