Why Bring Meal?#
Since last month, I decided to try bringing my own meal.
Previously, I mostly ate takeout for lunch at work, and sometimes ordered takeout or cooked at home for dinner. Besides the well-known unhealthiness of takeout, there was another downside for me: decision paralysis. Every day at noon, I would start agonizing over what to eat. At that time, I even thought about developing a small program to randomly choose what to eat each day, and I already had a name in mind, "What to Eat Today".
Then there's laziness. Due to the pandemic, takeout couldn't be delivered to my office and I had to go downstairs to pick it up. Although it only took a few minutes, it was quite uncomfortable, especially on windy days. Of course, this was also an excuse for my laziness.
In the end, I decided to cook my own meals, mainly for my own sake. Although cooking takes more time, such as the time after work and the time I could have spent sleeping in the morning, it brings the benefits of eating healthier and having more control over my diet.
How to Bring Meal?#
After making up my mind, I bought two tempered glass lunch boxes online during the Double Eleven shopping festival. They look great and are easy to clean, but they are quite heavy. Carrying them to work every day was exhausting, so I ended up taking a taxi to and from work, which solved this problem.
After preparing the lunch boxes, I started thinking about what dishes to make. I was basically a cooking novice before, and I didn't even know how much oil and salt to use when stir-frying vegetables. The experience of bringing my own meal this month has brought me some valuable lessons. I wouldn't say I'm a great cook, but at least I can make a few dishes and not starve myself.
At first, I used the "Xia Chufang" app to learn. Whenever I needed to cook, I would open it and take a look. It was simple and convenient. Later, I found that the tutorials on the app were either too ordinary or not clear enough. Then a friend recommended that I search for recipes on "Douyin" (Chinese version of TikTok), saying that they were easy to understand and delicious. Unfortunately, I hardly use that app, so I gave up. Finally, a roommate recommended an app called "Lan Fan" (Lazy Meal), which seemed perfect for me. After downloading it, I found it very useful. The video tutorials were only two to three minutes long, and they also included text and images. I learned a lot of dishes from there and would recommend it to anyone in need.
As for buying groceries, as an internet worker who claims to work "996" (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week), the scenario of buying groceries after work only exists in my dreams. I usually buy groceries online through JD Daojia (in the early stage) or Meituan Maicai (currently). I buy groceries for the next day or the day after when I have dinner. By the time I get home, the groceries have arrived.
My daily routine is to start preparing tomorrow's meals as soon as I get home from work: preparing ingredients, cutting vegetables, and setting the rice to cook at 8 a.m. the next day. This process takes about 20 minutes, plus washing the pot and rinsing the rice, it takes about 30 minutes. I wake up at 8:30 a.m. and start stir-frying the vegetables. It takes about 20 minutes to stir-fry the vegetables and serve the rice. Most of the time, I only cook one main dish and divide it into two portions for breakfast and dinner. Sometimes I cook two dishes, which takes a few more minutes. After cooking, I leave the pots and dishes to soak in water and deal with them when I come back in the evening.
What Has Bringing My Own Meal Brought Me?#
At first, I thought bringing my own meal would simply allow me to eat healthier food, save me from the daily struggle of decision-making, and prevent me from being blown away by the wind when I go downstairs to pick up takeout. But what else could it bring?
A sense of comfort and control. I'm used to having my life under my control, within my plans. The nature of my job also makes me highly sensitive to a sense of control. When I decide what to eat this week and what nutrients to supplement, it feels very satisfying. Takeout can also achieve this, but there are many specific things that you can't decide, and the various marketing tactics of takeout platforms can be annoying.
A regular lifestyle and dietary habits. Previously, I would just have some milk or cereal for breakfast, and when I was lazy, I would buy a steamed bun or soy milk at work. Cooking allows for more variety, after all, I'm already waking up early, so I have enough time. Moreover, cooking can sometimes serve as a warning line. For example, when I can't get up in the morning, thinking about bringing my own meal motivates me to get up quickly. During work, thinking about going home early to prepare meals makes me work more efficiently to reduce the chances of working overtime at night, avoiding writing requirements or having meetings scheduled after 7 p.m. Of course, overtime has been the norm for the past month, as there are too many tasks and I'm usually busy, but I still stick to cooking.
Some alone time. Once I start cooking, I know it will reduce the time I spend studying (or playing with my phone), but it brings an unexpected effect - alone time is more suitable for thinking. In the past, I would come up with interesting ideas and thoughts while taking a shower, which is known as "shower thoughts". Now, I have another "moment" like that, which is cooking. Many of my problems are solved while cooking, and some interesting ideas come up while stir-frying. I compared taking a shower and cooking and found that they have something in common, which is solitude and focusing on one thing. When taking a shower or cooking, you can't do other things, like checking messages or using your phone, as these extra actions greatly distract your attention and prevent you from focusing on one thing. Taking a shower is even better because it not only allows you to focus but also promotes blood circulation with warm water, which speeds up thinking. Therefore, I can always figure out complex problems more clearly.
Some insignificant savings. Cooking does save money, but not as much as people say. I compared my expenses from last month, and meals accounted for about one-third less, while other expenses increased accordingly. For example, fruits, coffee, milk tea, and transportation expenses increased due to the reduction in eating out. When I buy groceries, I can't help but buy some fruits, and I take a taxi to and from work. Online groceries may be more expensive, but they are still cheaper than a meal for three or four people. For example, the beef I often stir-fry costs twenty yuan, plus a few yuan for green peppers and celery, which can basically cover two meals in a day.
Finally, I want to say that cooking undoubtedly takes up my time, and sometimes I need to evaluate whether the time cost matches my benefits. Purely from a monetary perspective, the money saved from an hour of cooking is far less than the money I could earn during that time (if measured by hourly wage). However, it's not just about money, but also about lifestyle, dietary health, and learning kitchen skills. From my current perspective, the hidden benefits it brings far outweigh the costs. I think it's something worth sticking to.