As climbing tuition costs continue to dominate headlines, some students are trying out new ways to save money. But rather than sacrificing your more luxurious and perhaps expensive tastes, just brown-bag it.
Bringing your own lunch isn’t a new idea, but it is new to many students, many of whom have usually eaten lunches provided by their school cafeteria or have had the luxury of parent-packed lunches.
However, the college lifestyle can be considered the first step toward being a certifiable “grown-up.” There is little to no parental supervision and students who never had to cook, do laundry or clean the house before suddenly find themselves thrust into these responsibilities. Add in a basic course load, extracurricular activities and maybe even a part-time job and the hours seem to be going by a lot faster.
Thus, many students would rather buy their lunch or dinner than actually cook something, as it involves an additional routine of a trip to the local supermarket for groceries, cooking the meal and then finally washing the dishes.
You may think that $1.75 for a large slice of cheese pizza from Ciao at the CoHo sounds like a great deal compared to all the work that goes into cooking. It’s a favorite meal choice of many students. A week’s lunch of cheese pizza slices then comes out to about $9.
However, the food pyramid advises that a week’s worth of cheese pizza slices is in no way a balanced meal, so occasionally, there might be rotation in food choices such as a CoHo salad or a $6.75 hamburger from Burgers and Brew for another day. Eventually, these prices do add up and one can spend around $30 for an entire week’s worth of lunches. That is a figure that many students would rather spend on something else, or save for a rainy day.
Vinson Banh, a fifth-year human development major, brings sandwiches to school instead of purchasing them. Banh believes it to be a much healthier option to bring one’s own lunches.
“Instead of going to the CoHo where the grease on the pizza is enough to soak up two napkins, a nice sandwich would be a lot better. In addition, I would be saving a lot of money instead of shelling out five to seven dollars on lunch,” Banh said.
So, in an effort to curb extraneous spending, more and more students like Banh are discovering the financial benefits of packing their own lunches.
These homemade lunches are not anything grand, as they usually consist of several sandwiches hastily prepared the night before or plastic containers of dinner leftovers. But dinner leftovers are a great way of stretching groceries for more than one meal a day, thus contributing to the financial benefits of brown-bagging.
But sometimes it’s hard to find even a few minutes to make a sandwich in the mornings or at night after a long day.
Victoria Chen, a third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, admits she brings lunches to school sporadically as it depends on how much homework, studying and club activities she has, which is often a lot.
“I wouldn’t mind bringing my own lunch more often but it’s really hard to do when you don’t have a lot of time,” Chen said.
However, she did say that eating homemade food does have its benefits, such as serving as a comfort food.
“Bringing my own lunch makes me less homesick because ethnic foods make me feel a lot more comfortable and happy,” Chen said.
Gloria Huerta, a third-year biochemistry major with an emphasis in molecular biology, echoes Chen’s thoughts about bringing lunch. Huerta also has hard courses and a part-time job at the library, which doesn’t leave her with a lot of time to pack her lunch, even though she’d like to.
“I don’t bring lunch, but if I had time, I would definitely do it. It’ll probably save me money in the long run. But now, I either buy lunch or if I have a break in between classes, I go home and eat something real quick,” Huerta said.
Charles Lam, a third-year human development major, also said that he is fairly busy, but whenever he goes home, his mother makes him lunch, with food that she has prepared and packed in containers for him.
“It’s great that I get food from home because it’s healthy — usually, I have rice, some sort of meat and vegetables,” Lam said. “[Also,] bringing your own lunch to school saves a lot of money because you can pack according to how much you eat; sometimes when you purchase food, you get too much or too little.”
MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.