Food Battle Royale: Packing Lunch vs. Going Out

SUMMARY POINTS

> Going out to lunch is more fun and convenient but it’s expensive
> Packing lunch saves a lot of $$$ and is healthier but requires effort
> Take a balanced approach by alternating days to get the best of both worlds

Your Monday mornings are an absolute circus act, more so than any other weekday morning.

Heaven knows that there is no way you’re going to wake up early enough to coordinate the kids, make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, organize yourself, and then, after all that, make lunch for work.

You’re not a magician, that shit doesn’t just appear out of a hat.

You don’t have the time or energy right now. You’ll just go out for lunch today and pack lunch tomorrow.

Then, on Tuesday morning you say to yourself, “One more day of grabbing lunch won't hurt."

And, Wednesdays are always so tough being the middle of the week. You gotta go out for lunch on ‘Hump Day’, right?

Well, now it’s Wednesday night, you’ve just finished having spaghetti for dinner. It’s the simple-n-easy go-to-meal for the family.

It’s a staple meal. EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK.

However, the last thing you want is to bring that for lunch tomorrow. It’s not that spaghetti is bad by any means. It’s just that your week is already filled with enough repetitive monotonous activities.

The only thing you’ll be repeating daily is chocolate, wine, and you’re heavenly morning Coconut Latte.

Without that therapeutic morning concoction, you’d probably stab Kyle in the neck with his pencil that he constantly chews on.

Your wood murdering tendencies aren’t going to make the answers appear, Kyle!

So, just one more day won't hurt, right? Afterall, you’ve been working hard. So, you go out for lunch on Thursday too.

You then remember that Friday is Kristin’s birthday, but this is a special occasion so it doesn’t count. 

Before you know it, the week is over and you have survived without having to pack a single lunch.

BOOYAH!...Booyah?

You feel accomplished, yet you find there’s that nagging voice in the back of your mind that’s telling you that you shouldn’t be eating out so much.

You find yourself on Pinterest once again searching for the perfect lunch that’s easy, quick, delicious and looks good.

If only you had the time to make those cute mason jar lunches. They scream health consciousness and show such class. Beautifully designed to embody an art piece.

Or even a healthy rice paper chicken wrap with quinoa and amazing homemade peanut sauce.

But, what real working people have time to make that? Your life is way too hectic and busy for such luxuries. I mean, who wants to compromise sleep for food?

You’ve heard everyone say that bringing lunch to work will provide more time, save you money, and help you lose weight.

But, is it really worth it?

Let’s take a look by matching up these contenders in a battle royale.

The Match-Up: Packing Lunch vs. Going Out

This is the most talked about fight since Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa took on Apollo Creed. That match, much like this never-ending battle, lasted 15 whole rounds and both were still standing.

Crazy right?

We’re not the only ones to make this comparison either. There are a ton of other articles and blog posts on this very topic. And they all pretty much say the same thing - packing lunch is cheaper and healthier, end of story.

But, it’s not that cut-n-dry.

So, let’s break this fight down round by round on the key points. 

ROUND 1: Cost

This is the most important round of the fight. It’s hit us in the most sensitive of areas - our wallets.

Let’s use really simple math.

On average, workday lunches cost about $10 for a simple sandwich and drink. You really can’t do much cheaper than that unless you’re willing to eat a Costco hot dog and suffer the consequences of it all afternoon.

$10 per day x 5 days a week x 50 weeks (2 weeks off for vacation) = $2,500 per year

$2,500 is no small amount to sneeze at...that’s a nice vacation, right there.

Now, let’s calculate packing lunch.

Again, real simple math.

If you’re not grocery shopping at Whole Foods Paychecks then, you can buy a week’s worth of deli meats, a loaf of bread and some fruit for about $20. This is about the cheapest way to do it.

$20 per week x 50 weeks = $1,000 per year

That’s much more reasonable. It’s 2.5 times less expensive than buying lunch every day.

The winner of this round is clear.

Packing Lunch: 1 Going Out: 0

ROUND 2: Convenience

How nice is it that you can have someone cook your food for you, just how you like it but fancier?

Foot-long or six-inch?
Regular or toasted?
With or without cheese?

Ahhh, the luxuries.

Hand over some cash or swipe your credit card and tahdah! Food is served immediately with no dishes to clean or mess to wipe up except, for what’s on your face.

With your hectic life and busy schedules, this kind of convenience is so very appealing. It’s hard to find the time to meal prep. We get it.

Having quick, easy, and delicious meals at your fingertips is why this round is definitely won by ‘going out for lunch’.

Round 2 is over quickly and we’re now tied.

Packing Lunch: 1 Going Out: 1

ROUND 3: Variety

Considering how busy you are day in and day out, we understand the tendency to fall back on the all too familiar family dinners, like the spaghetti and Taco Tuesdays.

Not to mention the kids are picky as all hell! If they could, they’d probably eat alternating chicken strips and mac and cheese for the rest of their adolescent lives if they could.

Oh, if they only knew what life was like before Lunchables.

VIDEO: Kids Try 100 Years of Brown Bag Lunches from 1900 to 2000
YOUTUBE: Bon Appetit
LENGTH: 3:30

Summary points:
- Spam is recognized across generations 
- Kids are picky as hell with food
- Junk food always pleases

Let’s be honest. Eating leftovers from the previous night’s dinner just isn’t appealing for most us and we’re guessing that you feel the same way too.

Plus, you’re a workaholic and going out for lunch does get you out of the office for some much-needed change of scenery.

When it gets close to noon, we can pick to our stomach’s desire - bougie salad mix, a simple sandwich, burritos, sushi, noodles, pizza, whatever. It’s all out there for the taking.

Pick what suits your ‘food mood’ for the day and off you go - that’s variety.

Once again, ‘going out to lunch’ is throwing some strong punches, breaking the tie and taking the lead.

Packing Lunch: 1 Going Out: 2

​​​ROUND 4: Fun

Do you have an amazing joke you’ve just been dying to tell your co-workers but you can’t because it’s not “office appropriate”?

Well, this is your time!!

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Mustache.

Mustache who?

I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later. Hahahahaha.

These lunch outings are more than just about eating. It’s where you can loosen up a bit and get some laughs in with your work friends.  Afterall, you’ve been working hard all morning and deserve some self-gratitude and fun.

Socializing is a great way to offset some stress. It’s cost-free feel-good sessions.

Going out for lunch with your coworkers is a key factor in social bonding and makes for a healthier work environment. Here, you’re given the opportunity to bond, banter, laugh and get to know each other on a deeper personal level.

If you can relive a funny moment at lunch, it definitely makes the rest of the day better even if it is incredibly hard to deal with.

Kyle ate three pencils this morning…his new secret nickname should be Woodchuck.

Having friends to go out with for lunch brightens your day a little and, almost, makes you want to go to work more.

Taking the lead another step further, we declare the winner of this round ‘going out’!

Packing Lunch: 1 Going Out: 3

ROUND 5: Health

Yes, it is true that bringing lunch is healthier because everyone tells us that.

But why?

Well, for one, most restaurants meals have too much trans fats, sodium, and sugars. All the right ingredients to make their meals so darn delicious!

Portion sizes are also a lot bigger and you know there is no way to stop yourself from ordering and eating ALL the heavenly salty fries. YUMMY!

When you bring your lunch to work, you’re not only in charge of your portions, but you can also choose exactly what you will have. That way there are no tempting desserts sneaking into your meal!

This is great for your waistline and definitely point worthy for ‘packing a lunch’, now closing the gap in this intense battle.

Packing Lunch: 2 Going Out: 3

So now let us take a look at the stats and see who won.

FINAL DECISION:

And the winner is, winning by only 1 round...EATING OUT!!!

What an unbelievable match! It was so incredibly close, but just like the Rocky and Apollo fight, there had to be a winner. 

At least this time around it was the one we were hoping for.

However, you know that the two rounds that ‘packing lunch’ won, money and health, are hugely important.

So there has to be some kind of compromise, right?

Well, yes there is!

The Goldilocks Solution

The Goldilocks principle, deriving from the children's story The Three Bears, gives us the concept of "just the right amount." 

As you know Goldilocks had to try 3 different kinds of porridge before she found the right one, which just so happened to be a combination of the first two. Not too hot and not too cold.

So, you know if Goldilocks can do it, so can you.

You can use some of the aspects from money and health, to fill the gaps that going out to lunch falls short on.

You, being the savvy individual you are, always love a good bargain. So, why not incorporate some of these “money saving tips” into your lunchtime routine?

- Splitting and sharing large portions
- Ordering lighter and cheaper ‘express meals’ to go
- Buying what’s on special and discounted
- Skipping the extras and loading up on the freebies
- Couponing and completing surveys for free food
- Applying credit card rebates
- Using gift cards

Eating (More Cheaply) At Your Favorite Places And Others

We’re all creatures of habit in so many things in life. Eating is no different. We all have our favorite foods and more specifically, our favorite lunch places during the week.

Explore ways to eat at your fav lunch spots for less money.

Then, when you get bored of that, try and find some new lunch spots that blend a few money saving and healthy eating tips from above.

It may sound hard at first, but don’t fret, it’s easier than it appears. You probably know a few already, just from time and experience.

If there happens to be a restaurant you like that offers large portions, you and a co-worker can go and share the meal. If you’re still hungry, you can split an appetizer as well.

Or, if you happen to be by yourself, you can ask for a to-go box when your meal arrives. This allows you to save half for tomorrow or for your significant other’s lunch.

Don't forget to take advantage of the specials that the restaurant is offering. Is it your birthday? How about your anniversary? Let your server know about these things. Usually, you get a discount, free dessert or drink, but sometimes, they even splurge on a free meal for your special occasion.

Alternatively, you can find some places that offer smaller lunch portions, have more salad variety and strive for a healthier overall menu, which will also allow you to still achieve your New Year's Resolution.

Take A Close Look At Your Order

First off, as tempting as it is, skip the extras! Have you ever been talked into that delicious sounding appetizer or caramel chocolate explosion cake by the server?

Oh man, who hasn’t?! Damn, they’re good.

Sadly, these desserts are taking away from your wallet and adding to your thighs-n-gut. Not a great trade-off.

Another few tips we love are ordering your dressing on the side and avoiding sugary drinks. These are small changes, that make big impacts on your overall health and savings account.

And instead of ordering your morning latte, try a regular coffee with nonfat coconut milk and some honey. It’s pretty much the same thing except it's quite a bit cheaper and has fewer calories. Win-win.

Pay Wisely

It’s time to get with the coupon program. And, we’re not talking about clipping coupons from the Sunday paper like grandma did. It’s a digital world folks.

There are lots of amazing sites that offer online deals, such as Groupon, Yelp, FourSquare, GrubHub and others that will provide discounts or little freebies. A small tweet, check-in or social post can get you some extra munchies.

Some restaurants use surveys as well, offering discounts in return for helping them out. So, don’t hesitate to check out your favorite places online.

Or, try going on a gift card exchange site like Cardpool and take advantage of people selling their cards at discounted rates. You may even be able to find one for your number one fav lunch hotspot. It’s a great way to get more “dining dollars” without spending more.

Always keep an open mind and search around for the best bang for your buck.

Try and combine some of these money-saving tips with a cash back credit card, and you may be able to get a couple free meals a month, if not more.

So, knowing that eating out and bringing lunch both have numerous benefits, you want to combine these two to the best of your ability with the amazing Goldilocks Ratio!

That is right! You don’t have to choose!

The Best Of Both - Packing Lunch AND Going Out 

This incredible double-whammy of alternating days between eating out and bringing lunch to work, will not only save you some money but will also let you truly enjoy yourself outside the office as well.

Turns out, this is consistent with how most of us are already eating lunch according to this study by Visa. So you know you’re not alone.

You can alternate days to allow yourself some variety in your working life.

Try packing lunch Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and going out for lunch on Tuesday and Thursday.

If you find yourself in a rut, and you just don’t have the time to pre-make lunch, grab a prepared salad or lunch kit from the grocery store. These are inexpensive and healthy!

The key is to do this for more than just one week.

To see any real meaningful benefit, you need to stick to it for a month. Setting small goals helps you achieve bigger ones in the long run.

VIDEO: Try something new for 30 days
YOUTUBE: TED
LENGTH: 3:20

Summary points:
> 30 days is the right amount of time to add/subtract habits
> Make small sustainable changes that you can keep doing
> Make time more memorable
> Your self-confidence skyrockets

To make the first month easy for yourself, start with a 2:3 ratio of 2 packed lunches (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and 3 eating out lunches (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). 

Then the following month, flip it around to a 3:2 ratio and if things are really working out well, you just might be able to have a 4:1 ratio, pack lunch Monday through Thursday and leave Fridays as your fun food day.

Use the tips above, like hunting for coupons to make dining out cheaper.

Buddy-up with your work BFF too and make it even more fun.

Keep on Pinteresting all your favorite easy to pack lunches or dinner to lunch ideas.

And at the end of the work week, go on a nice date or treat yourself to a snazzy new lunch box. Brown bags are so last decade!

You can do this!

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]