It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but with the economy in poor shape, food prices rising and most everyone feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks, the humble bag lunch has enjoyed a comeback.
According to a market-research poll, adults carried a record 8.5 billion brown-bag lunches to work last year, mostly eaten at people's desks, and mostly because of their finances. Health and nutrition came in as reason No. 2.
So what are people brown-bagging these days?
Again, no surprise here, but the typical combo was fruit, chips and a sandwich of some sort. Kids tended towards cookies instead of chips, men liked turkey or chicken sandwiches instead of chips (though I'm not sure if this means they had an extra sandwich as a "side dish" or not), and women preferred yogurt and veggies. The good ol' PB & J was the top sandwich, and soda pop the top beverage.
In terms of what percentage likelihood a food item makes it into the average brown-bagger's lunch, it broke down this way:
Chips: 14% (and declining)
PB & J: 12%
Poultry Sandwich (not including variations like chicken salad): 9%
Yogurt (not frozen): 9% (and increasing)
Ham Sandwich : 8% (and declining)
Crackers (Graham, cheese, etc.): 6%
On the whole, yogurt frozen entrees and leftovers are becoming more popular, while "lunchmeat sandwiches, chips or ham sandwiches" are becoming less popular, according to the pollsters. (How is a ham sandwich different than a lunchmeat sandwich?) Men are more likely to brown-bag than women, but women are commonly the ones who prepare the meals. Brown-bagging tends to happen more among those between 35 and 54, white-collar consumers, professionals, and the more affluent.
The average brown-bagger also seems to be not too creative. I don't know how the poll was conducted, or whether respondents were given a limited set of foods to choose from, or if it was more free-form, but most people I know who brown-bag go for much more interesting lunches than the ones described above. The last time I brown-bagged, it was foccacia, goat cheese, grapes and bottled water. Of course, the time before that, it was PB & J, cheddar cheese and carrot sticks .... And the time before that, I may have been 9. (I tried brown-bagging a few years ago, but always forgot to take the lunch with me out the door almost every morning, only to find it stale or soggy and unappetizing by the time I returned.)
Are you brown-bagging nowadays? And if so, what's for lunch?Michael Y. Park is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. He studied medieval history as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and journalism as a graduate student at New York University. His stories have appeared in publications including The New York Times, the New York Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.
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