The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lunch Math

More often than not, I bring my lunch to work. I keep telling myself that the reason I do this is to make sure I eat a balanced healthy meal. By brown-bagging, I am not tempted to overeat, or make poor choices, such as French fries, cookies or Snapple Iced Tea. It also makes it much easier to spread the food out. I can have part of my lunch before high noon, and then finish it later in the afternoon. This works well on days that I go to the gym, so I am not absolutely starving when I am just starting my workout. Then of course there is the politically correct/green rationalization. By bringing lunch, I am consuming fewer resources (by avoiding the packaging associated with take-out) and probably wasting less food (by packing leftovers instead of tossing them after they sit in the frig for several days).

Over the last week or two, I have come to the realization that there is another reason that I bring my lunch. I am cheap. I could have said frugal or economical or some other euphemism for cheap. But the plain truth is I do have a streak of cheap, and every time I buy lunch in midtown Manhattan I suffer from sticker shock. Now there is no shortage of lunchtime dining choices within a half block radius of my office front door. And many of them do offer healthy and delicious choices. There’s Hale and Hearty, serving soups and salads. And Chipoltle with their delicious burritos (an example of overeating: the burritos are BIG and I always eat the whole thing). But lunch costs at least $7, and usually $8 or $9. If I did this 4 days a week (I work 4 days/week, not 5), then that’s at least $30 a week, or $120 a month! or about $1400 a year!! Okay, so the lunch I pack is not free, but it certainly costs much less. Let’s say a brown bag lunch costs $2, and I do that 3 days a week, then I am saving at least $16 a week, or $64 a month, or at least $700 a year. And whenever I pack my lunch, DH gets a lunch too, so between the 2 of us, that’s $1400 a year.

I am hereby initiating Project Cheap Streak (PCS). I am going to use my cheap streak to encourage the adoption of healthy habits and brown bagging, by investigating what I could buy for myself for $700 (PCS7) or for my family for $1400 (PCS14). This could be interesting because I am not a material girl. I don’t usually go for expensive clothes or jewelry or make-up. But I’m sure I can think of ways to spend that kind of money. That doesn’t mean I am going to buy any of these things as a reward for packing lunch 3 days a week for the next year. It’s just a way to motivate me by thinking about the money as well as the good healthy food I will be eating.

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