Big dough spent on lunches: survey
TORONTO—A new survey suggests more than half of Canadians head to a restaurant for lunch at least once a week—a habit that’s costing many Canucks some serious dough.
The poll by Visa Canada suggests that while eating out might be convenient, the price tag attached to that “gourmet” sandwich is not so appealing.
It also suggests the average Canadian who opts to buy a lunch spends about $8.80 on the meal—and Ontarians appear to eat out the most often, with 20 percent hitting up restaurants three or more days per week.
Quebecers, on the other hand, seem to make a habit of packing their own lunch more than anyone else, with the survey suggesting half brown bag it every day.
Andrew Rice, a Toronto-based senior financial advisor with Stewart and Kett Finacial Advisors Inc., said it’s unreasonable to pledge never to eat out, but there are a few tricks to avoid doing so all the time.
His first tip is to add up the cost of eating out over a prolonged period of time.
After tax, eating out three times per week at $8.80 a pop could add up to about $20,000 after 10 years, he noted.
“Spread that out over five years,” Rice said. “Is it really that much of an inconvenience [to pack lunch]?”
If that’s not enough of an inspiration, he suggests bringing some fruit and a drink from home, and grabbing just a simple sandwich while you’re at work.
“Some is better than none,” he reasoned.
Lazy lunching can be detrimental not only to Canadians’ wallets, but also to their health, according to one nutrition expert.
Aviva Allen, a Toronto-based nutritionist, said it’s best to pack lunches whenever possible.
While Allen acknowledges the never-ending time crunch many are under, she offers some solutions to combat the desire to grab a quick bite.
She suggested fish or whole wheat pasta with a tomato-based sauce, veggies, and protein as options for a healthy—and relatively painless to prepare—lunch.
She also suggested doing some prep work, like washing and chopping, on the weekends when there’s more free time and less hunting for one’s keys before making a mad dash out the door.
“Making things like soup or stew in larger batches that you can freeze or use for other meals during the week, that can also help,” she added.
A stirfry also is a good option, she noted, as long as it’s light on the soy sauce.
If eating out is unavoidable, Allen said awareness is key.
Salads always seem like a healthy choice, but if they’re accompanied by fat-laden dressing and “deep-fried crunchy things,” the nutrition factor goes down drastically.
“If you eat very well for all of your meals and then have a few lunches out per week, it probably won’t have a huge impact,” said Allen.
“But that’s not the case for most Canadians,” she warned. “It really can add up over the course of the week, and the month, and the year when you factor in all of the extra calories and sodium.”
Ideal options for restaurant lunches include handrolls made with brown rice, sashimi, and salad bars, according to Allen.
But at the end of the day, there’s always a lesser evil no matter where a person buys their lunch, she said.
“Even within those [fast food] restaurants, there are still some choices that are better than others.”
Avoiding excessively deep-fried foods and opting for something with a least a slice of tomato can help, she noted.
“There’s always going to be a healthier choice and a less healthy choice at any place you dine,” Allen reasoned.
“You have to make the best choices you can for the menu that you’re working with.”