It’s a sobering thought that, by the end of my working life, I might well have spent £90,000 on lunch at Pret.
All that cash frittered and gulped in the form of Classic Tomato soup, Cranberries in Coats and tiny cups of Mango and Lime. J Alfred Prufrock measured his life out with coffee spoons, I with the pomegranate seeds I can’t quite scrape up from the bottom of a pot of Super Fit Super Fruit.
Meagre consolation comes with the knowledge that I am not alone. A survey this week reports that the average office worker splurges £7.81 per day on lunch, snacks and hot drinks. It’s a filthy luxury. The survey also points out that those who take in packed lunches and make their own teas spend only £1.50 a day, which means they will end up paying off their mortgage a decade faster or something. But they may never have known the wonder of a Wiltshire-Cured Ham and Greve Cheese Artisan Baguette so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Even if £7.81 sounds on the steep side for the average worker, it’s food for thought. In an ideal world, we would recoil from the figure in shamed horror and resolve to spend Sundays boiling up soup, our mornings hacking up pineapples and our evenings rinsing Tupperware. Like most things that are good for you, it is not much fun, but of course it makes sense.
What should really bother us, though, is not what we spend on lunch, but how we eat it. With recession biting, al-desko dining – fork in one hand, mouse in the other – has become the norm. It shouldn’t be. Lunch is not just about refuelling; it’s time to take a breather. For many office workers, the dash for a prawn sandwich might be the only fresh air they have all day. That £7.81 buys the privilege to scoop up something passable to eat over one’s keyboard while idly surfing the internet for the seven minutes or so it takes to slurp it down. Put it that way and it doesn’t feel much like a luxury at all.
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