The holidays are coming up and if you're anything like me, that means you've got a long list of things to be bought and food to be made. This, very obviously, means less funds in your pocket for everyday expenses - but a broke girl still needs to eat! So I set out on an experiment of sorts to bring my lunch to work every day for an entire month and see how much money I could save. I roped a co-worker into doing this with me, but after the first week she succumbed to a delicious salmon salad and there was no going back for her. I stuck it out throughout the entire month - only taking a break from my homemade lunches on the days when my office catered lunch for us.
Here are my top five takeaways on lunching al desko:
- You (very obviously) save money. A LOT of money.
I calculated that I spent around $25.00 a week or $100.00 a month, on lunch - and that was only if I was only buying it three or less times a week and getting cheaper options some of those days (i.e. soup vs. salad with all the things). More than that and I was spending a large chunk of my flex spending budget on subpar food from sandwich shops around my office everyday. Even though Koreatown is right around the corner, I'd more often than not just pop downstairs for a quick bite if I didn't have enough time to venture out. Eating a sad salad in a city like NYC, where you've got so many better offerings, really makes salad regret all that much worse. By bringing my lunch, I got to save ALL of that money. Meaning a fatter savings account, and more reasons why I could justify having a nicer bottle of wine at dinner.
2. You lose weight, depending on what you bring.
Bringing my lunch meant that I was, inevitably, eating healthier. I actually ended up losing around 4 pounds from just eating healthier, lower simple carb meals. Without buying my lunch, I ended up making fresh stuff at home and staying away from deli meats (too many preservatives), sweets, and simple carbs. Turns out, it's actually very easy to eat healthier meals. See my lunch suggestions below for some healthy ideas.
3. You miss out on the fun eats that your co-workers are partaking in.
Not everything was a positive during this experiment. I missed out on some really delicious options when a food truck festival popped up around the corner from my office for a few weeks, but I wanted to stay true to the goal and bring my lunch everyday, even when co-workers were walking by with truffle fries... I satiated myself with the fact that I was saving money, losing weight AND still eating pretty delicious food.
4. You don't go outside as much.
Lunchtime is often when I would take a break from my desk and get some fresh air. But since I was eating at my desk more often, I was getting outside less often. When I noticed this I just started taking walks near my office on days when I could take a break for a few minutes.
5. I felt more fulfilled and fuller with less food.
Bringing my lunch meant that I was eating a higher variety of food, from more local sources, saving money and eating healthier. All of this added up to me feeling way more proud of the lunch that I was eating. This also turned into me eating less at lunch - less bad sugars and processed foods in my meals meant that I didn't have to eat as much to feel totally satiated. Positive vibes all around.
So, have I convinced you to bring your lunch more often yet? If so, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:
- Prep the night before OR prep a few days ahead. When you wake up in the morning, you've got a million things to do. Prep your meals the night before, or make a big portion of something that can go for a day or two. Pack it up, put it in your lunch bag and stick it in the fridge. This way, eating breakfast and lunch at your desk is as easy as grab-and-go. For meal prep advice, check out body building food blogs (no really). These guys prep their meals for an entire week (!!), and they're all super healthy.
- Change it up, don't get bored with what you're eating or else it'll feel like a chore. This is huge. If you're like me, eating the same thing every day can get tiresome. Make your lunches interesting by re-purposing ingredients in new ways. Get some cute bento boxes to make unpacking your lunch more fun. Just make sure you like what you're eating, or else you'll hate eating at your desk.
- Use leftovers from dinner to make lunch for the next day. Ever make a huge pot of chili, tons of stir fry or too many tacos? Throw them in your aforementioned bento boxes (or just regular containers) and you've got lunch for tomorrow. It's almost too easy.
- Easy breakfast ideas: It's the most important meal of the day, they say. So get it started right with a few boiled eggs, which you can make ahead for the next two days and keep the extras in your fridge, an almond butter and jelly on whole wheat English muffin, or easy and SUPER filling overnight oats. Check out the recipe for pumpkin pie overnight oats here.
- Easy lunch ideas: Easy things to throw together are the best. Lettuce wraps, veggie and nori roll ups, salads (but layer them in a jar like I did here to prevent wilting). Kale anything. Kale is the heartiest green there is so it holds up well even if you dress it in the morning and then eat it at lunch - it'll be perfect for eating. Currently, cauliflower fried rice has been an easy go to for a hearty, easy meal. The leftovers are even more delicious. Find my recipe here.
- Easy snack ideas: Afternoon snacks are a must for me. Around 3 PM I start feeling hungry again and if I didn't eat something that I've brought, I'd probably succumb to the cookies and sugary snacks in my office. Greek yogurt with almonds and honey, raw nuts, nori sheet snacks from the Asian grocery, and my current favorite - celery and carrot sticks with franks hot sauce (it's like eating the flavor of buffalo wings without feeling badly about it!).
30 days of straight nothin' but the brown bag might seem a little extreme, but even doing one or two more days of bringing your lunch can help improve what you're eating, how you're thinking about the food you eat, and fatten your wallet.
If you try the 30 day brown bag challenge, tag us on Instagram at @The_BLVD so we can see!
Photo by Rayi Christian Wicaksowo. Sourced from Unsplash.com - pretty much the coolest site for stock images ever. Recipes by Lauren Durden.