You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating—packing your lunch saves you money and can be healthier than buying your midday meal daily. Celebrate National Brown-Bag-It day on May 25th by making a commitment to pack your lunch (and snacks) a few days a week. Sure, it can be tough at times to plan ahead and lug your lunch to work; but it’ll save you money and can help you make better food choices.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU SAVE?
It’s estimated that people who buy their lunch spend anywhere from $5-10 per day. Depending on where you live and what you’re buying, those costs can add up. When I’m working downtown in the Financial District in New York City (comparable in pricing to many touristy areas of Manhattan), a tossed salad with a few veggies, a meat protein, and avocado can easily total $10!
If you averaged $7 a day, five days a week for a month, that’s $140 a month, and $1,680 a year if you spent that much each week (subtract some money from that for holidays and two weeks’ vacation). I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that money going away or doing something fun rather than looking back on my year and realizing I ate all of my vacation money during my workday.
HERE’S HOW A PACKED LUNCH IS GOOD FOR YOU
- You’re controlling what you’re eating. When you prepare a salad or snacks at home, you know exactly what’s in it, so if you’re counting your macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats, and sugars), it’ll be easier to track. Keep in mind that many “healthy” foods and options at fast-food menus are very processed and high in sugar—like breads and salad dressings—or packed with sodium like processed meats.
- Your portions will be measurable. If you’re reheating last night’s chicken stir-fry for today’s office lunch, portioning out the rice and soy sauce you eat is likely going to be way less than what you’d get at a Chinese takeout restaurant.
- You can add flavor with lighter condiments and herbs at home, as well as ramp up the nutritional value of your meal by adding tons of veggies for vitamins and fiber.
PACKABLE LUNCH IDEAS
Here are some of our favorite healthy lunches to take to work. Keep things fresh and interesting by swapping the types of proteins, veggies, salad toppings and dressings you use.
- Chopped salad with grilled chicken or steak or drained, water-packed tuna, nuts, chopped raw veggies, olive oil and balsamic
- Greek yogurt, with chopped fruit, oats or low-sugar granola
- Tomato and avocado slices and wrapped in turkey (choose nitrate free options from the deli)
- Tuna or chicken salad in a pita or collard green wrap
- Cooked quinoa topped with roasted veggies and black beans
- Last night’s dinner! Reheated stir-fries, lettuce wraps, soups, leftover protein and veggies…the possibilities are endless. (Just avoid dishes that will stink up the entire office and kitchen.)
Look for products that will make packing your lunch easier and less soggy. Some products I recommend for toting lunches include: Aladdin Heritage Lunch Kit or Salad Mason Jar, HydroFlask Food Flask (for soups or smoothies), LifeFactory Food Storage, iHerb Salad Shaker with a removable ice pack and dressing compartment, or search for bento boxes for compartmentalized boxes.
If you want a laugh and suggestions on what not to make your lunch look like, check out the blog, SadDeskLunch.com.