If you work in an office environment like me, you know that there are two types of people:
Those who bring lunch from home
…and those who don’t
Please humor me and take a WILD guess which category that I usually fall into.
Here’s a hint: 99.99% of the time I’m the second person. I’m still adjusting to full-time employment (two years later *cough cough*) which requires adulting skills like preparing dinner the night before so I can bring leftovers or meal prepping — which is usually when I exercise the excuse that those are exclusively for “diets”.
Another culprit to this problem is that I just so happen to land jobs that are conveniently located between a handful of restaurants. And I don’t mean a small burger joint and a convenient mart, I mean 5-6 major fast-food chains, coffee, ice cream, sushi, and bars. In simpler terms, a perfect recipe for bank account destruction.
So you see my dilemma.
But sometimes — and I’m sure we can all admit that we’ve been there once or twice — we forget to pack our lunch…and things are kinda lean at the bank.
So you’re left with only one option: You fill up your little mug and sip on your hot coffee all day long.
Hopefully, I’m not the only one that does this because that would just be downright embarrassing! But it happens to the best of us.
So what are some tips to avoid the coffee-for-lunch struggle?
1. Make enough dinner for leftovers
One of the easiest ways to have a lunch ready to go is to think ahead — prepare a handsome helping for dinner that will guarantee that you’ll have leftovers. Cooking for two? Make enough for three…or four. Consider your lunchtime appetite so you won’t come up short the next day.
2. Pack your leftovers right after dinner
Here’s a great life hack for remembering to bring your leftovers and one that will save you some time as you dash out the door the next morning. Once you wrap up dinner the evening before, put some aside right away. Before you wash the dishes or toss your dirty utensils in the dishwasher, put a nice portion aside and slip it into the fridge. See, that was easy.
3. Give yourself enough time to make a lunch before your drive to work
If you don’t want to put the food away the night before, make sure that you give yourself enough time to do it in the morning. Nothing would be worse than having enough leftovers to bring with you but not having the time to bring them because you’re running late. Dare I say this but set your alarm about 5-10 minutes earlier each day so you don’t forget. Trust me, your wallet will thank you later.
This is also a great time to make a lunch from scratch if you have a taste for something different.
4. Go on a cooking spree over the weekend
If you still don’t like that idea and you’d rather plan a little further ahead, cook a few staple items over the weekend. Get an idea of what you’d like to eat and make some room in your fridge. It’s a great way to make use of some of your items that may be expiring soon or you haven’t had the chance to eat since your last trip to the grocery store.
For all of you meal-preppers out there, this one is perfect for you!
5. Stock up on snacks for your desk
Now that you’ve taken care of what you’ll be eating on your lunch break, think about the other times of day where your stomach may be growling. I have no shame in admitting that I LOVE to have snacks and nibble on things throughout the day.
Add a few extra items to your grocery list and think about the ones that you can buy in bulk or in packages — that way you can have a few to last you a little longer. Move those pens and paperclips out of the way and make room for a snack drawer! (Soon to be your favorite part of your desk).
Pro-tip: Don’t tell your friends about this little treasure chest of goodies. Trust me…or don’t. Just don’t be sad if your fruit snacks and chips go missing!
6. Buy a trendy lunch box or bag
I know, I know. This sounds like you’re making a trip back to the second grade but this is a really good tip that I learned when I first started working full-time. Get a lunch box or a cute bag to put all of your food in. It will help you stay organized, clearly differentiate in your fridge, and keep your food as fresh as possible!
Try to find something that will either fit nicely in your bag or purse or something with a handle that you can carry on your way into the office. Pro-tip: The more that this box/bag fits your personality, the more that it will distract you from the realization that you’re an adult carrying a lunchbox…
And while you’re at it, pick up some extra Tupperware and containers to store all of your food in. Ziploc bags are an inexpensive way to store some of your leftovers that will save mula and space in your bag. But if you’re a hard-core pasta lover like me, you may want to cover your bases and have a few sturdy containers on hand!
Just imagine how messy that would be in a baggie…yikes.
7. Set a budget for going out to eat
If you’re still not sold on the lunchbox idea or packing ahead, create a budget for going out for lunch. You can do this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on your pay schedule. This way, you can hold yourself accountable for your lunch spending and actually have some self-control.
Pro-tip: If you don’t mind carrying some loose change on you, having your budget in cash is a clever way to visualize your goal. Seeing a couple of bucks in your wallet is an in-your-face reminder of your progress or your leftover balance — thus saving you the embarrassment of your card declining (uh oh) or having to settle for coffee for lunch!
Have you tried any of these lunch hacks? If you haven’t or have some cool tricks of your own, let me know in the comments!