Monday, January 14, 2013

BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunch)

Last fall, I took on a challenge, tracked on The Daily Muse. I brought my lunch for the entire month of October. Along the way, I learned a few things.

  1. My brought-from-home lunches averaged approximately $4.00 per meal. This gives me a good baseline when I go out to dinner, too: if I stick to an $8-10 dinner and save half for lunch, it's almost the same price as a homemade lunch.
  2. Large dinners (more than 4 servings) had the lowest per-serving cost. Making a box of pasta with meat and veggies was still around $4 a serving, but a large home-made lasagna (some passed out to friends and eaten over a few days) was closer to $2.50.
  3. Having the right equipment made planning – and packing – lunch a breeze.
The equipment in this case falls into three categories:

Storage: Glass containers are great for food that needs to be reheated in the microwave – it doesn't stain or warp as easily as plastic. If you don't need to heat things up, any ol' container will do.

Transport: Depending on the length of your commute, an insulated lunchbag can make sure your food doesn't get into the "danger zone." If your work doesn't have a communal refrigerator, this is even more imperative. Since my work fridge fills up fast, I usually transport my lunch in a small cooler with one ice pack, and then take the container out and put just that in the fridge.

Liquids: Make sure you don't confuse thirst for hunger by staying hydrated during the day. I like a screw-top water bottle for water, but if you prefer ice tea or sugary drinks, try a double-walled travel cup with straw (much easier to clean).


Clockwise from top left: Pyrex 18-piece storage set, snack sacks, Klip-it sandwich box, Built NY BYO Rambler lunch bag, Nalgene Tritan wide-mouth water bottle, double-wall water bottle, Packit personal cooler lunch bag


Are you a lunch toter or do you prefer to eat out? What do you use to bring your lunch?

28 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about getting glass containers to bring food to work because I hate having to nuke in plastic. I can't ever figure out what the best size is though. What sizes were you packing your lunches in and how many did you end up with? I also totally get the ease of eating on campus. I am right across the street from our union.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have this set from Target: http://www.target.com/p/rubbermaid-10-pc-glass-food-storage-set/-/A-14051268#prodSlot=medium_1_3&term=rubbermaid storage set

      I use the 1.5c container for lunch, since I usually mix my protein into my carbs. If I have a flatter piece of food (chicken breast or fish or something) I'll use the shallow square one and make sure I don't fill it all the way with carbs (it's 2.5c). As long as the meal is balanced, it tides me over pretty well.

      Hope this helps!

      Delete
  2. I had a terrible accident transporting food to work.
    I bring my own lunch at least twice a week.... and once I was on a real hurry and put my glass container with lentil soup inside my handbag. When I got to work, half of the soup was mixed with the contents in my bag :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eesh, that sound terrible. :(

      Did the handbag survive?

      Delete
  3. I really try to bring lunch from home every day. It's the best way to make sure leftovers don't go bad because they're forgotten in the back of the fridge. And it saves me a lot of money. When I bring my lunch for even a week, I can see a big difference in my bank account. I usually end up bringing my lunch 4/5 days. There's always some day when I'm bored and want to go buy something...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great habit to have started! I love leftovers, so it's easy for me to want to eat them the next day. My problem is with wanting to cook in the first place (too many easy options on the way home or delivery).

      Delete
  4. I'm not the most organized person in the world - I can bring my own luch for weeks, but then forget about it for two month. Eventually I've deciced on keeping my own box of porridge (which can be prepared by just adding hot water) in the office.

    http://www.tri-skelos.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear ya...after that month of bringing my lunch in October, I don't think I brought a single lunch in November. There are several cheap-ish healthy-ish options on the campus where I work, so it's not all lost if I don't bring my lunch, but it would probably mean i eat healthier dinners, too, if I cooked more often. :)

      Delete
  5. I used to always bring my lunch to work because it was so much cheaper. I wish I could find reusable snack bags that are see-through. I could use clear plastic containers for snacks, but I like how snack bags don't take up much space in my already crowded bag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...sounds like a product that someone should develop. ;)

      Delete
  6. I always bring food because my breaks are too short and my paycheck is too slim.

    Do you read 100 Days of Real Food? Awesome lunchbox ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read that, but will look for it!

      Delete
  7. I used to pack my lunch daily but I also had some food in my desk just in case. I had tuna to go packs. I'm not sure of the price of those but I supplemented a few more club crackers with them. The 6 wasn't enough for me. I also had velveeta shells and cheese. Then if I didn't pack, I still had something. The velveeta shells and cheese were roughly a buck a package. I think tuna to go was similarly priced. I used to have leftovers from the one Chinese restaurant for 2 more lunches after the 1 dinner ($17 original price). Sometimes I bought french fries with cheese (healthiest lunch around. haha) for 1.86

    Then Dave moved to working in my building and he hated packing. So we ended up going out to lunch. I'd spend $5 on a good day but more like $8 and sometimes he wanted to go to more expensive places. I didn't like that. I said it was too expensive.

    Now I live in a different area and I made dinner for 2 for less than $4 (plus the cost of the spices I used). My lunch yesterday cost me $4 but I'm eating the second half of it right now as we speak. But around here if I want cookies or chips they are expensive. Last night the dinner was chicken, green beans, and roasted potatoes. (https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/5ZluujTMLmpvCKCbRi0ZLbuwJHmH_P3exJGPCVkrSN4?feat=directlink plus there were more roasted potatoes about as much as were on 1 of the plates there.)

    I did realize recently a sandwich with lunchmeat wasn't that cheap. It was over $4 a sandwich for how I was making it. I use a ton of shaved turkey on my sandwiches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like a pretty cheap eat-out lunch to me! It's hard to find a lunch place for less than $10 around here (with the exception of fast food). I agree with the sandwiches - I like fancy cheese in my sandwich, so they were also around $4-6 even when made at home.

      Delete
  8. I bring my lunch to work basically every day. I can eat whatever I like, eat healthy and reasonable portions plus I get more work done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Portions and nutrition are definitely the biggest perks of bringing a lunch (some portions out there...eesh!). It is sometimes good to get a break, though...I have a coworker who is a stickler about getting out of the office at least once a day (we have no windows in our work area whatsoever, so it can feel like a time warp), and I notice I'm in a peppier mood when I get some sunlight, too.

      Delete
  9. Great article and topic here! As a single working professional (who eats a lot!) I've found my cost savings from bringing lunch to work every day very significant. The cooking part in the evenings was difficult, but having a plan is everything. This service really helps me out - after all, I created it!

    www.mealime.com

    :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jeffrey - Thanks for stopping by! Just checked out your website...very interesting! I could use some help in the cooking/planning department, so I signed up for the trial.

      Delete
    2. Hi Angeline,

      Excellent! Let me know your thoughts on mealime - just email info@mealime.com and I'll be on the other end. Thanks and I hope you like it!

      Delete
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