Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Planning Ahead for Lunch

image from here
In grade school, the school's monthly lunch menu was posted on the inside of a cabinet door in our kitchen. Each Sunday, my father would have us look at the upcoming week's options and choose, in advance, two days we would buy our lunches. We would pack up our lunches on the other three days. It was explained to us that this rule was in place both to conserve money as well as to limit the processed foods my father considered unhealthy. My father was strict with this rule: Even if there were three days in a week that appeared to have enticing lunches, pleading and arguing our cases would never work. We had to stick to two days to buy lunch.

Even though this was many years ago, and should have been erased by ten years of eating on campus daily, this rule still sticks with me, and I try my best to force myself to stick with it.

Over the years, I've realized that there were two key reasons that this plan worked. The first was planning in advance which days would be "buying days." Choosing in advance did not allow laziness to determine the days we bought lunch. If we committed to Thursday and Friday, then packing up lunch on Monday through Wednesday was part of that commitment, making it easier to not think about it, just follow through.

The second reason was that we were able to look forward to a treat. We did not have to pack up a lunch every single day and become bored with our options. Allowing a treat twice a week added variety, and kept us from feeling deprived.

It's a good strategy for kids, but it's a great strategy for adults. As we get older and busier, it becomes very easy to skip a grocery store run and just buy lunch during the week, but buying lunch every day is neither financially responsible nor healthy (usually).

Planning in advance lowers the possibility of laziness and forgetfulness, and makes it simple to buy lunch only on pre-determined days. I still get to treat myself... And it still feels like a treat, not a regular occurrence, on the days I do buy lunch.

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-Kurt Vonnegut