Out to Lunch

By Mary McCune

Mary McCune
Mary McCune

I can’t tell you how many times I have been working at my computer, glance at my clock, and realize it is already 2:30pm. Then, I start to put the pieces together: my head hurts and I’ve been experiencing hunger pains for the last 90 minutes. At least.

To remedy the situation, I then shuffle to one of the three cafes within walking distance from me on Capitol Mall and order the same sandwich and coffee. Once back at my desk, I continue to nibble on my food for the next hour while catching up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. This dismal reality is sadly a commonplace occurrence for many of us who work “at the office”; we sit in front of our computer all day long, ignoring our body and our needs, and we are grumpier for it!

Determined to break the routine, or at least create a new one, I decided to bring my lunch to work every day for a month. My goals were three-fold: I wanted to eat healthier, shop smarter at the grocery store, and spend my lunch hour more efficiently. I knew there had to be a better use of my time than scrolling through subreddits for an hour every day. Here are some of the things that happened to me:

1)My wallet got thicker. I saved about $200 by completely eliminating café lunches and mid-day snacks from my budget. My jaw dropped when I discovered how much I spent each month on sandwiches, pick-me-up cookies, and the occasional Oishii bento box.What’s the math on this? Well, your savings will obviously vary depending on your current spending habits, but, it is easy to see that I was a little too spend-happy. An average weekday’s worth of transactions on my bank statement included: Morning coffee: $2.50

  • Lunch (depending on the lunch…): $5.50-$12.50
  • Mid-afternoon snack once I “hit my wall”: $2.00

TOTAL: about $12/day, averaging $50/week (I am not going to focus on the amount I have spent on lunch (and “day food”) in the past, since that is too depressing…but it is nice checking my bank account and finding my balance slightly higher than I am used to!)

2)I got smaller. Not tremendously, but I did lose about 5 pounds without making any changes to my exercise schedule (or lack thereof). It’s amazing what happens to your body sans the daily cookie!

3)I gained some culinary self-confidence. Contrary to popular belief, I am actually somewhat of a novice in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cooking. My passion lies within the realm of sugary sweets and baked goods. So learning how to effectively chop onions without crying, sauté garlic without burning it, or heat oil without it blinding me, were all huge feats in my book.

4)My productivity went up. I was no longer “hitting a wall” in the afternoon. Forcing myself to get up from my desk and physically leave my office forced my brain to switch gears, and come back to my projects feeling refreshed. Even if this meant that I bring my personal laptop to a nearby coffee shop for an hour. I became more productive on my passion projects, such as writing blog posts like the one you are reading RIGHT NOW!

5)I became happier. This isn’t to say I was unhappy, but I did notice I had an extra spring in my step after even a couple of days into my experiment. I became excited for lunch for a variety of reasons: I wanted to taste test a new recipe. I wanted to continue working on various personal side projects. I wanted to continue reading a new book I picked up. I wanted to finish listening to a podcast I started during my morning commute. I discovered that perusing the internet on my lunch hour did not bring me as much happiness as these other activities.

I encourage you to reevaluate how (and when) you spend your lunch hour! As you can see, normalizing the time I take a lunch break, what I ate, and the activities I focused on made a big impact in the rest of my life. If you need some help getting started, check out my Lunch + Dinner Pinterest Board,I am always adding new dishes to it! At the end of the day (or lunch hour, in this case), it is important to take the time to take care of yourself; being more thoughtful about how you spend even an hour of your day can truly have a ripple effect.

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