How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
My lunches at work are eclectic at best. I swing wildly between telling myself I need to scrimp, spending a week eating packets of dried noodles with some kind of protein accompaniment and drinking only water, and then getting bored of saving, thinking FUCK THAT NOISE and treating myself to three days of extravagant deli meats and big, juicy queen olives that cost more than most things in my handbag. I do try to be resourceful, buying bagels and meats to make my own sandwiches and juice to take in to the office in flasks. I have pretty floral lunchboxes to take leftovers in with, and spare packets of Fruit Gums for those afternoon cravings. But something happens as soon as I step foot into the office. Anything I bring in with me instantly loses its lustre, its allure. I don't want that bagel I made in the morning, I want something else. My lunch bought from home is now boring and old and unexciting. If I've brought in chicken, I want ham. If I've bought in ham, I want chicken. Suddenly I don't want a cold lunch, I want a hot meal. I'm a fucking nightmare.Shit is getting real though, with a ton of expensive events coming up -- weddings and hen parties to scratch the surface -- and I need to start taking more responsibility for my money and where it is going. A study by office search firm, Officebroker.com, found the typical worker spends £7.81 ($11.85) a day on their lunch, drinks and other work-time snacks -- as opposed to a mere £1.50 a day if they bring in their own packed lunch. So in the name of research, I logged my lunches for this week to see how much I was spending, and what else I could have bought with the money. I need to add a caveat here that I don't actually have that much money, that what looks excessive to you is also excessive to me, and it's money I really don't have. In short, I am an idiot.Monday 25th Feb:I start the week off to a sort-of good start, by buying 3 packets of Supernoodles at the shop at lunch, and 4 tins of tuna, which I plan to eke out for the next three days. I microwave the "BBQ Beef noodles and stir in half a tin of tuna, until it resembles some kind of hellish cat-food disaster. It stinks. I chow down regardless, thinking of all the lovely money I've saved. I supplement this with a bag of Fruitellas and a bottle of Vitamin Water, because normal water is just a bit too boring for lunchtime, you know?Lunch cost: £3.53. BARGAIN!Tuesday 26th Feb:I wake up today feeling full of the joys of spring, and with the new medication I'm on coursing through my veins I spend the morning feeling EXTREMELY HAPPY and looking forward to a new, bright future. This happiness manifests itself by me taking a stroll into town at lunch where I accidentally buy a M&S Miso Chicken Yaki Udon lunch bowl, a bag of Beef Jerky, a bottle of Diet Coke, a bag of strawberry laces for my colleagues and an apple, which I can't even eat because it will give me stomach cramps. But I bought it anyway, because I felt like I should. Lunch cost:£7.88. Must do better tomorrow.Wednesday 27th Feb:I have leftover risotto in my lunchbox today, which I made last night and was actually ridiculously good. I don't want to blow my own horn or anything, but TOOT TOOT. It's an asparagus, feta and lemon concoction, all oozy goodness. So obviously, as soon as I get to work, I don't want it any more. I had it last night! I take a walk into town at lunch and somehow end up in KFC. Before I even know what's happening, I've ordered a dipping strips box meal with a side of gravy and popcorn chicken. I sit, on auto pilot and consume the lot in the restaurant on my own, while they play Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill album. I just about think I've got away with it, that no one saw me, until I look up and see that I've sat next to my ex-boyfriend's best friend who then instigates a "stop and chat" while I pray to whatever is up there that I don't have gravy on my chin.Lunch cost:About £5.50, I think. I don't really remember paying. It's all a deep-fried blur.Thursday 28th Feb:This morning is the most exciting of all mornings -- PAYDAY! I usually have a bowl of cereal with soya milk in the morning before I leave for work, but we've run out of Crunchy Nut (how do they make it so delicious?) so I leave with an empty belly. By the time I get off the train, I am starving hungry and HAVE to pop into the shop by the office for a bacon roll. The problem is, I don't have any cash, and you need to spend over £4 on your card to be able to use it, so I leave with a bacon sandwich, a Diet Coke and a "Folkington's Cloudy Apple Juice" which I am assured is from apples grown in Sussex and Kent! It should be, for £1.50! Because of this un-budgeted breakfast stop, I force myself at lunch to eat a packet of the noodles I bought at the beginning of the week, with the rest of the tin of tuna I opened on Monday. Depressing. Lunch cost: £5.74. Four days of lunch total: £22.65. This is a disgusting amount of money for four days of lunches, when I have perfectly good ingredients at home. I feel dirty and ashamed. The thing is, that every week probably plays out the same. A couple of days of budget noodles, interspersed with accidental morning pit-stops and purse-bashing organic juices. So with an average spend of £5.66 a day, I am spending £113 A MONTH on work lunches. For the price of my monthly extravagant lunches, I could (If not using the cash to do important stuff like pay bills etc etc):
- Almost pay for the whole tasting menu at the Fat Duck restaurant.
- Buy all of the Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille range.
- Nearly pay for the dress I really wanted to buy for my friend's wedding but told myself it was WAY too expensive.
- Get some decent highlights rather than just going to the cheapest place I can find every time.
- Get tickets to see The Book of Mormon AND go and see Tame Impala when they play in London.
How much do YOU spend on lunch? Are you like me, and feel like you have to have an new and exciting lunch every day, much to the detriment of your bank account? Got any tips for not getting bored of taking in lunch every day?Hiding my bank statements on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM