Alice-Azania Jarvis: What to eat for lunch a Marmite sandwich or a salad from M&S?

In The Red
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The Independent Online

Good news. I'm able to start running again. After one back injury and a bout of flu, I no longer have to worry about the cost of doing exercise because, once again. I can do it for free. And I no longer feel quite so concerned about my marathon training because, for now at least, I'm making progress. Now, the bad news. I've got a fresh new financial problem (surprise, surprise).

First: confession time. Ever since moving to Kensington, (to work, not live obviously) I've avoided bringing in a packed lunch. This is partly because of the relative merits of our staff canteen, and partly because of the sheer volume of what's on offer on Kensington High Street. And, to be honest, I haven't noticed much difference.

Once I settled in (this took a while; long-suffering readers will remember my initial and prolonged battle with Wealth Tourist Syndrome, a nasty affliction that leaves you spending lots and lots of money you don't have, conning yourself into believing that you're on a financial par with glossy oligarchs' wives that surround you, and doing your weekly shop in bankruptingly-expensive, shopping "emporia"), I developed a fairly stable routine of picking up a salad, and never spending more than £3 on it. Add to that my mid-afternoon apple (30p) and intermittent cups of tea (60p) I was still managing to get through the day without spending too much on food.

Still, recently, I have been trying to reform. Not just lunch, but life in general. My flatmate/ boyfriend is moving out and so for a few months at least my mortgage payments are set to increase significantly, even if council tax is to decrease.

In some areas (swapping my nightly trips to Costcutter with quick trips to Sainsbury's; arranging to meet friends for coffee rather than brunch) I've made significant progress. But not lunch. In fact, I'm spending even more than I was before. After several weeks of making myself a packed lunch, I am considerably more out of pocket. While my usual order of M&S prawn salad costs a grand total of £2.20, my lunch is working out at a pound more than that. Which, over the course of a month, adds up substantially.

Obviously, I'm doing something wrong. In fact, I think I know what it is. I'm not just making a sandwich, which, yes, may well cost only 50p to make. I'm making a salad. A salad with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, tuna, and red peppers. None of which a particularly cheap to buy. So I could switch, and live on Marmite sandwiches. Or I could go back to my £2.20 salad. Um, I think I'll take the latter.

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