Bringing your own lunch to work can help you eat healthier and spend less money. But with all the other demands on you, it can be really challenging to find the time and energy to plan and prepare healthy lunches every day. That’s why I love this new trend that’s been catching on in workplaces around the country: Healthy lunch clubs.
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Coworkers take turn bringing in healthy lunches for each other. You get a healthy, home-cooked lunch every day but only need to plan and prepare lunch once every week or two. Instead of eating the same old yogurt and protein bar at your desk every day, participating in a lunch club brings some welcome variety to your lunch menus and a chance to connect socially.
And if you think you can’t afford to take an actual lunch break, studies have found that workers who step away from their desks for lunch are actually more productive than those who eat hunched in front of their computers.
Six Tips for a Successful Lunch Club
If all that sounds like something you’d like to try, here are some tips for setting up a successful lunch club.
1. Keep it small. The ideal size for a lunch club is 4-8 members. Although a bigger group means you’ll be on the hook to cook less often, it also means you’ll have to cook for a crowd. If you have 30 people interested, consider setting up several smaller groups.
2. Do some match-making. Lunch clubs can be a fun way to get out of your food rut and try new things. At the same time, your club will be more successful when members have compatible dietary styles and goals. If you have a vegan in the group, for example, everyone would need to be willing to stick to vegan lunch menus. If someone has Celiac disease, all the meals must be gluten-free or have a gluten-free option. Those who are trying to lose weight might find it easier to team up with others who are also restricting calories—but those following a strict low-carb approach and those doing Weight Watchers may want to set up separate clubs.
3. Talk through the details. Your club can set any rules it wants to, as long as everyone is on board. You can set guidelines on how much members should spend on meals or how the schedule will be managed, or agree that all animal products will be organic, or that no raw garlic will be used, or that meals will include at least 2 servings of vegetables, or whatever other priorities the group agrees on. A group trying to support weight loss, for example, might stipulate that members select recipes that provide nutrition information, which can then be shared. Some clubs make it a practice to share all the recipes—some even start Pinterest boards, Instagram feeds, or Facebook groups to share and archive photos and recipes for future inspiration. This is also a good time to figure out a back-up plan in case someone is unable to deliver lunch on their appointed day. Because that will happen.
4. Consider the logistics. Take into account the resources at your workplace and plan your menus accordingly. Is there enough refrigerator space to store the food until lunch? How will you heat it up? Where will the group eat? What will you serve the food on and with? Some clubs make good use of slow-cookers or counter-top pressure cookers to prepare hot food onsite but be sure to always follow safe food handling procedures. For example, it’s not safe to reheat cooked food in a slow cooker on the low setting because it takes the food too long to reach a safe temperature.
When it’s your turn to prepare lunch, do your best to serve up something that’s tasty, wholesome, and satisfying.
5. It’s OK to keep it simple. When it’s your turn to prepare lunch, do your best to serve up something that’s tasty, wholesome, and satisfying—bonus points if it’s unusual and/or Instagram-worthy. But you needn’t feel pressured to spend hours on complicated recipes. A meal also doesn’t have to be full of expensive ingredients to be a winner. If you’re someone who enjoys fancy cooking, there’s no reason to hide your light under a barrel—as long as everyone (including you) is clear that such above-and-beyond efforts are completely optional and do not mean that everyone else must reciprocate in kind. Alternatively, you could form a lunch club with other more ambitious culinarians.
(Here’s a fantastic Pinterest board dedicated to Lunch Club inspiration.)
6. Feed your family while you’re at it. Finally, why not get even more return on your effort by making enough to feed your family as well as your club members? Once you’ve found your recipe and made your shopping list, doubling the quantities is easy. Take half to work for your lunch club and put the other half in the fridge or freezer to enjoy with your family another night.
Originally published at QuickandDirtyTips.com