Food

Why you should consider taking a Packed Lunch

Beetroot falafel with slaw, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and hummus.

I never ever used to take a packed lunch. I used to go to Greggs (a pasty shop) every single day. I’d get a flavourless cheese and ham baguette and some kind of sweet treat. When I moved so somewhere that didn’t have a Greggs, I started going to Subway. I became such a regular there that they would give me extra beef. At the time I thought that this was great, but looking back I cringe. The worst thing is that I thought that Subway was so healthy (in part due to clever marketing and the ‘Subway diet’) and chose to eat there over McDonalds due to it being lower in calories (note to my former self: just because something has salad in it, does not mean that it is low calorie). On the couple of occasions that I decided that I needed to ‘lose weight’, I would substitute my foot long for a six-inch sub and somehow thought that the pounds were going to fall off me. Needless to say they didn’t.

I started religiously taking a packed lunch to work four days a week when I was studying the Legal Practice Course part-time as well as working full-time hours. I only had 45 minutes for lunch and physically didn’t have time to go out and buy lunch and eat it (and luckily at this point it didn’t occur to me to eat at my desk due to the workplace culture at the time). I was so busy that I start food prepping before it became a thing and would make enough lunches for most of the week on a Sunday night. Normally it was a hot meal such as a vegetable tagine. I noticed at the time that I had excess funds at the end of the month, but rather than attributing it to lower food costs I thought that it was because I literally didn’t have time to do anything apart from work and study.

But taking a packed lunch isn’t just great from a money saving point of view (because trust me, sometimes I swear I spend more on food cooking and enjoying my foodie treats than it would buying food out), you also have more control over what you are eating. How often have you lost track of time, had to take a late lunch and then got to the shops to find nothing but soggy, calorific sandwiches left? I find that by planning what I’m having for lunch I eat something that is much more balanced and that gives me energy during the afternoon rather than horrible slumps about an hour after I have eaten. I’m also likely to eat something higher in protein, fibre and micronutrients than when I buy lunch.

My gorgeous bamboo lunch box was about Β£5 from Morrisons, other lunch boxes are available

I recommend getting a nice lunch box that you are proud to use but bog-standard Tupperware is fine too (but if you’re using plastic then please re-use until it falls apart). I also advise you to food prep! This is a life-saver! The chances of you having the energy and time to prepare lunch in advance every night are pretty slim but setting some time aside on a Sunday to make lunch until Wednesday is going to make taking packed lunches so much easier. I then tend to make lunch for Thursday and Friday on Wednesday night (partly because this is my rest day and I have more time, but mostly because I wouldn’t want to eat food after four days).

If you enjoy getting your food out then you don’t have to take a packed lunch everyday, but how about you try taking a packed lunch three days per week and eating out two days? You could then work down to just getting lunch out on Fridays like a lot of my colleagues do. Although if you’re like me once you are in the swing of it, you may prefer your own lunch prep than what you can buy locally!

Do you take a packed lunch? How does this compare to the food options in your local area?

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