Thanks to the popularity of AMC's Mad Men, ad execs and other pros of a certain age pine for the good old days when three-martini lunches were "business and usual."
Recession-weary workers have simpler yearnings. Due to the economic downturn and concomitant staff shortages, offsite lunch breaks have all but disappeared to accommodate ever-expanding workloads. Only a third of American workers say they take a lunch break, according to a 2011 web survey conducted by the human resources contracting firm Right Management in Philadelphia. A full 65 percent eat at their desks or don't take a break at all.
Even a sizable percentage of executives (40 percent) bring lunch from home or opt for fast food vs. the 20 percent who eat at a sit-down restaurant, USA Today reported in April.
Are employees in C-level suites packing their lunches to save money? On the contrary, if brown-bag lunches have become as de rigueur as research suggests, it's probably because employees feel chained to their desks. From their perspective, it's not that grabbing a deli sandwich costs too much money, but rather too much time, a recent employee survey suggests.
Although 35 percent of respondents said their financial goals for 2012 included bringing lunch to work instead of buying it, few had any idea how much they'd save by doing so. All told, two-thirds of working Americans buy their lunch, at an average cost of $37 per week or nearly $2,000 a year, according to the survey by the national finance and staffing and recruitment firm Accounting Principals, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla.
On top of that, 50 percent of the American workforce spends about $1,000 a year just on coffee.
Part of the firm's quarterly Workonomix survey released in January, the findings suggest workers don't tally lunchtime expenses over time and assume their daily commute costs more. In fact, if given the opportunity to choose an expense reimbursement for lunches or commuting costs, only 11 percent chose lunch expenses, though the average American's commuting cost is about $1,500 annually, well below the average annual lunch tab of $2,000.
"They see lunch as a small day-to-day expense, but it all adds up. It was surprising to us that it came as such a surprise to them how much they were spending annually on food and coffee," says Jodi Chavez, senior vice president, Accounting Principals.
Over a 40-year career, the cost of lunch and coffee can cost upwards of $120,000, not accounting for inflation, Chavez adds.
In a way, packing a lunch and preparing a thermos of coffee each morning amounts to a fairly significant pay raise. Brown baggers also save on calories, as homemade lunches tend to be healthier. But packing a lunch requires planning and preparedness. Healthy and somewhat sturdy grocery staples need to be on hand, and while sandwich assembly isn't an art form, it does take some extra time each morning.
Nutritionally, "The ideal brown bag lunch should contain a combination of complex carbohydrates for energy, lean proteins and a little healthy fat to help satisfy hunger, and at least one serving of colorful fruits or vegetables," says registered dietitian Alison Massey of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Use your dinner leftovers to your advantage. For example, if you have leftover grilled or baked chicken, you can combine it with fresh spinach in a wholegrain wrap or pita pocket."
For an afternoon pick-me-up, resist caffeine and sugar cravings, which provide a burst of energy followed by a crash. The most energizing snacks combine protein and carbohydrates and aren't too filling. Massey's favorites: Greek yogurt with sliced berries; a small apple or wholegrain cracker spread with natural peanut butter; or a quarter-cup of dried fruits and nuts.
(C) CTW Features
Copyright © CTW Features