Monday, January 29, 2007

Lunch Quickies : The Problem

Weekday lunch and breakfasts may be one of the easiest places to start reforming budget, diet and waste habits for most of us. These two meals are often pretty consistent when it comes to time, place and who we eat with, and they are meals that don't tend to rack up a lot in emotional importance the way weekend meals and dinners can for so many.

Yet weekday meals cost us a lot in waste, in unrealized money and calories. Its so easy to grab a bagel or run out at lunch for a $5 meal. So cheap, it won't hurt. Yet lets do a little math here

The Cost
52 weeks per year, 5 week days = 260 -11 holidays, 10 vacation days = 239 days at work each year, not counting sick days when you are probably no overeating or going out anyway... right?

239 * $5 meal each day = $1195 that I could spend elsewhere, and to be honest living in NYC I'm usually going to spend a bit more than $5 on lunch out and if I added on breakfast, or goodness, a latte in the morning it would be pretty easy to spend $10 or more over what a 'brown bag' lunch would have cost me. $2600, if I freed up $2600 in my budget I'd be on my way to Prague this spring and from listening to coworkers plan where to get lunch or what to have delivered, I can easily believe that many people do indeed spend at least this amount each year.

The Waste
Lunch particularly is a wastefull meal. Even if you bring from home you are probably using single serve items, heavily packaged foods, ziplock baggies, etc. If you eat at a cafeteria there are those plastic containers for salads, plastic forks, the pile of napkins everyone takes. If you eat fastfood... I don't even need to say it.

According to it has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. Here are some more lunch waste facts:

I hardly believe that adults are any better, we are more hooked on convenience, mobile, unaccountable and simply eat more. I even have the impression that many people stay conscious about the health, expense and waste of their childs' meals while neglecting their own, but there is a lot that can be learned from childrens meals.

Does it even need to be said? We know already how most fast food meals are loaded with calories, fat, chemicals and etc. We know that skipping meals is also unhealthy, causing people to eat more and less consciously later, encouraging the metabolism to slow down. We know that even healthy restaurant meals can be loaded with a lot more that we think they are and that restaurants have warped our perception of portion sizes. Even that salad bar can be a bit problematic because it is so easy to overdo it on dressings and high calorie/fat items.

The problem is of course, the same one it always is: time, planning.

I'll look at making changes in the next post.

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