19 August 2008

Taking lunch to work

We have to net these peaches this weekend to stop the fruit fly getting them.

It's a constant battle which I often seem to lose. You would think it's a simple thing to prepare lunch for one person, but it's not. Three days a week, it's my battle.

Most of you know I work at a voluntary job three days a week. I'm there from about 8am till about 4pm, but some days it's longer. I need to take food with me. Every day I try to take a delicious, wholesome and healthy lunch. Often I do! However, I get periods when for some reason I don't have time to make something or what I've bought and have stored at work is either finished or someone else has eaten it, and I buy lunch. It freaks me out when I do it because I feel I've let myself down.

I have tried having crackers, cup-of-soup, fruit and cheese on hand, but it runs out and I don't realise it until I go to get it and it's not there.

I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks whenever I'm sitting with my knitting. I've been trying to work out why I do this and how I can stop.


I realised (just this past weekend) that I have such a problem with this one meal because I don't plan for it. Every other meal we have here is planned to a certain extent. My work lunch isn't part of that plan. I never buy anything specifically for my lunch when I'm doing the monthly or bi-monthly grocery shopping. Subconsciously I think that my lunch is "a sandwich" and because we usually have bread and have any number of sandwich fillings on hand that "a sandwich" is taken care of.

I have decided to think about lunch the night before. Lunch is now not always "a sandwich", it might also be leftovers like soup or pasta or something fresh like a salad with cheese or a boiled egg. Either way, it's decided the night before. I've only had one day on this new regime. Yesterday's lunch at work was pasta with homemade tomato sauce from the night before. I heated it up in the microwave at work, shared an apple with a work colleague and had a cup of tea. Perfect!

Today I'm back to "a sandwich" again LOL!! But today that boiled egg is already cooked and will be made into an egg and lettuce sandwich. I have a small container of cherry tomatoes and some cheese cubes packed, and a pear.

This WILL work, as long as I think of my work lunch as part of our meal plan. I think that was what made me fail over and over again. I just saw lunch as "a sandwich" and not something to be thought about and planned, even thought the amount of planning was minimal.

It might seem trivial to worry about making lunch but these are just the things that slowly leak money away. Just as it is small steps to pay off debt, often it's small steps that create it too. If I bought a $5 lunch three days a week, it would cost me $750 a year. It's worth the effort to plan ahead and take lunch to work with me.

So wish me luck, folks. Today, egg and lettuce, tomorrow who knows! Joking, I already know what I'm taking, and hopefully I can tell you in a few months that I haven't had to buy lunch again.

Shannan, what a lovely and caring sister you have. I would imagine both families will benefit from your year of living together and you'll all be saving money. Congratulations on working out such a good solution.

Cherrie, that is excellent! I have to make myself a new bag soon too. Keep up the good work.

Nancy, the trick is to buy your supplies when they're on sale. I bought my big basket full of Lions cotton when there were reduced from $11.95 a ball to $4.95 a ball. I can get three dishcloths from one ball. As well as using them myself, I give them as gifts with homemade soap. I think giving this handmade duo is a more thoughtful gift than a store bought soap and dishcloth. The simple act of making things myself makes them special. Some people don't get it, but many do prefer homemade and doing for themselves.

Daharja and Christine, as Suzan said, I hope you find peace with your parents.

Carolemc, I agree, they are investments. :- )

Rose, ask your questions in the comments, please. I'm pretending emails don't exist at the moment. ;- )

Kristi, I agree, Dave's More than Enough is an excellent book, as is Your Money or your Life.

Robin, good luck with your plans, love.


  1. I have the same problem with lunch. I also get in a rut and don't want anything I have at home. Sometimes if I have to eat one more sandwich, I'll croak! The pasta and tomato sauce sounds good. I might make some of that for my lunch this week.

  2. I am like this too Rhonda. Today I remembered I was out of cereal on my way into work. So by mid-day I caved in when the sandwich delivery van came around. I had a pasty (which was soggy and horrid) and a doughnut I didn't even want. I will plan my lunches going forward ( like I do with everyone elses)& not keep on imagining that I will have leftovers laying around. If you can do it then so can I!

  3. So true. Funny today when I thought of what to enjoy for lunch I knew I was eating at home but i had planned nothing. I too had pasta and sauce for lunch. I agree that this meal needs to be included. Funny how simple "simplicity" is:)

  4. Have you ever heard of using straw bails to plant in?
    I have a working compost now. Just another couple of weeks and I'll have some black gold. It is so hot here it compost very fast. The chickens (all 6 of them) are thriving. I think there will be eggs in another month. Your an inspiration girl. I think I might even try my hand at dish clothes> my Mother in law made me half a dozen of hem.

  5. Hi Debbie, Lizzie and Donetta. I'm really pleased it's not only me.

    Donetta, yes I have heard of it but never done it. It makes perfect sense to me. I've seen it done on a local organic gardening program. He also uses the straw bales to create microclimates in his garden and therefore grows plants in winter that normally he wouldn't be able to grow. Goos luck with your garden, love.

  6. My hubby always takes his lunch to work, so when I make a meal, I always make sure there is enough for an extra plate to pack up for his lunch. You are correct oh how much buying lunch can add up too. We save so much money by just having a little bit extra left over from supper the night before so he can take it to work.

  7. Hi Rhonda,

    I've just started menu planning, I'm on the second week now. I too forgot about the extraswhen I wrote the list, like my babys bananas! The reason I had to plan was because my husband changed shifts and had to take an evening meal to work. Like Laurie, I now make enough the night before so he has a box to heat up at work.
    Try googling 'healthy kids lunch boxes' for some great ideas, I found this 8 week menu plan. It's great, it even tells you the nutritional value and average cost (UK) So you can work out a shopping list. It may be for kids but there's no reason you can't eat well to!


    I've been reading you since you won Jennifers award at HomeMattersMost and I love your blog,

    Thanks for some wonderful advice, Emma

  8. I use to do the soup, aalad, sandwich thing all the time.

    Beef stew for lunch with crackers and a sanck pack jello.

    Chicken salad with a piece of fruit. Usually a banana

    Tuna sanwich with cheese, mircor to melt the cheese. A Pudding pack.

    Chicken noodle soup with saltines. Applesauce

    Pasta salad with eggs, pickles, ham. Canned snack pack fruit

    Roast beef sandwich with an apple.

    That was a typical week for me. I usually had a small carton of milk with my meals. And sometimes I added cookies or chips.

    Pretty boring but it worked for me. A lot of it can be boughtlike the snack packs of fruit, pudding, jello. Some of the soups can be bought in the snack packs. Not healthy but if the other two meals are healthy, it okay.

  9. At my last job, everyone went out to get their lunches. Of course, I fell right in step with them and wasted so much money! One of my co-workers would never go out to get his own. He would wait to see who was going where and then ask to have some brought back for him. While I don't mind this, there was never reciprocation and it got old. I started bringing in my own luch, so that I could stay at work, eat my luch and read some out of my books. (It also, caused him to stop asking me to pick up lunch for him) I figured I saved money for the food and the gas, but my book budget went way up! I now take my luch every day, except for maybe once every other month when I get lazy.

  10. Why oh why, didn't I spell check that? Sorry!

  11. Hi Rhonda:
    I, like you, volunteer three days a week and always, always, bring my own lunch and snacks. During the warmer months I make a huge batch of my favourite muffins and freeze them. Then the night before I put out my thrifted cloth lunch bag, water bottle and the containers for the foods I am going to pack. In the morning I just fill them up. In the cooler months I make sure that I have made enough for leftovers to take to work or I always have homemade soup waiting in the freezer. I also cut up fresh veggies to snack on during the day. People are usually envious of my lunches but they are nothing spectacular. I have just taken the time to prepare them and I know what is in them!!!!! I feel good knowing that I am eating well and not wasting our money. Thanks for your wonderful blog - you have helped many along the path to living a simple life. You go girl!!!!!!

    Liane :)

  12. Hey Rhonda, I have overcome the lunch issue in a similar way to you - every week when I make a menu, I am deliberately making extra of at least 2-3 meals and even have 2 sides to my meal plan now - one for dinner and the other for things like lunches, baking, etc. I've found it so much less intimidating to orgnise lunch when I only have to 'think' about it once or twice a week! :o)
    Amy (theateam)

  13. Timely post as usual. I am very annoyed with myself. This morning I forgot my lunch on the kitchen counter and got half way to town before I realized it (I forget it about once a month and, of course, it's ruined by the time I get home in the evening). Soooo, ran over to Walmart's (sorry about THAT, too) to get a piece of chicken and a salad and while there spent $7 on some material (because I was so delighted that they haven't done away with the fabric section here in our small town as was rumored and felt I should reward them somehow - jeesch), an anniversary card for my husband (34 years tomorrow!) and some contact lens solution that I forgot to get with my usual shopping. That was a 26 buckaroo lunch, folks. I am really trying to be more mindful, but I blow it bigtime once in a while. Two months ago, though, I wouldn't have even thought twice about it - so there's some hope for us all.

  14. Rhonda, what do you use to net your peaches? I have a quince tree which I think I need to net, but am not sure how to go about it.

  15. We have this happen when out for, what I originally thought would be, a short morning field trip. It ends up going and my 3 boys (8, 11, 12) are starving and we end up buying something. Yikes! I now try to make sure we always have a hearty "snack" with us to tie them over.

    On another note, what kind of netting do you use for your peaches. My new peach tree (planted 3 years ago), finally had a ton of peaches on it this year. Then, one day, they were basically gone. Any ideas would be lovely. We don't use chemicals here.

    Thanks in advance. Also, thanks for all your wonderful ideas. Our family has really been transforming the way we live over the past year, largely due to your sight.

  16. Dear Rhonda Jean:

    Hi from Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Just found your very thoughtful blog and wondered if you would share the recipe for the Soy Linseed bread that you wrote about in an earlier posting. The topic was bread and butter and your loaf was gorgeous!!
    Thank you very very much!
    Hugs, Aileen

  17. Hi Rhonda, I am a 29 yr old West Aussie working in the corporate world, living in suburbia & trying so hard to keep myself grounded when surrounded by so many people who do not share the same passion...not to say they don't admire everything I do but somehow the skills you discuss in your blog are perceived as 'Nanna' skills. Making soap, sewing, knitting, growing vegies & keeping chooks are no longer viewed as skills of life. Its hard to maintain this lifestyle when there are unfortunately, so many shallow people that surround us. My quick flicks to your blog every now and then keep me focussed, inspired & grounded...I thank you for that. I hope one day my requests to fellow colleagues for their unwanted jars to make jam aren't sniggered at & will be answered with "No, sorry I can't because I'm making a batch of chutney myself this weekend"...one can only hope!

  18. This response is to do with yesterday's comments, which were all fascinating reading.
    I just wanted to offer some thoughts to Daharja in particular but also to anyone else in a similar position.

    Having young children can be THE most difficult job, especially if you're (lucky enough as you say to be) their full time carer. And you ARE living in a tougher, more brutal world than my generation. What my generation SOMETIMES don't see is that they're living in it too, only the accumulation of money has buffered them from some of the realities that currently exist (and look set to worsen).

    When we're personally in a tough position and those close to us are not, they can either be helpful or disinterested or downright unhelpful. (You often find enough people around you to fit in every category!) I can see that it IS unfair to not have help when you feel you need it. That holds true for all of us in any difficult situation anywhere and anytime in life. I have to qualify that, however, by saying that sometimes the help we actually need is neither what we think, nor comes in the form we want. Some of the best "help" I've recieved in life has come in very strange packages (e.g. my parents taught me how NOT to have a marriage by showing me, through their destructive exchanges, how NOT to treat one another!)

    If we learn anything from unfairness it should be how we can learn to see others in that position and help them out in some way. If we're on the recieving end of disinterest it should teach us how not to do that ourselves. When we endure unhelpfulness (or worse) from others it is life calling us to be better than that ourselves.

    From what you said it sounded to me like you were just stressed by life's difficulties and injustices. If that is true then I think it can be oh so helpful to have some acknowledgement for what you're enduring. I sympathise because I've had it tough at times too.

    Regards, Marilyn

  19. I tend to freeze my lunches, as I don't really feel like making it when I get home at 11pm or later after my after-work activities. So there's portions of pasta and other leftovers and packages of sandwiches in the freezer, to be defrosted and/or heated up at work.

    We need a bigger freezer.

  20. Lunch...it's tough. It really brings out, this is not going to read well, how balanced or unbalanced life is. My motto is "everything in moderation". Which means that the last 2 weeks as my hubby's physical therapy was being increased and he wasn't home when my daughter and I left in the morning, that I'm not going to beat myself up because I grabbed a piece of pizza one day for lunch because I didn't want to take the time the night before, at 10pm when I've finally sat down, to get my lunch together (and hubby went back to work today for the 1st time in 10 monts--workers compensation injury).

    The last 2 weeks since he's been home less due to more PT, I have more to do around the house. So until my work/home life becomes balanced again, as long as I don't make a habit of grabbing a piece of pizza-oh well. It comes with the territory of working or volunteering outside the home. If I find myself doing it the majority of the week then I need to step back and take a look as to why I have overextended my time. Is it due to circumstances within your control?

    Traveling with little ones. My daughter is 3 years old and since the day she was born I never wanted to be in a position to HAVE to grab food because she ran out of formula/baby food/adult food, I either bring food with us, stuff it in my purse or make sure she eats before we leave. The hubby is getting better about that but he's just learning since we've been together how to plan.

    Planning-it is a skill and takes practice. Step outside your life and be critical of the choices that affect your time. Not critical of yourself but your decision-making.

  21. I am always forgetting lunches when I shop. I also forget to get some things to take to work for me. I work 3pm-11:30 pm and have several food allergies. This means most leftovers from the families meals are off limits to me. When I forget, I usually make a fried egg sandwich or bring in oatmeal to make. I always laugh because I do all the shopping and almost always forget what I need!

  22. I'm quite happy with my sandwich, muffin and piece of fruit for lunch. Sometimes take a little container of homemade yoghurt. There's a sandwich maker at work so I'll quite often prepare a sandwich for that and it makes a nice change. On another note, I've just received my seed order which includes Red russian Kale and luffa seeds. Hanno's pork and Kale meal sounds like something my hubby would like to try. I have never grown it or tasted it, so this will be new. Dh has his weekly "boil-up" which consists of either pork or brisket cooked with puha (which I am sure is the dandelion plant picked when it's still young) or watercress. Potatoes, pumpkin and dough-boys (dumplings) complete the meal.
    Your posts on the luffas has also inspired me to try growing these also.

  23. I saw this and thought of you:

    Hope you enjoy them (can I use them as a bribe to put your blog back to full read instead of partial in the RSS feed??) :D

  24. I was fed up of lunches always wondering what have and my OH always liked the same flavour canned soup for himself.One day I was looking at the grocery bill and spotted how much that soup was costing and I was horrified so I started making my own for us to enjoy.Now we both have soup for lunch with a 'home made' bread roll each.For the price of 2 cans of soup (2 portions for 1 person) I can make enough for 2 people for a week instead.I make bread rolls using bread mix(I just can't do it myself and I'm done wasting more food and money by keeping on trying, not too mention being miserable about the failures and I'm at peace with it for now)they work out at less than a third of the price of store bought bread rolls.So we're saving money & it's made life easier as I make a big pot of soup every week, freeze it in 2 portions lots and just get it out of the freezer the night before.Same with the bread rolls,make a load and freeze,then get out what we need for the day to thaw every morning.It's just become automatic & easy now.We do occasionally eat other things like a boiled egg or a toastie or salad sandwich,not very often though,even in the Summer soup is what we've come to love and favour.It's not for everyone though I know,but it's like comfort food for us.


  25. I have not read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat one.

    On my path to simplicity, I solved sending a meal for my husband by making extra at dinner. I make extra on Saturday and Sunday as long as through the week, and he picks which one he will take. When I first started, he decided that he wanted home meals but not always what we had the previous night, so this method gives him a choice. I let my teens, when in need of a late night snack, eat the two extra meals.

    For sweets, I make enough to have at home and for the 5 others in my husbands office. I do this twice a week and I believe because I have, another wife started doing the same on two other days. Everyone likes homemade!!

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  26. Rhonda-

    Wow, your blog is a wealth of information. My wife and I have recently moved onto a 3.3 acre ranchette. We have a horse (lots of manure), 17 chickens (we'll be down to 12 by the time they start lating), and 7 breeding rabbits (for meat).

    We gave our garden a go this year, but the squirrels ate everything as it came out of the ground. They were only kind enough to leave us squash and onions.

    We have a "spare" bath tub laying around on the property and I think we will get some worms going in there this week.

    Thanks for your work here.

    Ward C.

  27. Hi Rhonda
    I used to have to do six lunches a day when all the children and both my husband and I were at work or school. I had to plan in advance or it would have been a nightmare. There were never enough leftovers for all of us, so I did it on a rolling 'menu' of eight lunches thus doing away with "if it's Monday it must be chicken sandwiches". It worked for us but needed planning.

    Pippa x

  28. I am very fortunate that Josh (my husband) is happy with leftovers as his lunch. I wake up with him and fix it for him at about 3:30-4:00 a.m. every morning. I generally add in a salad or some freshly sliced veggies. So... no planning necessary for us. I just cook for three instead of two in the evening.


  29. Rhonda,

    I've been lurking for awhile now but I was wondering if you could give a bit of specific advice for students. A previous commentor mentioned that its nearly impossible to go to University without acquiring some debt, and I'm no stranger to that. I'm 25 and I'll be starting a PhD in Britain in September (I'm American, but the people who study what I study are in Britain) I've got a fairly large amount of academic debt that will continue to grow, but I've accepted that and what it will mean for me in the coming years. I only take out government subsidised loans and try to pay a bit back on them any time I have work. I don't have any other debt. I cook a lot of my food from scratch, have learned to make simple breads (single rise and I'll be branching out as soon as I'm a bit more confident) and I try to grow what food I can in my flats. I take my lunch as often as possible, sew what I can by hand and buy used when I need something. However, I'm aware that some of my success later depends on my ability to get to know people in my field, which often means adjourning to drinks or coffee after conferences, or even eating out. I try to minimize costs by not drinking alcohol and ordering only the basics.
    Do you have any advice for those of us out there who are students? Who live in flats in the middle of cities, swallow some pride and take out student loans, work jobs in our spare time and really do our best?

    Also, if you have some suggestions for simple, healthy, one person recipes I think some of us would really appreciate those!

  30. Rhonda, I hope you don't mind me answering the comment from the US student?

    You've got the right idea avoiding the alcohol (prohibitively expensive in the UK as loaded with tax and duty) It is usually much cheaper In the UK to eat out at lunchtime rather than in the evening - lots more places do lunches than dinners. Sometimes you may find it cheaper to order a starter and a sweet if you don't want a full meal.

    If you are going to use British cookery books you will need a glossary of cooking terms; e.g. we dont broil things here, we grill them and we don't grind beef, we mince it.
    Here's a useful site Student Cookbook UK Lots of recipes etc on that site too.

    The kind of experience you will have here depends somewhat on where you are going to study. If you are going to either Oxford or Cambridge both cities have a very lively student culture of their own. It's true, to a lesser extent, in any town with a university. You may be familiar with this site, designed to make US students welcome here? British Council

    Heres a useful site to help you work out the cost of student life in the UK UK Student Life

    I'm a mature Open University student and have found it useful to have a NUS Extra card, not so much for the discounts on Amazon and other outlets but because it has enabled me to obtain student offers on Microsoft software, saving me literally hundreds of £ on MS office 2007 and Expression Web.NUS Extra Card

    Best wishes for your forthcoming studies and I hope you will enjoy your stay in the UK.

    Charis (who can never get into her blogger ID so remains 'anonymous')

  31. When my slim active husband was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I did a massive amount of reading. Australian Professor Jennie Brand Miller is the expert on low GI eating which is good for all of us. Tony's had normal glucose readings since we started following her recommendations.

    I plan lunches when I plan the week's evening meals. Fresh sandwich, toasted sandwich or planned leftovers at this time of year. It makes for variety and is quick to make.

    When I make a meal that will freeze or reheat well, I deliberately cook extra. Soup is brilliant because you can double or triple the amounts and then freeze individual portions.

    Summer is easier because of the salad options.

    I basically go for grain or other complex carb, small amount of protein and then salad or vegies. This can be homemade soup and bread, a huge salad sandwich with a touch of protein or a "pizza" style sandwich to toast. Don't forget your fruit.

    Rhonda my queries re bread and yoghurt. Bread: my proofed yeast bubbles well but I get a very liquid loaf if I prepare the dough in the breadmaker. Should I dispense with proofing and follow the instruction book's order of ingredients?

    Yoghurt: if I add the one third cup of powdered milk I get grit and lumps, even if I mix it with a little of the heated milk before adding it to the mixture. Any tips?

    Thanks for this wonderful blog and community.

  32. Hi RJ,
    My fall back lunch is frozen soup. I always try to make extra and freeze it. My favourite is pumpkin :)

  33. I have been packing lunch for my husband for 20 years. I plan my weekly menus so that what I make at supper the previous day covers his lunches. I pack his lunch as I clean up the supper table at evening. On the evenings before his days off our meals are items that would not be easily packed or special treats that I don't want to pay extra for another serving. It is the only way I can make it happen, but it has worked this long for us.

  34. I make up huge pans of lasagna or pots of texas chili, or homemade soup and freeze them. The 25% extra amount for dinner for lunch later also works out, and I also check out the prepackaged stuff at the market that is close to its sell-by date and heavily discounted. A coffeemaker in my office meant big savings too.


    Anna Marie of the bread

  35. Hi Rose, I have your questions now. I'll do a post on the weekend to answer them and a few other questions. I'm a bit rushed today and tomorrow as I have a visitor.


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