Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fear of (Lunch) Commitment

It's day two of VeganMoFo, and we're talking about our commitment issues.

It's hard for some people to commit to packing lunch. Some people aren't cooks. Some people aren't planners. And some of us are just lazy. Not to mention that in many places, there's delicious food around every corner just beckoning us to buy it. "Come on," these foods beg. "You can sleep in an extra 15 minutes and you won't have to do any dishes. Besides, we're french fries. You love french fries."

There are good reasons to pack your lunch. You probably already know them. Done right, it's cheaper and healthier. There's less waste, and you know exactly what you're eating.

So how can you learn to love lunch again?

1. Vary what you eat. When I was a high school freshman, I ate cheese pizza for lunch every school day. Then I refused to eat pizza for two years. Lesson learned. It's boring to eat the same thing day in and day out.
2. Make it special. Though a peanut butter and jelly sandwich may be tasty, it can be boring. An almond butter and mayhaw jelly sandwich is exciting. Exciting helps you resist going out for french fries or getting oreos from the vending machine. Special can also mean using your favorite lunchbox or napkin or the silverware your grandmother gave you.
3. Plan. At least a little bit. Keeping lunch staples around (and saving them for lunchtime only) keeps morning prep to a minimum. Even better, pack your lunch the night before.
4. Have a back-up plan. Humans forget things sometimes. It's bound to happen. Have a plan for days when there's nothing in the house to pack or you leave your lunch at home.
5. Pack substantial lunches. Try to pack a few things from different categories. Some possible categories are: protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, fruit, nuts, goodies, hot, cold, room temperature, crunchy, creamy, salty, sweet, spicy, green, red, yellow. For me, having variety is what makes food feel like a meal rather than a snack. Sometimes this means a soup of beans and greens and piece of fruit (categories: hot, cold, salty, sweet, protein, vegetable, fruits, blue, green). Sometimes it's a smorgasbord of leftovers. Besides being more substantial, variety in your meals means you're more likely to hit all the nutritional bases.
6. Be social. If your coworkers keep dragging you off to lunch, find other ways to spend time with them. Start a lunch swap. Organize a bring-your-lunch-to-work day. Meet up after work.
7. Or don't. Your coworkers are jerks? Getting out of the office doesn't have to involve food. Put on a pair of headphones, head out for a walk, find a place to eat outdoors, or read a book.
8. Keep yourself accountable. Make a lunch date with a coworker or friend. Keep track of how much money you're saving or the number of healthy non-fast food meals you're eating. Offer to cook for officemates occasionally as vegan outreach.
9. Reward yourself. Have a piece of chocolate or a great cup of tea after lunch. Or let yourself eat out occasionally.
10. Know your limitations. And work with them. If your idea of cooking is opening a jar of spaghetti sauce or microwaving an Amy's meal, don't plan to cook huge amounts of leftovers or bulk meals. It probably won't happen. And if you are a perfectionist, don't let that get in the way of packing your lunch. Meeting some of your goals is better than giving up and meeting none of them. Balance your expectations with your abilities.


Chile said...

The thing that works the best for us is for me to make too much dinner. Luckily I do this naturally as I seem to like cooking a lot of food rather than just a little. When I pack up the leftovers, I pack the lunch container first and then put the rest in another container. If there's enough for me to eat lunch at home the next day, that's fine. If not, I can scrounge around the kitchen while hubby has his lunch all set for work.

His back-up plan is rice. He loves rice and it's easy to start the rice cooker while he's getting ready in the AM. There are always open sauces in the fridge so he can top it with BBQ sauce, salsa, or leftover cooked vegs. (Today it was Asian stir-fried radishes.)

The back-up plan to the back-up plan is potatoes. I often have potatoes or sweet potatoes around. He's got a microwave at work and can cook them there if need be.

Sadly, I am the one more likely to go get something out than him and I'm not even employed!

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

Oh I know a thing or two about variation. In high school, if I wasn't eating fries I was eating salad. Brr. These are some great tips!

mollyjade said...

Chile, I love the idea of a potato as a back-up plan. There's no way I could get myself out of bed early enough to cook a pot of rice in the rice cooker, but I often cook up a batch on the weekend and freeze it in individual portion sizes.

Mo, sophomore year it was a chik-fil-a sandwich every day! My lunches really improved once I stopped eating at school.

Anonymous said...

I'm generally very good about packing a lunch but lately I've been failing. My best weeks are when I manage to make a whole bunch of soup on Sunday nights and I can bring multiple servings to work and leave them in the fridge. I'm also a terrible planner which makes it hard to remember to inject some variety.

panda with cookie said...

My back up plan is a peanut butter sandwich and an apple. I almost always have the components for that on hand. And since it is never a regular lunch it is almost like a treat for me.

Andrea said...

I love your lunch-packing ideas. I always used to bring lunch to work. Usually it involved leftover dinner plus fruit, raw veggies and some other interesting treat. It was so much better and more economical than restaurant food. Plus all my office mates were carnivores and only went to places I liked on special occasions, just for me.

Laura Jill said...

Great tips, Molly! I currently work from home, so I can whip up whatever I like for lunch, at whatever time I want to, but I'll definitely keep these in mind if I ever have a job where I have to actually leave the house again, LOL.


Kip said...

I always have great intentions of using last night's leftovers for today's lunch... but then I eat it for breakfast instead and am still starving by lunch! Luckily I work from home, but still, some good ideas (I totally want to try an almond butter sandiwich)!

Anonymous said...

My desk is filled almost entirely with food, but it still really hard to resist Conscious Cravings up the road!

mollyjade said...

Lazysmurf, those were the exact french fries I was thinking of. We should meet for lunch one day. (I just blew all my lunch-packing cred.)

VeggieAmanda said...

Great tips! I pack my lunch every day. Once you get in the habit, it is easy to maintain, cheaper, and more healthy! :-)

Anonymous said...

I would love to meet for lunch, send me an email anytime :)

Evelyn said...

French fries are my kryptonite. Luckily the ones in the student center are usually cold and limp, so when I do break down, they're never as good as they could be, which keeps me from doing it too much. But they just started selling tofu Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch at the grad student pub. They also sell my favorite kind of potato chip. It's dangerous.