The Surprising Work-Lunch Trick That Saved Me Tons of Money This Month

If you're not doing this, you should be.

Photo | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

Rittenhouse Square, my favorite no-sad-desk-lunch destination | Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia™

As many of you know, the lovely Emily Leaman, our Be Well Philly editor, had a (very, very cute) baby recently and was on maternity leave over the summer. This meant that I was running the show around these parts and, not going to lie, that was stressful. But it also meant I got to post up in my very own office with windows (okay, okay, Emily’s very own office, temporarily mine) all summer long and enjoy this beautiful thing called sunlight. That was wonderful.

So when Emily returned, which I couldn’t have been happier about, I moved my stuff back to my cubicle, located in the saddest, darkest corner of the office. And I kid you not, as I placed a pile of papers down on my desk, I started to tear up. It was just so … dark. And depressing. And when I ate my first lunch at my desk after returning to my old spot, it was without a doubt, the saddest desk lunch in the history of sad desk lunches. So I decided to stop eating there. On August 27th, I challenged myself to eat away from my desk every day for a full month.

My no-sad-desk-lunches-allowed month is now up, and I learned a lot: Getting on an office elevator with nothing but a piece of avocado toast in your hand will earn you many a weird stare, and there is no better midday relief than a people-watching session in Rittenhouse Square, to name just a few bits of wisdom I gained. But the biggest lesson in it was one I wasn’t expecting: Banning sad desk lunches was the easiest, most enjoyable way ever to boost my bank account balance.

You see, I usually try to get my life together on Sundays and make my lunches for the week, but sometimes I get lost in a Parenthood marathon/cry session and totally drop the ball. (It happens to the best of us, right?) And then, my solution? HipCityVeg, duh. Or Honeygrow. Or Di Bruno Bros. All options that all cost about $6 more per serving than a homemade quinoa salad with edamame and tofu. But during this no-sad-desk-lunches month, I didn’t have the time to wait in the out-the-door line at HipCityVeg and enjoy my lunch away from my desk, so I had to choose: A rushed lunch spent shoveling salad greens into my mouth or a homemade lunch, leisurely consumed on a picnic blanket in Rittenhouse Square. The decision was pretty easy. I ended up bringing my lunch to work all the time, no excuses, eating outside and saving boatloads of money. Who would’ve thought?

Throughout this month, I also ate with coworkers I’d never even had a full conversations with, was introduced to hidden city park gems (Hi, John F. Collins Park — you’re the best), and realized there is no easier work lunch than a good piece of avocado toast. And I never once thought to myself while eating, Man, this looks like a sad scene from a made-for-tv movie, which is often what I think when I’m hunched over my desk, inhaling a curry tofu wrap.

Taking the time to get up and not think about work for 30 minutes each day made me so much more happy and sane, and I can honestly say I will be making a habit of getting away from my desk for lunch every day now — and you should, too! If saving money doesn’t get you on board, there are plenty of other compelling reasons to ditch your desk for your midday meal: research shows people who eat at their desk consume more calories, plus, taking a midday stroll — to, say, a picnic bench — lowers workers’ stress levels and boosts energy, making the rest of the workday more enjoyable.

So, your lunchtime assignment this week: Leave your desk. Your sanity (and maybe even your wallet) will thank you.

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