At the jobs I’ve had prior to this one, either the schedule, office policies, or location made it implausible to eat lunch out very often. In Huntsville, I made a sandwich just about every day, but when we moved to Atlanta somehow I started cooking a lot more and thus had leftovers for lunch. Yum. So that’s great and all, but on the other hand, I also really like eating lunch out. It’s one of my things. So fast forward to my job at The Iron Yard…we’re a pretty casual workplace and lots of people eat out, lots of the time. And I’m very easily convinced that I should leave my leftovers in the fridge for another day and tag along.

This was fine for awhile–I wasn’t going crazy over our monthly budget, and I usually ended up eating my original lunch at some point. I also have been busier in the evenings, so tending to cook less, so there were more days than there used to be where I actually needed to eat lunch out. Plus I work with with fun people, so camaraderie!

Last week, though, I hit a dead end on Eating Lunch Out Street. I found that I was really tired of all the restaurants within walking distance, I was eating like crap between that and free food at meetups, I drank a milkshake for dinner one night, for crying out loud! Plus I just felt like I was spending more of my disposable income on less-than-stellar food than I would like. Once you get in a rut it’s easier to keep going than to get out, so something had to give.

Labor Day gave me a nice opportunity for a hard reset, and I’m happy to report that I felt really good about my food-ing last week! I planned well for healthy, easy meals the created leftovers, AND I bit the bullet and said no sometimes.

That may be the hardest thing about trying to eat healthily or frugally, especially when it is not out of strict necessity. I could spend the money on lunch every day, but I’m choosing not to right now. I can drink a milkshake, but I’d rather not. It’s easy to feel like a dweeb or a killjoy. But hey, I gotta do me! I’m 26 years old and perfectly capable of not succumbing to peer pressure.

Bread and bread-like substances were kind of my downfall of late, so I tried to mostly cut those out. Somehow envisioning a dinner without a starch is always tough for me, and was one of the most difficult planning aspects of the Whole 30 for me. I’m not great at cooking very many different kinds of vegetables, and Andy, while not a picky eater per se, has opinions about vegetables being too mushy, so sometimes I’m wary of trying new things. So I got a little creative and included different starches! Last week’s dinners saw us eating quinoa, sweet potatoes, and polenta as sides/fillers. The polenta was a particularly great experiment for me! It was easy and inexpensive, because it literally included vegetable broth and cornmeal. Next time, I might whisk it into the liquid better, but I just pretended the lumps were corn dumplings and it was fiiiiine.

I had cabbage as a side with homemade beef and broccoli one night instead of rice: healthy choice and still yummy! I’m also really into one-pot recipes. They’re my jam. A lot of times they are pastas, but you can also do rice- or quinoa-based ones. You don’t need me to share a bunch of recipes here, though. Pinterest is your friend.

This week has been a little less stellar, but I’ve only eaten out once and it was a work thing, so totally justifiable. Once a week is fine–it’s when I start having justification for every. single. day. that I need to reign it in.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman