The average American worker spends nearly $3,000 per year on their mid-day meals. Not only could bringing your own lunch to work save you money, but it could also be a much healthier option. This goes for kids at school as well. I've seen school lunches. They're not pretty. I've also seen how kids react to them. They tend to eat the dessert first (often an icee cup full of nasty corn syrup and food dye) and trash the veggies (if they even get real veggies on their plates in the first place).
When you take your own lunch to work or send your kids to school with their own lunch, you are better able to control the ingredients. Who knows what exactly goes into fast-food and cafeteria lunches? Have you ever watched them make the rice at chipotle? It looks like they add a year's worth of sodium to just one batch of rice. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but still, there's an alarming amount of salt that goes into it.
School cafeterias are often not much better. Especially because pizza and french fries can be classified as vegetables. And like I said, I served my time on lunch duty and I know exactly what gets trashed with school lunches. Do you actually think your kids are eating those soggy, discolored green beans that are slopped onto their lunch trays? Nope!
Another reason to bring your own lunch is that it wastes less food. You can pack leftovers and know that they aren't going to waste. You can pack them in cute containers and then use a cute lunchbox, which itself is another reason to bring your own lunch. I had a Lisa Frank lunchbox in elementary school and I was super popular at lunch time because of it. Everyone wanted to sit with me because they thought the neon cats were the coolest thing ever. It had absolutely nothing to do with the extra Fruit-by-the-Foot roll up that my mom would pack for me and I'd give away to one lucky friend. For reference, this was in the early 90s. I still think Lisa Frank items are cute, but I no longer eat Fruit-by-the-Foot.
A big reason to bring your own lunch (and this is especially big if you're a teacher) is that it saves you time. You don't need to spend those precious lunch minutes in the Taco Bell drive through. Bring last night's taco salad leftovers for lunch instead, and then use the extra time you saved not having to go get your lunch for other things like checking your email, making copies (specifically speaking to teachers here, and you know what I'm talking about), or checking social media.
Sure, there are going to be people who comment about your lunch. I always got the same comment from my principal : "Oh, you're always eating so healthy!", on the rare occasion that she walked into the staff room during lunch with her bag of McDonald's dollar menu items or Venti Frappuccino.
Toward the middle of the school year (around January 1), everyone else was bringing their own healthy lunch to work. I was a trend-setter. They realized that bringing a lunch to work has many benefits: it saves you money, it's healthier, it prevents food waste, it saves you time, and you can pack it in a really cute lunchbox. So go ahead and start a trend in your office and bring your own lunch. Your good habit may just spark others to do the same.
As for kids and school lunches - I understand that a lot of children in America qualify for free or reduced lunch. In fact, nearly 75% of children in America are eligible to receive this. This is the main reason that parents choose to send their kids to school without their own lunch. And I get it. But if you can afford to buy your kid a cute lunchbox (my vote is still for Lisa Frank) and send them to school with healthier options, then consider doing so. It doesn't have to be complicated. Some easy ideas include deli meat and cheese roll ups and a side of veggies and fruit, salad, almond butter and jelly sandwiches (peanut butter is banned in a lot of public school lunch rooms across the country), or leftovers from the night before. Have your child help pack it and pick out what they want to eat.
Let me know if you have other work or school lunch ideas that have worked out well for you. I'd love to hear from you.