This post originally appeared on xoJane.
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 [redacted] 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 [redacted] 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.