In about two weeks, a new cohort of college graduates will don their caps and gowns and receive their college diplomas. The speakers on the podium will undoubtedly talk about their accomplishments: the knowledge gained, the awards and accolades attained, and the life-changing experiences had. The speakers will also talk about the big challenges these graduates might face as they enter the world beyond the safety of their Alma Mater: issues like climate change, mass shootings, discrimination, and geopolitical tensions around the world. I will sit among my faculty colleagues, as proud of my students as can be, all the while thinking about the small challenges.
|With my Wellesley colleagues at 2017 Commencement|
Small challenges of everyday life can loom larger and take up more energy and time than you anticipate as a college student. If banks are only open 9-4PM and you have to work 9-5, when do you go? (Set up online banking ASAP.) Same goes for any doctor’s appointment. Even if you don’t have to fix the kitchen sink or the AC by yourself, you have to let the “fixer” in and supervise. One of the biggest small challenges busy people face is cooking meals. “Outsourcing” food production to take-out or restaurant meals is expensive and not very healthy. In a wonderful blog post written for my Fall 2017 behavioral economics class, three graduating seniors of the Class of 2018 suggest an alternative that may just help us all with this “adulting” business.
Eating Well(esley!): Saving in the Short Run and Gaining in the Long Run through Meal Prepping (by Christina Chiu, Gloria Samen, and Fabi Vivaqua)
As college students, a great portion of the money spent throughout the semester is earned through summer jobs or internships. As most of you can probably relate, when interning in big cities it can be really challenging to save money! So much of your income needs to be spent on rent, food, and taxes (sigh!). This summer, in an attempt to save money on food, manage busy schedules, and resist the urge to buy meals at restaurants on each day (can be over $12 for each lunch), I meal-prepped my lunches. Meal-prepping served as a “pre-commitment device” which allowed me to save money on food (and hopefully eating a bit healthier).
After two weeks of living by myself in New York City, I quickly realized that after rent, food was going to be my biggest expense. Feeling tired in the morning, I would avoid packing lunches, opt into purchasing a lunch at a restaurant by my office, and my groceries would go bad by Saturday...then I would go grocery shopping again on Sunday and repeat the cycle the next week. I watched hundreds of dollars go right in the trash in the form of spoiled produce and money spent on restaurant meals.
One common way of meal-prepping is by packing lunches for the rest of the week on a set day (usually Sunday). On Sundays, I established a routine of going grocery shopping in the afternoon and coming home to prepare 5 lunches. This allowed me to get a better sense of how much I was spending on my food and also allowed me to make much healthier decisions. On Sundays, I would pack out 5 lunches in tupperware containers and every morning before work, I did not have to think about what to eat... the decision was already made.
With this commitment, I could avoid impulse decisions to purchase food at a restaurant during the workday and find a way to manage the tiredness that comes with early mornings when I need to rush out the door. I remember that there was one week where I did not have time to meal-prep because I had to go grocery shopping on a late Sunday night after going into work. On Monday morning, I had the option to either pack a quick lunch or just decide to grab food at work. Obviously, I skipped packing lunch and bought a meal at work (not proud). At 6 AM, nobody needs decision overload! It made a lot more sense for me to make all of the decisions on Sunday evening and this made my mornings feel ‘automated’. This made it an effective commitment device and allowed me to save more money than I had originally planned. It was a great way to fund my senior spring break trip!
In honor of this great idea of meal-prepping and general goal of simplifying home food production, I have decided to add a recipes and “food hacks” page to this blog. My first post there will be on my weekly lunch meal prep that literally involves no time other than grocery shopping.