Week 4: That’s a Wrap
On my fourth try, I finally did it: a full five days of bringing my lunch to work. It was the perfect week for it, too—a slew of deadlines kept me from leaving the office, and having lunch in the office fridge helped ensure I had enough energy to stay on my game all day.
Planning ahead has gotten much easier over the course of the last month. I’ve changed my grocery shopping day to Monday and am figuring out a better balance for my meals so they keep me fuller longer into the afternoon. Packing my lunch the night before has also made the process easier and less stressful.
When I started this challenge, I was afraid it would be all frozen dinners and leftover pizza. While pizza is still a staple in my diet (and probably will be forever), I was surprised at how easy it was to plan five meals a week without including a single frozen dinner.
Here’s what I had this week:
Monday: Leftover pizza
Tuesday: Rotisserie chicken wraps with mixed greens and Asian sesame dressing
Wednesday: Baked tilapia, steamed broccoli, and an apple
Thursday: Leftover ravioli casserole
Friday: Leftover ravioli casserole
This week’s lunches added up to about $20, or $4 per meal. This has stayed pretty consistent over the entire month. You can’t even get a fast-food combo meal for that price! Knowing the general cost of a home-packed lunch also gives me a good guide for eating out—if an $8-10 restaurant meal can be stretched over two days, the cost just about evens out.
Though I had a few missteps along the way, I’m happy to have made it (mostly) through the challenge.
My goals were to save money and eat healthier. Save money? You bet. At an average of $4 per brown-bag lunch compared to an average $8 per eat-out lunch, I saved about $80 this month. That’s enough to add premium TV with DVR back into our budget. (Shh, don’t tell my husband.)
As for eating healthier, I did a pretty good job. I don’t have an objective barometer, but I feel healthier and lighter on my feet. My weight hasn’t changed, but my clothes don’t pinch as tightly. The main difference has been the quality and types of food I’ve been eating. Overall, my lunches were fresher, more varied, and more balanced—including proteins, carbs and fibers—and less processed than the food I would have purchased.
But the biggest change this month was mental. Before this challenge, just thinking about packing a lunch made me groan. Now, it comes more naturally, and I’m usually thinking about tomorrow’s lunch as I clean up dinner.
Will I keep this up forever? I won’t make any promises, but I think four home-packed lunches per week and one built-in cheat day is a balance I can keep up for the long term.
Next up: Eating breakfast every day. But I think I’ll give myself a few months off before I start another challenge!
Angeline Evans is an avid consumer and creator of all things wordy and written. A former nonprofit communications manager and magazine editor, Evans is a freelance writer and communications consultant and blogger (The New Professional) based in Miami. She likes to make things (anything) and is currently on a mission to find the perfect french fry. Follow her adventures on Twitter @angelineevans.More from this Author