Technology Solutions for Everyday Folks
Winnie the Pooh prepares to eat

What's In Your Lunch Bag?

Many of those I work and associate closely with know that I'm pretty often a routine machine. I'll be writing more about the various things I've turned into simple routines, automatic processes, and so forth.

Today it's all about the lunch. For me, it's a form of "taco salad," braeburn apple, and water which I've been consuming most days of the work week for the last sixteen years or so. It's become so much of a routine for me that on days when I don't have a taco salad along...folks notice (and comment). While I'm totally used to the good-natured ribbing of my lunch companions about my mundane choices, things really take a turn when I bring something different, especially if it's something different more than one day in a row.

So a while back via LinkedIn I discovered an article discussing the nature of folks like me it really struck home. In a good way.

It Solves the "What's For Lunch" Problem

For all these years, we make tacos on Sunday evening for supper, and I take the leftovers and split them equally into as many containers as are necessary based on my upcoming week's schedule. As I am most definitely the leftover-eater in our house, this solves a problem of actually consuming all of the prepared items...and helps with portion control. Interestingly enough, by the time the leftovers are spread out over the week, each individual serving is an appropriate size for each lunch.

It's Reasonably Healthy

My mix of taco salad ends up with a little of it all. Combined with a good-sized braeburn and water, there are certainly far worse ways to eat a lunch.

It's Compact, and Zero Waste

I reuse the same set of containers for the taco salad, and reuse/rotate a water bottle. Bring along a fork that goes in the dishwasher with the used container... The apple is easily carried, and I can often navigate the entire path with all of these items in one hand, which makes doors and such a moot point. The only "waste" in this meal is the remnants of the apple core and a couple of paper towels. On campus, those waste items are all compostable.

It's Cheap as Hell

The meat source for tacos comes from my folks' cattle operation, which is as close to zero cost (to me) as it gets. Though the taco meat is only one of many components, I've long calculated the overall cost of our Sunday taco operation to be in the $10-15 range, by the time beans, olives, tomato, sour cream, sauces, shells/tortillas, cilantro, cheese, and lettuce is added. We put a lot of stuff in our tacos.

$15 spread over four individual's meals is a good deal anyway: $3.75 each. But the actual spread is closer to nine meals through the average week: $1.66 each.

Add my apples, which I try to buy in larger quantities while on sale, which let's say each is $0.75 on average. Side note: at our local grocer, I always buy the individual apples over the pre-bagged apples...for two reasons:

  • I can choose the quality (at sale price, my quality threshold is lower); and
  • I prefer a larger-sized apple over the traditional bagged apples

This brings my overall lunch cost to jut shy of $2.50 for something reasonably healthy, assuming I'm paying the normal prices of the local grocery store. Frankly, however, I know my cost over the long haul is significantly lower due to how I try to work the sales cycles.

Aggregated over 15 years, assuming a five day a week lunch and four weeks' vacation/other options, and a "control" cost of a different lunch at $6.50/meal ($1,560 annually), that difference is $960. Nearly $1,000 cheaper than an "easy" or otherwise standard option.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the things I enjoy most about this lunch routine is the fact that I never have to think about it in the morning. Like many other components of my life, I prepare components of my day the night before/in advance. I have my lunch container and apple stacked neatly in the refrigerator, ready to grab. Coffee and breakfast are set out and ready to go (some of these are on timers). Clothes are set out at the ready.

Decision fatigue is totally a thing, and by minimizing the number of decisions I have to make or actions I need to take (about things that aren't important at all in the grand scheme, read: routine), I can more easily focus on the things that matter or which require real thought.

Defensive Lunch Calendaring

One other key component of my lunch routine: being fiercely defensive of the time.

I cannot stress this enough. Go somewhere else for lunch.

My lunch crew exists of a wide mix of folks. Backgrounds, experience, expertise, and so forth. We get together at a common location (part of the office complex in which I worked over a decade ago)...whoever happens to be around on a given day. Sometimes it's just one or two individuals; other times we've got a full table of eight.

This time is precious. The conversations are often only tangentially related to work topics. Everything is on the table. And it's one of the most refreshing parts of my day. Something I really look forward to every day, regardless of the type of day I'm having at work.

Headline image via Disney Fandom