I can’t remember the last time I had a packed lunch for work or school either, or maybe long way back my high school days. That must be a very long time ago. Time flies so fast.
In college, as much as I can remember, I usually had my schedules in the afternoon, and I would simply fill my stomach with student value snacks slash lunch slash dinner — pancit canton, rice, and egg — before heading home or attending to my aunt’s business at dusk till midnight.
Such value meals were just for 25 pesos then. Well, I have no idea how much they cost these days (after 10 years?), maybe doubled.
So I started working, but still I never ever had any chance to get up that early, as being an early bird has never been me, and get serious about preparing breakfast and pack something for lunch. Up to now, I have been setting my alarm an hour before the work bell and stretch that for a cup of coffee and some cigar sticks, a 15-minute bath, and a short commute. Seldom that I get late for work though. Imagine that.
While the school cafeteria has gone overcrowded after we transitioned back to F2F classes, and our favorite carinderia just across the campus ceased operations, we have no choice but to start the big hunt for an alternative go-to place.
Months already and we still can’t settle for one. Others offer lunch meals as cheap as the old one, but not at par with our taste, my taste I must say. Others have the food quality, but much pricier, especially now in the post-pandemic and the rocketing inflation rates.
I must say I am a picky eater, but here are the thoughts (and standards, with emphasis) I have when it comes to eating out for lunch during work days:
Rice, well-cooked and good texture, is honestly a big deal. You, too, can relate. I hate it when it gets undercooked, much more if overcooked. It ruins my appetite that however hungry I am or delectable the viand is, I still can’t get satisfied. Lunch, if so, is over in ten minutes.
Free bowl of soup is much appreciated, but I’ll still order a regular one with real meat, either papaitan or bulalo. That’s for sure! Papaitan, in particular, is my comfort food; next is nilagang baka. My mind tells my stomach to order more rice when either of the two is on the menu, much more if already served smoky hot on the table.
I am not a fan of pork and chicken dishes in red tomato sauces, but I can still eat them whenever they’re the only ones available, without much enjoyment though.
Vegetable dish, on the side, is a big requirement. Whether ginisa, ginataan, or simply boiled vegeatables will do. I am not choosy when it comes to veggies. I eat them all.
I love the crunchiness and a bit of bitterness. As much as possible, the taste should be just plain, minus the artificial seasonings. That’s how veggies should be!
I don’t know, but I just love red chillies, as in many chillies. Whatever my rice meal is, I need chillies, and I can eat them chopped with a spoon of rice. I also love adding chopped chillies to my soup. That makes my lunch even more exciting.
I prefer cold water over juice and softdrinks. Before I eat, I drink a glass of cold water first. It has been a routine. Also, I can take as much as three to four glasses of water while eating and more glasses after. So, whenever I eat out, I request a pitcher of cold water right away. I need it. I just feel thirsty thinking about eating.
Lunch is complete even without desserts. If they’re already on the table, then go. If not, I don’t have cravings for sweets after eating lunch.
But whenever I see that vending cart with unripe mangoes (and bagoong or chillies and salt dips) on sale, I definitely drop by and buy, and not just a slice. It’s just that they’re not friends with my dental braces, but I can always have an alibi whenever I visit the dentist for a dislodged bracket.
In the end, eating out during work lunch can be costly. Sometimes, I have that guilt feeling, but I also have a different appetite, and I don’t have the energy to wake up as early as five to prepare a packed lunch that I may not enjoy after hours of being stuck in a plastic box.
On the other hand, there can be a lot to save if packed lunches are well-planned and prepared. Others include their next day’s lunch in the dinner planning and simply order a cup of rice. Others, who usually consume more than a cup of rice, cook and pack rice to work and buy meat or vegetable dishes.
Either way, it’s still up to you what you prefer for as long as you are on your conscious budget for food, especially now that inflation comes to somewhat an alarming rate. Ordinary employees, who earn just enough, really need to revisit and review the budget though.