Fast food restaurants, neighborhood cafes and supermarket salad bars are continuing to show declining numbers of customers during lunchtime hours as more and more workers opt to brown-bag their lunch. This isn’t good news for the food industry, but it has become a necessity for many who are being hit hard by the current recession.
Bringing a lunch started before the turn of the century when workers who lived too far away to go home for a midday meal would bring something to eat to their jobs. Some of us, if we’re old enough, might recall the black, metal lunch buckets carried by blue-collar workers as they headed off to the factories, mills, mines and construction sites. (Those metal lunch boxes, by the way, are now collector’s items, commanding big bucks at antique malls.) Today’s lunches are carried in fashionable, color coordinated, insulated coolers.
There are many good reasons to pack your own lunch, the first one being financial. Bringing lunch to the office can conservatively save between $700 and $1,000 a year ” more, if you were frequenting higher priced eateries. Check out this brown bag calculator.
So why else should you consider ditching your favorite lunchtime hangout and opt for the brown bag alternative? We already determined it would save money. Here are eight additional reasons to become part of the brown bag revolution.
¢ It’s easy. Putting your lunch together the night before takes very little time. Make sure it includes a protein, some fruits or vegetables (or both) and a drink. (Water is ideal.) We’ll explore some brown bag suggestions another time.
¢ It saves time. Driving to a restaurant takes time, especially if you live in an area where parking is at a premium. So does waiting for your food to be prepared. It’s much more efficient to bring a lunch and eat in a break room, outside (in nice weather) or at your desk.
¢ It saves gas. Who wants to waste gas driving to and from a restaurant, especially when gas prices are on the rise?
¢ It’s healthy. Bringing your own lunch puts you in charge of portion control, as well as the amount of fat and calories you consume. You can make healthier choices when you pack your own lunch.
¢ You can choose your snacks. Instead of running to the vending machine for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nibble, pack healthy snacks, such as string cheese, nuts, fruit, yogurt or crackers.
¢ It promotes camaraderie. If everyone in the office brings his or her lunch, it helps equalize the corporate organization chart. Everyone has lunch in common. Talking about your food is always a good way to get to know other folks.
¢ It uses up leftovers. Dinner leftovers make great next-day lunches. Just pop them in a microwavable container and you’ll be eating like a king (or queen).
¢ It helps the environment. Bringing a reusable lunch bag with washable containers keeps restaurant food packaging out of the landfills.
Eating lunch in the office may also give you some extra time to take a walk and get some fresh air and exercise, helping invigorate you for the rest of the afternoon.
A 2008 study by the NDP Group, a New York based research organization, found that 8.5 billion Americans carried lunch to work, with more than half of them eating at their desk or workstation. If you’re eating lunch by the light of your flat panel screen, you’re not alone.
So if you’re looking to save some time and money, eat healthier, control your portions, use up your leftovers and help the environment, become part of the revolution and start brown bagging your lunch. I joined long ago. What about you?