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Do you have what it takes to take your lunch to work?

Posted by Denise M. Reagan on Jan 2, 2018 02:22 PM

After the holidays, many people feel broke and bloated from a period of overspending and overeating. Brunet-García has the perfect challenge to remedy these ailments: the Lunchathon!

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Illustration by Eduardo Sarmiento

Throughout the year, Brunet-García sponsors wellness challenges to build staff camaraderie, improve morale, and challenge their competitive spirit. The agency’s wellness program aims to balance the stress of deadlines and production demands by helping employees stay healthy throughout the year. By investing in stipends for gym memberships, reimbursing employees for race entry fees, and subsidizing monthly massages, Brunet-García is building a more dependable workforce throughout Jacksonville, Tampa, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.

During the first quarter of 2018, the more Brunet-García employees bring their lunch to work, the more chances they have to win a $100 restaurant gift card.

A few staff members are already pros at the lunch game, and their reasons for packing lunches for work run the gamut.

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Cassie Deogracia brings a prepackaged spinach salad, strawberries, pretzels, a banana, and a La Croix in a new lunchbox she received from her boyfriend.

“I like to keep my work schedule flexible,” said Natalie Spindle, a public relations and social media specialist. “By bringing my lunch, I can continue working uninterrupted at my desk if needed. I like to be able to snack throughout the day as well, so having food on hand makes it easy.”

“I typically work out in the afternoons, and I know if I don’t fuel my body the right way I will feel sluggish and weak at the gym,” said Account Manager Chad Villarroel. “It’s also really nice not dealing with the ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’ question every single day.”

“The main reason I bring my lunch is for health reasons,” said Art Director Cassie Deogracia. “I like having a well-balanced and light lunch—that I know includes healthy ingredients—to keep me energized and feeling good throughout the day.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid the temptation of going to lunch with colleagues.

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Natalie Spindle samples leftover ham and Chinese noodles with a side of applesauce.

“I want to save my money and not spend it all on eating out for lunch,” Spindle said. “If I go out for a meal, I want to enjoy it and be able to relax. Lunch doesn’t really allow you the time to eat and sit for very long. While I want to say yes to friends and co-workers looking to eat lunch, I do so sparingly.”

“I am determined to eat healthy during the week, and I know if I go out to eat I won’t make healthy eating decisions,” Villarroel said. “I also spend a bunch of money on groceries at the very beginning of the week, so that large expense up front discourages me from spending any money on going out to eat.”

They have a few tips for how to approach making a lunch worth eating.

“I think many people feel they don’t have time to prepare lunch for work,” Spindle said. “It takes only a few minutes to scavenge my fridge and pantry to throw items into a bag.

“Find lunch recipes you know you will enjoy, and plan your grocery trips and meal schedules around that,” Deogracia said. “There are a ton of recipes and meals that are well balanced and require little prepwork. Also, packing your lunch the night before takes away the hassle of the morning rush to get out the door that sometimes makes people not want to pack or prepare a lunch.”

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Chad Villarroel buys all the ingredients for a week's worth of lunches in bulk.

Villarroel’s favorite lunch ingredients include chicken thighs, lean pork, ground beef, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, cauliflower, whole grain or protein pasta, rice noodles, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Deogracia prefers to eat meatless lunches when possible, so her go-to ingredients are eggs, apples, peanut butter, grapes, strawberries, multigrain bread, carrots, and spinach salad.

“I buy all my groceries and ingredients in bulk,” Villarroel said. “Then, I spend two or three hours every Sunday prepping lunch and dinner for the coming work week: roughly 10 meals. Each meal is packaged and stored for each day of the week.”

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Villarroel grills chicken thighs to pair with broccoli and rotini pasta and makes a chicken panang stir fry with sweet potatoes, carrots, and spaghetti squash.

Spindle has some wise advice for anyone trying to save money on dining out for lunch.

“Write down how much you spend each day you buy lunch,” Spindle said. “By the end of just one month, look at the total and decide if that’s a suitable expense for your budget.”

Homemade lunches might not always be the most exciting option.

“I think if you asked others in the office, they’d argue that I do not keep my meals interesting,” Villarroel said. “I eat the same thing for lunch and the same thing for dinner for an entire week, sometimes for several weeks in a row. Every few weeks, I try to find a new recipe for the following week.”

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Villarroel packages a week's worth of meals.

But there are plenty of delicious lunch recipes to be found.

“Pinterest is my go-to for new and interesting lunch ideas,” Deogracia said. “I like to have a different lunch every day of the week, so it’s given me some great inspiration on endless lunch combinations.”

As part of the Lunchathon challenge, Brunet-García will hold a healthy potluck lunch on the third Wednesday of each month. Everyone is encouraged to bring a dish to share, which counts toward their overall points.

Follow Brunet-García on social media for favorite lunch photos and recipes and the ultimate winner of the Lunchathon at the end of the first quarter.

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Molly Walker, Cassie Deogracia, Katy Garrison, and Kate Jolley take part in the first day of the Lunchathon.