I need to admit something: I’m terrible at lunches. I really don’t know why, but I struggle to put something together myself that I find satisfying and tasty while being fairly healthy. And I’d far rather go and buy lunch each day than make it myself, although even buying stuff I get muddled with what I like.
A pre-made supermarket sandwich? I find myself poring over nutritional information in an agonising choice over whether I should have something I will enjoy a bit or whether I should have something with more green circles on the front than red. And inevitably there is something a bit disappointing about a cold, lifeless sandwich or wrap.
A home-made sandwich? I am forever caught between how long it takes to make, how tasty it is, and how long it will hold together. Inevitably when I’m ambitious and include everything from tomatoes to olives the sandwich ends up a soggy mess. Or I make it quick and easy but then I end up not looking forward to lunch at all.
Eating out? The cost, and the likely lack of healthy options is the problem here. Plus, I have eyes that are bigger than my stomach, so if I go into a food place hungry I often end up ordering too much.
I can tell that the readers of this blog are getting their hashtags ready for a bit of #firstworldproblem accusation. And I am grateful that I live in a country where food isn’t scarce and there is enough wealth around that we can afford it. But what I’m really getting at here is the psychology of eating lunch.
As I’ve mentioned before, food to me is more than fuel – it’s enjoyment. And actually I like to eat a nice hearty lunch; it’s a great break in the day, and it’s good to get the brain away from a computer screen. And it’s a bit of a motivator too, to know that a nice lunch is coming up. And for me the biggest enemy is the lack of variety. If you’re going to be cost effective you need to buy things in reasonably large packs and then eat them every day. And I really struggle to do that; even a nice sandwich bores me quickly if I have it every day.
I recently concluded that the best compromise is Subway. The food is fresh, it’s fairly healthy (depending on what you choose, of course, but it’s possible to have a good, healthy sandwich there), and it’s not too expensive. In fact, recently I found out that it was pretty good value. Let me take you through my logic in that regard.
Note that the picture above does not match the lunch below! It’s just a picture of a lunch I made.
If I had a fairly basic sandwich, say a turkey breast and ham, and I wanted it to be really good (so I didn’t buy value brands for everything) here’s what it would cost (approximately):
- Jar of sliced olives 75p (enough for 2 weeks): £0.08
- Large soft sub: £0.35
- Roast turkey slices x2 (no added water): £1.00
- Ham slices x2 (no added water): £1.00
- Tin of sweetcorn 60p (enough for 1 week): £0.12
- Lettuce 50p (enough for 1 week): £0.10
- Cucumber 50p (enough for 1 week): £0.10
- Red onion £0.18 (enough for 1 week): £0.04
- Peppers £1.00 (enough for 1 week): £0.20
- Hellmann’s Chilli mayonnaise £1.29 (enough for 2 weeks): £0.13
- Crinkle cut gherkins £0.99 (enough for 2 weeks): £0.10
Total cost: £3.22 per sub.
Now, this isn’t particularly scientific, nor is it a definitive argument one way or another. For one, the sub described is certainly not the foot-long that you get at Subway, which would contain more slices of turkey/ham.
But it’s a reflection of the fact that when I buy the ingredients to make a sandwich, I’ve always had this inkling that it’s perhaps not quite the bargain I thought it was to make it at home. For one, the bread is certainly not freshly made, and the fact that I have to assemble the sandwich about 5 hours before I eat it means that it often ends up a bit more soggy than I would want. But I guess what it says to me is that maybe there is space for things like eating out, as long as you’re sensible in what you choose and the amount you eat.
And yet even Subway would become tedious if I ate the same thing day after day. So what is the answer? In my next post I’ll look at meals and lunch from a different cultural perspective, and come across a different solution, though not necessarily a cost-effective one.
In the mean time I’m interested in finding out what you eat for lunch and what influences your choice?