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How to eat healthy at workplace and cut costs

By | February 8th 2010

John Kariuki

For many years, carrying food to the workplace was never considered for a various reasons. It could have shown lack of professionalism or that one was a miser.

This is why during my college days, we mistook a lecturer — who habitualy carried hot water in a thermos flask to make himself a cup of tea at break time — as arrogant.

Over the lunch break he would produce a hot pot and consume the delicacies that his wife made him while his colleagues went for nyama choma in some dingy and noisy joints.

Today, with the harsh economic times, I realise the lecturer had a keen sense of cost cutting by sticking to his home made dishes.

Timothy Ngugi, a nutrition expert, says people can save and channel funds to investment options by cooking and carrying packed lunch to work.

"Many people spend their adult life at work. At the end of the day, going home to cook is not something they look forward to. Often they choose to take shortcuts by eating out and this can lead to poor nutrition and problems of weight control," he says.

Own specifications

Besides saving money, you can customise the cooking method to your specifications while preparing food at home.

"The levels of hygiene are likely to be high because you have control over the process, choice of fresh foods and additives to use," says Kate Wanjiru, a secretary who has stopped eating out and now carries packed lunch to work.

"Many restaurants often recycle the frying oil until it turns to veritable bio-diesel in their quest to make profit," she argues, adding that with a sensitive stomach one can develop problems before identifying the cause," she said.

On his part, Timothy Ngugi compares home-made rice and beef stew dish with one he bought at a restaurant.

"To make such a dish at home for a packed lunch for five people one requires two kilogrammes of meat and a kilo of rice costing Sh400 and Sh160. You also need potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbages and carrots costing about Sh40, 30, 35 and 60 and 30," he said. Adding about Sh200 for a desert of fresh fruits pushes the figure to Sh1,085.

"Purchasing the same food for five people in a priced hotel, you may spend double this figure," Ngugi notes.

The cost difference between cooking a dish of rice stew at home and eating it out is huge and in a year, the savings could run into hundreds of thousands. Sarah Jefwa, who relishes home made food wonders why people ignore food costs.

Two litres

"Imagine how nice it feels after cutting down the cost of bottled water by carrying the commodity from home," she said.

Experts say it is healthy to drink two litres of water a day. Assuming a litre retails at Sh60, one can save Sh300 a week.

Sam Muthee, a banker, has been carrying his own packed lunch to work since his doctor warned him to avoid fast foods. "On a good day, I would spend at least Sh500 on junk food," he said.

A packed lunch need not be too costly. "I often make do with pancakes and tea or toasted bread, a boiled egg and a banana," Muthee adds.

He may at times opt for roast maize or a fruit pudding for launch. "These options rarely cost more than Sh100, yet they are healthier than the nyama choma, French fries (chips) and fried chicken I was used to for many years," he said.

Low Cost

Easy home-made meals are less costly when carried to work instead of the normal eating out culture.

While no one expects you to make a gourmet dinner every night for taking to work, at least make a simple, well-balanced meal.

And you don’t have to do the cooking all the time but can enlist the help of your children or spouse. This will give you quality time together besides saving money for other ventures.

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