This Lunchbox Saved Me A Grand!

lunchbox001I’ve told this story t a few times over the years, but never recounted it to a wider audience. A couple of years ago, in the early stages of my transformation, I had changed some of my eating habits to kick start my weight loss and compliment the running. Rather than buying pizza and over-stuffed hero’s for lunch, I switched to salads at the local deli. I was fairly consistent with the ingredients: lettuce, cabbage, mushroom, boiled egg, chicken, croutons and a little dressing. Every so often I made minor changes to avoid getting bored, like switching the mushrooms out for cucumbers. The salads were pretty good and the portion size was just enough for an office lunch, but they cost about $10 a pop (fairly typical for Manhattan). I don’t recall exactly when, but one particular day Jess and I were discussing food and I happened to tell her about my daily lunch ritual. She was particularly surprised by the cost and my willingness to spend so much. From my perspective, I felt it was worth it to gain control over my eating habits and the one area that had the potential to derail my efforts to get healthy.

Certain details of the story really registered with Jess and, looking out for my best interests as usual, she gave me this lunchbox as a gift shortly thereafter. It’s made by a company called Fit & Fresh and will keep “greens cool and crisp with the snap-in, removable ice pack! It also features a unique twist and release dressing dispenser built right in so you can shake and eat when ready!” Jess figured that, by opting to make the salads myself and bring them to work, I had the opportunity to save a bit of money while still maintaining control over my eating habits.

I took to the idea pretty quickly and developed a simple system, that I’m still using almost two years later. Every weekend, whatever ingredients we need for the week are added to the grocery list. At some point over the weekend, usually Sunday while watching some type of sports, I set about boiling, grilling, peeling and chopping the ingredients and then storing them in tupperware containers in the fridge. Every morning, I take ten minutes to shred some lettuce, drop in a handful of ingredients from each tupperware, top with some croutons and dressing, and away I go. At this point I have it down to an art and have halved the time it takes both on the weekend and in the morning.

I don’t really mind taking the same thing for lunch every day. Like I’ve said a few times, it gives me some control over a potential minefield and has definitely helped me lose weight initially and keep it off since. It’s not for everyone of course, especially the lack of variety on a daily basis – but being a creature of habit, I guess it just doesn’t bother me. In fact, I look forward to that 15 minutes when I can put my headphones on and eat my lunch.

Over the initial twelve month period I actually kept a track of how much the ingredients cost each week. Over the course of the year I figured to have saved around $1100 versus buying my lunch every day. These numbers are anecdotal, since I ended up spending the money on other things … but still, that was over a thousand dollars in pocket money that could have been used for anything!


oatmealOver the last year and a half or so, I have tested out numerous foods in that breakfast / pre-run timeslot. I have a somewhat sensitive stomach, so I need to have something solid inside me prior to ingesting the typical high carb gels. Banana’s are a pretty safe food for me, but there are limits to how many I can eat. Fatty foods are a big no-no, and any kind of cereal that requires milk is off limits (who takes dairy before a big run?). After so many attempts to find the ideal pre-race meal, the one food that I keep coming back to, that satisfies my hunger without upsetting my stomach, is oatmeal. It’s both basic and filling, provides the right level of carbs and protein to sustain my body during the run.

I typically make my oatmeal the night before, using the traditional method of boiling water with a pinch of salt and then adding the old fashioned oats. As a rule I avoid the instant oatmeal because of the excess sugar which, when mixed with high carb gels, can cause unpleasant intestinal issues (you know what I mean)! Once it’s thick enough, I put it into a container andĀ refrigerateĀ until the morning. Cold oatmeal doesn’t bother me, and pre-making it the night before saves valuable time in the morning that could be better spent stretching or sleeping. Whether eating hold or cold, I like to top my oatmeal off with some honey, mini kisses, and mixed nuts if available. Altogether it’s a pretty appetizing breakfast and has yet to lead to stomach issues prior to or during the race.

A single serving of oatmeal (made with Quaker Oats or something similar) contains approximately 3g of fat, 27g of carbs, and 5g of protein. With a healthy dose of carbs for lunch the day before, that’s the ideal platform and source of fuel for a problem free run!