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Let's Do Lunch - How One Small Change Can Make a Big Impact

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save money and the planet bring your lunch to work

The war on waste has begun and everyone is expected to make sacrifices. Local governments, community groups, schools and businesses are all under pressure to ‘do more’ to ‘make less’ waste.

"Not so fantastic plastic" 

Many schools now have plastic free policies where kids have to bring lunches that have not been wrapped in anything (including those convenient little packets of food marketed to mums!), and cafes are being asked by their customers to stop with the plastic straws and cups.

The journey to zero waste might seem arduous and, the reality is, reducing waste to nothing is virtually impossible in our modern age. BUT it is possible to drastically reduce the waste you do produce just by making a small changes in your day to day activities. The best thing about these simple changes? They also save you money! Below is just ONE thing you can do to make a huge impact on your wallet and the world, and may even give your waistline a nudge in the right direction too.  

Bring your Own Lunch 

Work mornings are often fraught with not enough time to eat breakfast let alone make a packed lunch. If you have kids there are even more distractions and tasks to get done before heading out the door. But…if you can set aside just 10 minutes the night before to pack a healthy and tasty lunch you can get out the door in plenty of time to catch the bus or beat the peak hour traffic.  

The Benefits 

  • Its cheaper. Guaranteed. You will save money. The end. Anywhere between $25 and $50 a week.
  • It’s usually healthier. Takeaway options have certainly diversified over the past 10 years and greasy chips and soggy pies are not the only lunch options these days. There’s lots of fancy gourmet cafes offering delicious and healthy lunch options. But see the point above - they are expensive. So the most cost effective options are usually carb loaded and nutrient poor (that’s why they are affordable because carbs are cheap!). Bring a salad in a jar, or a smoothie in a bottle; pack left overs; whack in some fruit, a boiled egg, some carrot sticks and hummus. There are so many easy lunch box options that also pack a healthy punch. Weigh and measure yourself before you begin making your own lunch, wait a couple of month of being consistent and consciously packing wholesome meals and then weigh and measure yourself again. Notice anything?
  • Less single use disposable waste. Good bye paper napkin, plastic fork, paper bag to hold purchased lunch, cup or bottle to hold purchased drink, plastic straw for purchased drink, plastic wrap to encase lunch, paper receipt from purchasing lunch….A lunch box will eliminate most wrapping requirements, though some may still be inclined to use cling wrap - but don’t! Try not wrapping it at all. Get a lunch box that keeps things snug, so your tasty sandwich or wrap doesn’t fall apart (there are lots of metal bento boxes on the market now with cute little compartments for all your snacky mc snack snacks). Or try using a piece of aluminium foil to wrap your lunch (and then, wash it and use it the next day, and over and over and over until it’s done its dash, then scrunch up and pop into your recycling), or use one of those fancy bees wax wraps (they’re the bees knees).
  • You have more time to relax! Actually! No waiting in line, no rushing to beat the crowds at the cafe, just pick up your lunch box and meander down the street to a shady spot near something green. Breathe in the fresh air, avoid some screen time (leave your phone in the office if you can) and enjoy your wholesome meal. Sitting quietly outdoors will improve your digestion, improve your concentration when you are back into the office, and afford you with some much needed down time during your day. In today’s world of go go go, we need this time to switch off! You know how IT people always say to switch off a computer when things go wrong? And you roll your eyes and think, “What is the point of an IT degree when that is all they ever say?” and then it usually works? We are also a bit like computers and benefit from being switched off and then on again for maximum efficiency.
  • Less food waste. According to foodwise.com.au Aussies send 4 million tonnes of food to landfill each year. Estimated to be about $8 billion worth, food waste comprises of fresh food, leftovers, packaged and long-life products, drinks, frozen food and takeaways, with the average household bin holding 40% wasted food. If you make your lunch you are forced to actually use food in your fridge and pantry, meaning less stuff goes off, and you use up what needs to be used up. You’re using what you already have and getting better value for money from your grocery shop and avoiding tossing old food out.

How to make DIY easier

  • Keep a curated collection of condiments at your office (salt, pepper, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, olive oil, yeast flakes, balsamic vinegar etc) for quick dressings and flavour enhancements (perhaps hidden in your drawer so they don’t get depleted by your colleagues).
  • Ask your office to invest in a sandwich toaster. Because even the soggiest sanga tastes good once its been toasted.
  • Invest in a thermos so you can bring hot soups to work (and not have to decant it and use a microwave which can be messy and annoying).
  • Invest in a nice high quality lunch box or bento box you will enjoy using.  
  • Tap into the resources aleady at work.  Instead of buying sugary soft drinks to accompany your lunch, drink water from the office cooler (usually purified and icy cold and FREE).   Or keep a stash of flavoured herbal tea bags alongside your condiments and treat yourself to a cuppa at lunch.
  • Enjoy the monetary rewards as incentive.  Get yourself a jar and start to collect the amount you would usually have spent on lunch each day. Watch the jar fill up, and after a couple of months count it. Then spend it on something special or save it, or do half half. Totally up to you. :)

Happy lunching! 

Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.