|Recently I had a blast teaching a Live:Learn Wellness workshop at The Riveter called “How to Up-level Your Lunch Game (and 4 Reasons Why it Will Change Your Life).” Since I’ve started working at The Riveter I’ve noticed how many people run out and grab lunch instead of bringing something from home and I know from experience that eating out all the time can start to seriously add up. If you are spending an average of $10 a day, 3 x per week on lunch, you are spending in the vicinity of $1500 per year on lunch. And if you’re eating out more than 3 times a week or spending more than $10 per meal, well, you do the math. Bottom line: it’s a lot of dough (and not the tasty kind). Plus, you don’t always know what you’re getting when you eat out and that can directly impact your weight and your health.
It’s easy to slip into the habit of grabbing a take-out lunch every day – especially when we already feel overwhelmed and think that packing ourselves a lunch will just add one more thing to the to-do list. Except that doesn’t have to be the story.
What if the story went more like this: Taking care of my health and saving money are a priority to me so I’m going to create a new weekly habit of bringing my lunch to work at least 2-3 days a week. I know creating new habits that stick can take a little time but I also know that I can do it!
Start by making meal planning/prep part of your weekly or daily schedule. This doesn’t have to take a long time and in fact will get easier the more you do it. Take a look at the week ahead. Do you have any lunch meetings? What days might you need to bring a lunch? Then decide what kind of meal prep works best for you. Lots of people like to do their shopping and cooking on the weekends. If you opt for that, then I’d advise you to schedule it into your calendar and consider it one of your “non-negotiables”. A non-negotiable is exactly what it sounds like: it’s not up for discussion. If things like your doctor’s appointments and regular yoga classes are non-negotiable then so is meal planning. We might occasionally need to reschedule but it’s still a priority. It all falls under the heading of self-care.
Check out some favorite cookbooks or websites before you head to the grocery store or farmer’s market (giving consideration to what’s in season) so that you can add any ingredients to your shopping list. Meal planning apps like Plan to Eat can also be helpful here. Washing and chopping raw veggies and rinsing and spinning your leafy greens before you even put them into the fridge can help make cooking prep even faster and easier.
Some other time-saving tips include making extra food at dinner and putting it aside for tomorrow’s lunch (cook once, eat twice!), doing a salad in a jar party or getting a few friends together and forming a lunch club like these ladies have done. Another idea for making multiple meals with a minimum of clean up is to try the sheet pan method. It’s like a “one pot meal” but using your oven. You can also your cooking time to listen to a favorite podcast or an audio book, hang out with your partner or have a catch-up call with an old friend via speakerphone.
Keeping your pantry well stocked with things like canned tuna and wild-caught salmon, rice, beans, nuts & seeds,crackers, feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, cabbage and kale means that you’ll be equipped to whip up a salad, burrito or a little desk picnic if you can’t get to the store. Freezing extra soup, chili or stew also makes an easy lunch option and having eggs in the fridge means that you are 20 minutes away from a delicious frittata.
If this sounds too overwhelming then start with small changes. Bring a sandwich on your favorite bread or make a pot of delicious soup and freeze it in lunch-sized portions that you can take out the night before. The key is to keep it healthy and simple enough that you will keep doing it! And if you want to go deeper, check out my Kitchen Reboot offer. I will come to your house, help you reorganize and reboot your pantry, go with you to your favorite grocery store or farmer’s market and get you started with some easy recipes that you will love.
As an added incentive, don’t forget to A) give yourself a pat on the back and B) put $10 in the bank for each day that you bring your lunch. If you do that 2x a week for 50 weeks you will have saved $1000! Then start imagining the lunch you will treat yourself to in Paris, New York, Ubud or any of the other places on your vacation bucket list.
Riveter Member Lisa Levine is a health and wellness coach, and founder and owner of Audacious Health & Wellness. For more great information from Lisa, check out her website audaciouswellness.com