Monday, October 6, 2008

Lunch habits

I am cheap and my cheapness doesn't just include dinner and drinks, lunch has also been grouped under this frugal umbrella. I’m not one to make a big lunch at home or put forth a lot of effort in making a lunch for work because I’m usually too busy working to enjoy it when it comes time to shove food down my throat.

Which is why I bring the same lunch to work every day. It’s sad.

My daily lunch consists of the following (eaten in this order):

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Cheddar cheese stick
  • Baby carrots
  • Applesauce

That is it. Food is pretty readily available in my office so I will grab something small to snack on if I get hungry between courses, but I keep my lunch simple, primarily because it takes five minutes to make and pack in the morning.

I don’t get tired of this "plain Jane" lunch, but I always look forward to “treat day Friday,” when I venture away from my desk and leave five minutes earlier from home because I get to buy my lunch. I consider Friday my, “you survived the week now go get yourself something nice” day, where I join the other people in my office building in waiting for warm, slightly overpriced food for lunch. I am excited about Friday now already.

But even though it’s “treat day” on Fridays, my cheapness comes out in the fact that I refuse to pay more than $6 for my lunch. In my scattered mind, I feel that anything above $5-6 is too much for lunch because then that amount moves the meal closer to being more of a dinner-like occasion. For dinner, I prefer to pay $10-12 for entrees. Now I won’t give up something if it’s over that amount, but in general, that’s a range I feel comfortable with paying. As a single income household in the city, where everything is getting more expensive, I like to splurge, but need to be mindful about when I do it and how.

So I have my “regular” meals that I get on Friday that fall within my lunch cost range and I rotate between them on a weekly basis. I was horrified to find out last week that my favorite Au Bon Pain lunch is now a dollar more than last year, pushing me out of my comfortable lunch cost range, but I might make an exception. It’s getting cold now and I need my soup!

Am I the only one who brings a lunch all the time? A lot of people in my office buy lunch so I always feel weird “brown-bagging” it. Or has anyone started to bring a lunch more than they did before our economy went south? I'm more than curious to see what you guy say :)

Reader note: Thanks everyone for their feedback on my weekend "key learnings" list. I'm so glad you're enjoying it. By popular demand, it will now be a weekly feature! Yay!

56 comments:

EP said...

I love you for this because I do the same exact thing!

brandy said...

Teaching classrooms, I don't really have a choice- I have to brown bag it and I'm thankful. I find that I eat a lot healthier when I have to really plan my lunch. As for what I actually pack- it's pretty similar to yours- except no sandwich (allergic to bread!) so I will have a salad and a yogurt. Oh and a cheese stick. Dear lord, do I love cheese sticks.

Jenn said...

PBJ = best sammich ever!

I also eat my lunch in order. PBJ, fruit, sunchips and a cookie. It never fails.

Vanessa said...

I usually bring my lunch for cost effectiveness and nutrition reasons. I think its good to treat yourself too though; it sends the message that you value yourself.

Blaez said...

my lunch history:

in highschool i didn't really eat lunch. i was more healthy and self scolding and would eat an apple outside in the courtyard with my friends...sometimes a PB&J.

When I started life in the real world and worked at the hospital it varied on what shift i was working on whether or not a lunch would be bought or brought. Day shift: buy -night shift: bring --most of the time it was vending machine chips or candybar.

After that while working at Wal-Mart on nights ofcourse I'd buy a snack -always had to have a 20oz of soda to start me off right and then water the rest of the night. Lunch/Snack would be like a 25cent bag of chips and/or some beef jerky.

When I worked in the housekeeping department at another hotel in arkansas I'd buy a bag of chips and/or a candy bar for lunch.

After I moved up here and started working "corporate" jobs I'd try and bring my lunch. Either leftovers or sandwiches. Most of the time I'd get up too late or forget them and end up buying a snack outa the machine. This was at the Engineering firm.

My weekend job while at the Engineering firm is where I am now and since the cafeteria is closed at 7pm and my lunch wasn't until 9pm i'd end up eating out or not eating on Fri, Sat & Sun while at work. but would pick up fastfood at 1am on the way home--which is so not healthy.

My weekend job has become my breadwinner as in I got the promotion and all that jazz. They provide lunches for us. It's really not all that great but it is food. There's no vending machines. It seems to be the same thing every week day after day. I've thought about taking my own lunch but seriously, its free so why??

I usually pack Joe a lunch of leftovers for him to take with him to work. That seems to keep the man satisfied.

Ok I think that's enough about me and my food history!!!

but before I go.... I have to say that when I worked for the exhusband's mom from home during the evenings (oncall nurse staffing agency) I had the best lunches and the best company because I had the boys with me!!!

LBluca77 said...

The lunch you pack is so cute, It reminds me of being a kid and my mom making me pbj. I think I am going to have to get some peanut butter next grocery trip.

I try to bring my lunch as often as I can. Usually I make a salad but I don't always have time in the morning since I also make break fast every day. If I don't have time to go to the store then I end up buying my lunch.

Pay day Friday I buy lunch though. If I am not feeling lazy I will go out someplace, but if I am too lazy there is a pretty decent cafe in my work building to get a meal.

LJ said...

My great Uncle packed the same lunch to work everyday for 40 years!

Yes packing is smart....saves money and healthier, plus you can have a prelunch snack if you need to.

Caz said...

I try to bring my lunch every day but Friday. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I go through "rich" phases where I'll buy lunch more often. But generally, I bring it and treat myself on Friday.

Gretchen said...

I've brown bagged it for lunch pretty much every day since elementary school. (These days it's ham and cheese, goldfish, and a granola bar.)

Mandy said...

I eat lunch in just about every day. I like to make sandwichs PBJ, or turkey. I also go shopping every few weeks to get staples like granola bars, yogurt, oatmeal things that I can have on hand to eat for lunch if I'm running late and dont have time to make a sandwich or grab some leftovers.

Kyla Bea said...

I work at a not for profit so almost everyone brown bags it. I usually go for a sandwich and salad, but there's lots of stir fries that are brought in and lots of leftovers from dinners. I sometimes try to make too much dinner and then ride it out for another day if it's especially good.

Bring baking and they'll be begging for you to contribute to their lunches, instead of eying you up!

ANG* said...

i absolutely pack my lunch - but like you, fridays are the exception. on fridays the cool kids head out of the office for a lingering lunch. i look forward to that each week. however, i cannot eat the same thing each day. i think i would go insane. i love food too much. so i often eat dinner's leftovers or make a fun salad or yes, a turkey sandwich. i really dont understand how people can eat out for lunch EVERY day. that HAS to get so expensive!

Maris said...

I generally brown bag it but sometimes I get lazy in the morning and just buy a salad or soup. I like to snack a few times throughout the afternoon rather than eat one big meal. So with that pattern, bringing lunch is definitely more economical.

PS - LOVE Au Bon Pain!

howitstarts said...

I always pack my lunch unless I'm really running late and don't have time. Like you, I have the same thing every day including a peanut butter sandwich.

Ginger said...

I'm so bad about this, I buy probably 3 days out of the week. I want to brown bag it more, I really do, but I get bored with food really quickly, and really dislike most leftovers (a few exceptions). To keep myself interested, my lunches end up being these really elaborate things, and honestly, I'd rather sleep in in the morning.

Foods always been one of the few things I spend money on, but given the current state of things, I'm trying to be better and cut back slowly. Boring lunch, here I come.

Maki said...

Your lunch is so nutricious - that's good!!!

I know many people bringing brown baggies to heir work. It really does save money!!

Heidi Renée said...

When I worked in an office, we had vegan lunches brought in three days a week for $6 a pop (it was $5 when I started). If it was something I liked, I would buy one. Otherwise, I would bring leftovers, a frozen meal, or some bread and a veggie burger to nuke.

Now that I work from home I eat whatever sounds good. Today I had leftover whole wheat rotini with veggie meatballs and garlic-onion tomato sauce. Yum!

Katelin said...

i bring my lunch every day too. but i do mix it up a bit depending on what's in the fridge, haha.

Daisy said...

Ok this is where I have to admit that I don't get the whole peanut butter and jelly thing- I don't think I even really understand what "jelly" is (I know it's what we call "jam", but what flavour is it? Strawberry?) I usually pack a lunch too (although we don't have brown bags!) and even more so now that I'm in Frogland where the only thing on sale at lunch is bread, bread and more bread. My packed lunch of preference is a tuna salad with a boiled egg, but I usually find myself packing up leftovers from supper into my tupperware...

jenn said...

I always pack my lunch. Usually leftovers from dinners, or sometimes a sandwich. Almost always a piece of fruit...
Half of our office brings, and half buys.
I get along better with the bringing half, which is nice, cos we all take a break together, while the others sit at their desks. We totally think we're the cool crowd.

SA said...

Over time you'll save more money brown bagging it then buying lunch. And that's money that can be spent towards shoes and clothes and handbags. And I know I don't have to tell you this but shoes/bags/clothing > food.

And honestly, I'd eat that too everyday if I bought peanut butter and jelly more than I do. I mostly just try to get a salad (bought or made at home, doesn't really matter) and if that doesn't fly then a sandwich. Not too much fast food for me.

Endless Randomness said...

I carry lunch to work too.. though I'm in India so it has little to do with the US economy and more to do with healthy eating..

I'd be happy to order lunch everyday but thankfully my brain is still in control of ME :(

pinkjellybaby said...

when i worked in an office, i tended to go half and half because I get bored easily. My treat would be a baked potato from the sandwich shop to keep me warm!
Now i'm in Spain, I either have just a sandwich at home, or my main meal during the 'siesta' time..

Anil P said...

My lunch is restricted by what the office canteen has to offer, and it rarely goes beyond plain rice and lentils, and a pack of chips.

PomJob said...

I'm frugal, too, but mainly because all my coworkers bring their lunches daily. Plus, we don't have many good, cheap options close by. Cosi and a couple little delis are our only affordable choices. I either bring leftovers from dinner, a Lean Cuisine or other frozen meal, soup and/or hummus and pita. I also have pudding and applesauce for snacks.

RecoveringActor said...

I coworker of mine eats PBJ every day... but she never has a treat day. It's maybe once a month that she leaves the building for lunch. I intend to pack lunch. I buy lunchmeat (D&W buffalo chicken...yum) and then I forget to pack it, and then I'm forced to buy lunch or eat the nasty nasty Chef Boyardee that they have in the kitchen at work. Ga-ross.

I do however keep a box of instant oatmeal in my desk for breakfast.

Maxie said...

I'm totally the opposite... I splurge on lunch almost every day, but then eat dinner at home.

Cheryl said...

I do the same thing but I don't even bother with the effort of making a sandwich most of the time--Lean Cuisine. I do tend to get lunch more than I should but stick to $5-$6. You should try getting a potato (it's loaded with cheese, meat and/or veggies) from that juice place next to ABP. Last I checked they were $5 or so.

Rachel said...

I am the same about price range. When I was in college and didn't have a meal plan I ate Burger King everyday because it was the only affordable meal in Downtown Naperville. The cashier lady hated me. I ordered a whopper everyday and didn't gain any weight, but she didn't know that I was on the track team and was running a bunch everyday. I would never dream of doing it now.

Ashley said...

I bring my lunch EVERY DAY - usually leftovers.

I also am so with you on the price range - it's not much to most, but just right to me! :)

Ray said...

I totally bring my lunch...living in the city is wonderful...and expensive. I agree with you that bringing a lunch lets you splurge on other things, like Friday "out for lunch" naughtiness. ;)

Katie Killary said...

Your lunch sounds just like my work lunch, verbatum!

Today I happen to be switching it up though with: mac & cheese!!! I'm so excited!

ToughGirl101 said...

How could youlive off of such a small lunch? Phew! That would be the size of a snack for me.

lunchroomvideos said...

And let us not forget "when its ok to steal" lunch program

laurwilk said...

I brown bag it every day too! I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, string cheese, chocolate pudding and sunchips. I never get tired of it!

Fridays are also my treat day. I always go to Subway!

Megkathleen said...

I'm the same as you - I bring a PB&J every day. It's just easier that way. Everybody makes fun of me for it, but if I go out I end up getting fast food or eating too much so it's always best.

G+D said...

You're a girl after my own heart! I'm a brown-bagger, too. I used to go out for lunch w/my co-workers more often, but it got to be too expensive. Now I maybe lunch out 1/month. I like saving $$ more than I like paying (in every sense of the word!) for naughty calories.

Paula said...

I tend to bring in my lunch most of the time too, either a sandwich or something I can heat in the microwave like soup. This is more out of necessity than cheapness, as my office is a fifteen min walk from the city centre and apart from a "van" which sells chips and burgers, we don't really have many eating establishments nearby. However, I'm often lured to the posh sandwich shop within driving distance by my colleagues with cars - I can't resist a baked potato or a salmon and cream cheese bagel sometimes . . .

CC said...

It is not weird to brown bag! I definitely bring lunch every day. I used to buy lunch pretty frequently until I added up how much i was spending a year on lunch. Out of control.

For a while I brought whatever I could scrape up quickly in the mornings, but on recently I've taken to making a huge pot of soup, and buying the stuff to make sandwiches and salads. I cut up all the salad veggies and have it all ready to go so all I have to do is spend 5 minutes the night before work slapping together a sandwich or salad and putting some soup in a container. Nice and easy. And yummy.

I also have "treat Fridays" but with the economy sucking and my salary sucking, that might have to go too.

Tipp said...

Not only am I sad that you got to eat such wonderful amounts of cheese, but you also got to meet Erin and she got to meet you.

I only thought my life REALLY sucked lately, that is until I read this and it made me even more sad.

Eye yeyeye.

Angela said...

Nothin' compares to a good ol' PB&J! That's my preferred lunch sandwich!

I think it's silly to buy lunch at school if I go grocery shopping and can bring a lunch to school with me. That's like buying food twice. So, I've started bringing my lunch more often. School food is expensive.

Erin said...

I bring my lunch every day. The only restaurant around my school is Burger King, which gives me indigestion. Sometimes we have Jimmy John's delivered, but usually only on someone's birthday.

Renee said...

I work with two other people who buy their lunch every day. I always feel awkward with my turkey sandwich, yogurt, granola bar, and string cheese but I'm not as well off as them. :-/

michelle woo said...

I unfortunately/fortunately work in an area with tons of yummy food options and I just can't resist when coworkers shout out, "Going to [enter yumminess]! Who wants something?" It's a bad habit.

pbandrazz said...

i try to bring my lunch most days but i have to vary it. i can't have the same thing every day - it frustrates me.

i also do the same thing on fridays - that is usually my day i'm "allowed" to buy lunch.

and i am cheap too.

bianca said...

I'm totally with you. I'm a fan of the pb&j lunch. When I eat out for lunch and spend like $6/day. That's $30/week, $120/month. If I save that money, I can get killer shoes/bag in no time. Fashion makes me feel better and helps me justify eating the same thing over and over again.

lifeintheleftlane said...

I try to bring my lunch everyday in order to save money and be healthy, but I fall off the wagon quite frequently. Today I had Chinese for lunch instead of my lean cuisine. Oops!

PBJs are good. I rarely eat them for lunch. But I do have them for breakfast sometimes. At my old job, we had the PBJ ingredients stashed in the kitchen, so I used to eat them as snacks all the time. Yummy, I kind of want one now.

A Super Girl said...

Holy Canoli, 47 comments! I feel so late to the party :-)

Anyway, I too bring my lunch most days. Except when I get low on groceries or get bored with my usual lunch-fare. On those days, I usually grab Jimmy John's because that's about the only thing that falls in the $5-$6 range.

I'm also quite cheap, it's so nice to know there's a kindred spirit out there. I do splurge sometimes, and when I do, it's completely random and unplanned. But usually, I'm watching my money like a hawk. For example, my bf is notorious for buying rounds of drinks/shots for everyone. To me, that's just insane. All that for a bunch of alcohol you're not even drinking?! I guess I don't love my friends as much as he does :-)

Athena Valentine said...

I like to brown bag because its so more convient when I'm rushing to school, then rushing to work after. My problem was I'm not very committed to it. If my friends call me and say "Hey, let's go grab a bite! I will scimper on over. But it's all about self control. I'm thinking I might steal your idea Jess and try to brown bag four outta five days. Oooo, you should start a challenge with your readers!

Princess Pointful said...

I need to do a better job at bringing lunch, honestly. I think I fail because my work often bleeds into the evening, and I eventually need to put everything away-- including planning for the next day. And, so, it is sushi again.

Ann-Marie said...

Hey, there - I found you via Apron Strings. I have become a brown-bagger to the point where I don't even allow myself a weekly lunch outing. I go out twice a month at the most. I love PB&J, too, but my lunch of choice is always tuna fish with Wheat Thins, a cheese stick, and water. Then I treat myself to a small portion of chocolate as my dessert. I wonder if this will change during my unemployment . . . probably not.

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