(originally posted 1/10/2016. libbysfitnutrition.com)
By Adrianna Calabro
What are the challenges that come with packing a lunch for a school or work day? For some, it may be the time and effort needed to create something they actually want to eat. For others, it can be the planning and organizing that overwhelms them. Let me first admit, I am not an exception to this rule. I often find myself “too tired” or “too lazy” to make something for tomorrow. However recently, being unemployed, I can no longer afford to eat out everyday, especially being a college student.
My name is Adrianna. I was born in New York and have come to the west coast to learn about nutrition. As a Cal Poly student graduating in the spring, these past few years in San Luis Obispo have been a great learning experience for me in relation to food and other things. Living on my own has been challenging but I promised myself I would not quit, pushing myself to not give up. Everyone has their own obstacles, and I understand that, but we must find ways around them, otherwise we will get stuck in a sticky rut.
Before I continue to ramble on, here are 5 tips I have that can make a difference on how you pack your lunch and snacks for your week!
1. The expense of eating out. Let’s say you spend at least $8.00 on lunch a day. If you buy lunch 5 times a week, that is $40.00 a week spent on lunch. In comparison, if you go grocery shopping every 2 weeks, and spend $80.00 per time, you will be able to buy all of your meals for the equivalent price of just buying lunch five days a week. If that doesn’t make sense to you, here is the math!
Every 2 weeks (14 days) = spend $80.00 on groceries = that would be...
80 x 26 (52/2=26) = $2080.00/year ( 52 weeks divided by 2 for every other week)
But at this rate, your getting breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and deserts – all your meals for 2 whole weeks
Buying lunch 5 days a week = spend $40.00 a week = that would be…
40 x 52 = $2080.00/year
But at this rate, you are only getting lunch! You will have to spend even more money on your other meals!
Essentially, you are getting more bang for your buck if you go grocery shopping and prepare a lunch in advance. Being prepared pays off.
2. Pick a day of the week that you will designate as your “food- prep” day! For some, Sundays are often nice to prepare meals because its close to the start of the week! Or choose the middle of the week, maybe Wednesday, if your work pattern is different! Try to go food shopping in the morning with a planned grocery list that includes fruits, vegetables, foods high in fiber while also avoiding sugary foods. Then, by mid afternoon, start cooking! Play some music, burn some incense, put on a movie, anything that will keep you calm and relaxed- it should be fun!
3. After you are done preparing everything, package into small containers or plastic baggies so that you are ready for the week. For example, if you like eggs, make a dozen hard boiled to leave in the refrigerator – this way, each morning you’ll have a snack you can grab quickly! Or if you like grapes, for example, rinse all of them, then separate into small bunches and place in the refrigerator. They will taste nice and fresh when you are ready to eat! Use Tupperware to avoid wasting too much plastic if possible or buy reusable Ziploc containers that you can find at any grocery store! Also, if you want to focus more on making meals, try some of these to make in “bulk”: fried rice, hot or cold pasta, quiches or salads (don’t add the dressing until your ready to eat it!).
4. If you work in an office, drive a car to school, or have a locker where you can store things, try buying a small sized cooler to leave your meals in so that they stay as fresh as possible.
5. Find a friend! If you think you might not be motivated, ask a friend to join you in your “food- prep” day and help keep each other motivated! You can share the food, as well as the cost and can make a whole Sunday out of it (maybe buy a bottle of wine or beer too! Just an option!)
I hope these tips are helpful. The new year often brings about resolutions and ideas that sometimes we don’t keep, but this is totally feasible and possible if you just set your mind to it! One more note, convenience foods and pre- packaged meals bought from the store often are higher in sodium in comparison to foods we make at home which can lead to issues like high blood pressure. So put some tender love and care into what you eat and the rewards will be numerous. Live to be mindful and life’s stresses may seem a little bit easier each day!
Libby is a Registered Dietitian focusing on student eating disorder treatment and prevention. She is working on the central coast to create wellness in individuals and the community.
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