Lunch with a Big ❤️: Shobi's Table

It’s noon. It’s a beautiful Minnesota day and people are sitting down to have lunch together. Everything on their plates—from the ham mac + cheese to the granola bar—was prepared from scratch by people who care. The salad greens were a gift from a local farm, and the even dressing was homemade. Nobody’s checking their email. Nobody will end up feeling like crap later from too much fried food. People were invited (some personally) to come, sit down for a few minutes, and eat something better.

THIS is the lunch dream I dream. And yesterday I saw it come true with my own eyes.

Shobi’s Table serves a homemade lunch to roughly 60 Saint Paul, MN, residents twice each month based on the core values of One World Everybody Eats, including:

  • Pay-what-you-can pricing

  • Patrons choose their own portion size

  • Healthy, seasonal food is served whenever available

  • A community table is offered

This particular community table sits between two neighborhoods: one mostly of people employed by the state capitol and major medical centers, and another mostly of people who don’t.

Who should be sitting down together in your city, or neighborhood, or workplace? Everybody eats. What a lovely way to start a conversation.

P.S. Who’s Shobi? The Bible says that a man named Shobi helped provide food to King David and his people when they fled Jerusalem. Shobi’s Table is a Christian outreach ministry, but the lunches they serve are about lunch. No theological or other strings attached.

The Grit Scale

Her  6-minute TED Talk  introduces you to AD and why she started studying grit.

Her 6-minute TED Talk introduces you to AD and why she started studying grit.

Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.
— Angela Lee Duckworth

You’re ready for a change. There’s something you want—and you think you know what it is. But what’s gonna help you get it? And help you keep getting it?

Angela Duckworth and her colleagues at Penn think it’s grit. For some of us, being super-gritty means we can stick with our Box Lunch Lifestyle practice without breaking a sweat. But some of us struggle to follow through on the things we really want—even when we REALLY want them, and especially when they are quiet dreams that are worth pursuing simply because of how they make us feel.

Do you think of yourself as a person who has grit? Don’t sell yourself short. This quiz might help you see if the story you’re telling yourself is a fair one, and give you ideas to face your own lunch food and lunch time obstacles.

P.S. You can answer the ten short questions, get your score immediately (without sharing your email address) today at lunch and still have time to make good on that quiet dream.

Monday Inspiration from Andy Puddicombe

If you’ve always wanted to be a person who meditates, you can do it today. The first ten days of  Headspace  is free.

If you’ve always wanted to be a person who meditates, you can do it today. The first ten days of Headspace is free.


(Andy is one seriously wise man.)

Do you feel like a lot of people are depending on you today? Feeling guilty about taking a 30-minute lunch break that’s just for you?

Lunch isn’t time away from being helpful to other people. It’s an investment. By putting what you need and want first—for just a short time—you're more likely to be a better listener, or helper, or boss, or whatever, as the day goes on. You’ll feel healthier, and how you relate to the people who depend on you might feel a little healthier, too.

Better You. Better Them.


Life speaks to us. And you've decided to listen.

I just heard Marcus Buckingham talk about individuality and how it doesn’t get valued as much as it should. This is disappointing, but not surprising to me. It would be tidy for the world if we all fit nicely into round-peg holes, but I know I’m a square, and maybe you’re a shape that doesn’t even have a name yet.

In this 2-minute video tidbit, MB says:

Your life speaks to you in a language only you can understand.

Box Lunch Lifestyle helps remind us that we’re individual humans first before we’re project managers or parents.

So congratulate yourself today for taking your own individuality seriously, and living it—sometimes in an environment that doesn’t appreciate it. You’re curious and willing to listen. Other people may not understand what it is that feeds you, so their advice and expectations aren’t the way to find that end-of-day satisfaction you seek. Good for you for being brave enough and strong enough to show up for that quirky, wonderful You. Maybe not every day, but on most of them.

Because it matters. You matter. Keep going.

MB has written, among other things, about using your StrengthsFinder® strengths. His book  Nine Lies About Work  was published in April 2019.

MB has written, among other things, about using your StrengthsFinder® strengths. His book Nine Lies About Work was published in April 2019.

Interesting and Easy Food: The Fighter's Kitchen

I’m not doing the Amazon affiliate thing. Buy or don’t buy, but definitely consider this resource for your BLL toolkit.

I’m not doing the Amazon affiliate thing. Buy or don’t buy, but definitely consider this resource for your BLL toolkit.

Pea salad + roasted carrots = 2 vegetables. Add two hard-boiled = done.

Pea salad + roasted carrots = 2 vegetables. Add two hard-boiled = done.

Boxing AND commonsense food? [The sound you hear is my heart pounding.]

Chris Algieri does a lot of stuff, but he’s probably best known as boxer. And now he’s an author, and it turns out that for many years he’s been a pretty good cook. The Fighter’s Kitchen was gifted to me by my coach, and I was so curious to try the Smashed Peas + Feta that I made two stops for ingredients on the way home from the gym. That afternoon I made two tasty lunches by combining ingredients I understood in a way I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

Don’t let the title intimidate you. I’m not planning meals “to sculpt a warrior body.” I just want the kind of lunch I deserve. This is a food book for fighters, but we are all fighters trying to get all we can out of life. So maybe you’re not training for the next world championship fight, but you still need better fuel to face today’s (hopefully less painful) challenges.

Are you curious? Some of his ideas for simple-to-assemble dishes are visible on Google Books.

Stella Grizont: Work Happiness One Lunch at a Time

Workday lunches happen at…work. And when I first met Stella Grizont, I didn’t think it was possible to get happy at work. But I was wrong. Stella’s brand of compassion and insight into workplace culture made her the right coach to not just to help me plan for a different future, but to make the most of EVERY SINGLE WORK DAY. And she’s a riot. Listen to any of her interviews and I guarantee her attitude and spunk will make you smile no matter how you feel about your job today.

What’s Stella’s secret? Showing us how we may be looking at things backwards. Instead of first thinking about what you want to DO (specifically in your role at work), try asking yourself how you want to BE (as a human). This is very Box Lunch Lifestyle. That human-ness is something you can have today—at lunch.

Stella has generously shared these ideas for what you can do in just 15 minutes:

I’ve worked with Stella professionally, but I don’t recommend her approach to you because there’s something in it financially for me. (There isn’t.) When I listened to Stella and started to value my own happiness as much as I did my resume, my life began change. I realized that had to be a happier person first before I could be the happier-at-work person. And that could be you—TODAY. (I hope it is.)

Champion a Social Problem

The title of David Brooks’ latest TED Talk is The Lies Our Culture Tells Us About What Matters--and a Better Way to Live. Whoa. Serious. But the message, also in his new book, aligns with our Box Lunch Lifestyle less-serious pursuit of turning typical days into remarkable ones with more meaning, purpose and joy.

DB sees people finding deep satisfaction by pulling others together around important projects and causes.

Have you always wanted to be a person who unites, or heals, or rescues? If asking this question makes you feel a spark of aliveness (and not a heavy thud of “should”-type obligation) maybe your quiet dream is to finally be the person who acts on that project, cause, or social problem that speaks to you.

Quiz Follow-Up: Sparketype

day 3c bulb.jpg

Did you try the Jonathan Field’s Sparketype™ quiz that I posted a couple weeks ago? You should. Here’s why: like me, it’s possible that you’re not being completely honest with yourself about what you really like doing.

Based on dozens of other assessments I’ve done, I’d already put myself into whatever would be the “curious/learner/nerd” category. I’ve defined myself that way for-basically-ever: the nerdy kid who grew up to be the nerdy researcher. That Sparketype, the Maven, loves learning for it’s own sake.

But the Maven was my runner-up. It turns out I’m most like the Essentialist, who feels alive from creating order from chaos. What gives me energy is what I can DO—or do better—as a result of what I learn. And I can honestly say that I feel the most like me from tasks that simplify, organize, and get whatever matters less out of the way so that I can focus on the “good stuff.” And that may be literal stuff, or cluttery, unnecessary stories we tell ourselves, or any kind of road block that keeps us living the kind of life we want to live today.

So, as an Essentialist, a satisfying day in my more-satisfying life looks different than I thought. Knowing that helps me choose, and be more confident that how I spend my time will fill me up in the way I need. At lunch, or anytime.

Instead of revealing all the Sparketypes here, I think you’ll enjoy discovering—or rediscovering—on your own which one is the most-like-you feeling, and what quiet dreams it might be offering up.

Storing Ingredients Right = Using Them Up

Those foods that you love using to make your lunch? They last longer than we think.

You’ve probably seen’s powerful end-food-waste messages elsewhere, but you’ll hear more about their campaign on this blog, too. Your lunch break means a healthier you, but it can also make us aware of what food we use up—and what we don’t. These quick tricks to keep food better, longer, come directly from the SaveTheFood experts:

  • Wrap leftover cheese loosely in wax paper, not plastic.

  • Keep herbs like cut flowers—with their stems in a glass of water.

  • Place ripe avocados in the fridge, they’ll last longer.

  • Keep flour fresher almost twice as long by freezing it.

  • Use a slice of bread to soften up hardened brown sugar.

Wanna become a food storage champ? SaveTheFood has this topic covered. (I just can’t resist a terrible pun.)

Kidding aside, 40% of all food in America is wasted. I think our make-your-own lunch movement can change that. Don’t you?

Go-To Gear: Pocket-Size Salt + Pepper Shaker

As soon as black pepper is ground, it’s  “down hill from there” according to McCormick . You can replace it with  cayenne .

As soon as black pepper is ground, it’s “down hill from there” according to McCormick. You can replace it with cayenne.

I use this little guy almost every day even though I have other options—even magnetic ones! For only 99¢, this salt + pepper combo is cleverly designed and does the trick.

I bought mine at The Container Store. (So it’s also an excellent excuse to go to The Container Store.)


Lunch Off Off Broadway: "Lunch Bunch"

Rats! I can’t believe I missed this!

This well-reviewed NYC play is about an office of public defenders who want to “do good, feel good, and eat well.” They decide to take turns making lunches for one another in an attempt to “nourish themselves and maybe one another,” ultimately realizing that what’s important is self-awareness and our day-to-day interactions with people, and what we avoid when we focus on making lemon tahini noodles with broccolini instead.

I didn’t get to see the play, but I found this reviewer’s totally-Box-Lunch-Lifestyle reflection quietly powerful:

Watching the play, I remembered what I’d eaten earlier that day—a lukewarm egg and cheese sandwich, which I’d split with my 2-year-old, plus whatever blueberries the kid discarded—and how this was probably evidence that I am not living my best life.

Or maybe I am. Because what mattered is that we’d shared it and enjoyed sharing it and fed the bread to the birds after. Food for thought.


Are you a fast eater?

Some people are surprised to find it hard to make their lunch food last for fifteen minutes—even without the distractions of follow lunchers or their iPhone.

But slowing down is an important part of Box Lunch Lifestyle’s “better food.” Chewing more, for example, means getting as much as you can out of this good food you’ve made for yourself. Taste it! Appreciate it! For 15 minutes, let your food give you as many nutrients AND as much pleasure as possible.

Counting the number of chews, for me, is a deal breaker. I want to eat the food I love, not count it. What works for me is my boxing coach’s advice to “chew your solids until they’re liquid, and chew your liquids.” (I think she’s kidding about the last part. But maybe not.)

This article on slower eating by Precision Nutrition’s Brian St. Pierre lays out the chewing pros and cons nicely, and offers BLL-worthy tips like:

  • Choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew (e.g., two crunchy vegetables.)

  • Put down your fork after each bites.

  • Find a slow eater and pace yourself with that person.

My favorite one? His advice to set aside a time to eat:

“At least 20-30 minutes for each meal, and preferably even longer at dinner. Don’t just eat ‘whenever you get around to it’ or treat it as an inconvenience. You’re fueling your body and maybe spending quality time with friends and family. That’s important. It deserves an appointment.”

Amen, brother.

Reading More One Lunch at a Time: Cheryl's Summer Solution

Happiness enthusiast Gretchen Rubin reads A LOT. (Just last month she read 18 books. This is not unusual.) If you want to be a person who reads more, check out her Reading Better Than Before habit download or these 13 tips. She clearly knows how to make more reading happen, but two of her tips trip me up:

7. Always have something to read.

8. Maintain a big stack.

In #7, GR says to keep your book handy so you can grab any spare moment to read. That’s good advice. For me, though—and maybe for you—“more reading” will happen during my 15 minutes of lunch You time. So, yes, I’ll need to know where to find my book.

And trust me: I have #8 covered.

But my problem isn’t having enough books. It’s deciding which book that’s hard. I’m usually trying to choose at night when I’m tired and have no decision-making energy left. So I end up NOT choosing, and not reading before I go to sleep, and ultimately not having a book queued up for the next workday’s lunch. Having a full shelf of books waiting motivates GR, but to me it’s a constant reminder of “not doing enough.”

This year’s first pick?  Consider the Women  by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish  this one .

This year’s first pick? Consider the Women by Debbie Blue! I’ll start it as soon as I finish this one.

Here’s my summer solution:

I write on slips of paper a dozen or so titles I’m honestly dying to read. Then between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when I’m ready for a new book, I pick one from the Book Cup. There’s no risk of being disappointed because I love all the choices, and I don’t have to force myself to think when I’m sleepy. I just start whichever one gets picked, and if I don’t love that book, I abandon it for the next one. So instead of wishing and wondering about those books, I am the person who actually reads them.

Dawn's Advice? Keep Going!

Starting your Box Lunch Lifestyle is one thing. Sticking with it is another.

Dawn dove into her better-lunch practice to learn more about meal planning and to be accountable to herself. She kicked things off by cleaning the refrigerator. (Nice, but not required!)

On Day 2, here’s what she said:

Lunch lasted 15 minutes. Yummy! Then a few minutes of sitting with my eyes closed and thinking/scanning my body. Thanking it for being healthy.

Dawn’s a busy person: a full-time stylist, wife, mom, boxer, and seriously-clever home decorator. By Week 3, some of the Box Lunch Lifestyle shiny new-ness had worn off:

I’m three weeks into clean eating and enjoying lunch. I feel better physically, but my motivation isn’t quite as strong as Day 1.

But now Dawn’s on Week 10! Here’s what she said kept her on her feet:

Do the work! For me, it’s even harder to feel stuck in a place I don’t want to be than it is to make my food and spend a few minutes thinking about myself—calmer, and more energy. It’s worth it to make this my new lifestyle, not just a short-term challenge.

Way to go, Dawn!

Keep going!

Meal Planning Resource: Workweek Lunch


Workweek Lunch, like other meal planning services, sells monthly subscriptions. But for the low price of your email address, you can get ideas for getting organized and choosing food options that fit your budget. And it’s all about lunch. Excellent!

Are you more of an assembler than a cook? There are lists of  Minimal Cooking  and  Beginner  recipes, too.

Are you more of an assembler than a cook? There are lists of Minimal Cooking and Beginner recipes, too.

If you’re new-ish to Box Lunch Lifestyle you might be wondering, “But isn’t this kinda the same thing?”


The food part of lunch is important, but it’s not everything. Box Lunch Lifestyle asks if you’re living the life you’ve always promised yourself. If you aren’t, and you’ve put your own dreams on hold for too long, lunch is an opportunity to finally make good on those promises to yourself—to eat a little better, but also to spend a piece of (almost) every day investing in yourself.

It’s making these two most-basic choices “better” together and regularly, in a no-pressure kind of way, that makes Box Lunch Lifestyle work. Your body gets stronger, because you’re feeding your spirit. Your spirit gets stronger, because you’re feeding your body. Not a fad. Not complicated. And not just food.

Box Lunch Lifestyle is the foundation of a holistic lifestyle practice that will motivate and sustain you in a way that “just food” simply can’t. That makes it a different kind of animal. Just like you.


Lunch in the Midst of Chaos

I’ll confess: I’ve listened to every episode of the podcast Side Hustle School. Chris Guillebeau, for a bunch of reasons, is one of my heroes. But yesterday’s Weekly Recap was particularly inspiring. (The whole thing is only 13 minutes, but I know you can find 3 1/2 minutes to hear the snippet starting at minute 5.)

My take on what Chris says is that the whole point of building a routine is to help us when the overwhelm sets in. You can’t change the fact that too much is crammed into a given day, but you can choose do the best you can for whatever your Self needs. If the day’s probably going to be a mess anyway, you can still create a bright spot by keeping a commitment you’ve made to yourself. For him, it’s getting a run in despite all the meetings, etc.

What do YOU need during that kind of day?

Your Box Lunch Lifestyle is the tiny, calm eye in the middle of the storm. Lunch isn’t going to be perfect on some of these extremely-not-perfect days, but don’t give up. Dig in a little and get some small something for yourself. You get credit for that, and I bet that some better food and little time help will you weather it all a little easier.

His DAILY podcast is my inspiration to write to you every single workday. I want to be the Chris Guillebeau of lunch.

His DAILY podcast is my inspiration to write to you every single workday. I want to be the Chris Guillebeau of lunch.

Wheat Foods 101

I don’t bake my own bread. I’m my opinion, grilled cheese couldn’t taste any better than it does on Dave’s Killer Bread.

I don’t bake my own bread. I’m my opinion, grilled cheese couldn’t taste any better than it does on Dave’s Killer Bread.

A lot of people talk about gluten, but the Box Lunch Lifestyle leveling-up of having a wheat-based food only once each day isn’t about gluten sensitivity. It’s simply a sneaky way to avoid eating high-processed, less nutritious foods at every meal.

It might be easy to find a list of gluten-free foods to add to your shopping list, but it’s a heck of a lot harder to find one of the usually-wheat-based foods that are perfectly wonderful to eat every day. The catch? If you eat them at lunch, make them yourself.

These are some wheat foods you can’t help but trip over in American dining culture:

  • most pastas, like spaghetti, macaroni, ravioli, and lasagna

  • most breads, including sandwich buns, dinner rolls, bagels, and biscuits


Here are some others:

  • bran cereals

  • muffins

  • pancakes

  • crackers

  • stuffing

  • cookies

  • pretzels

  • egg noodles

  • couscous

  • pizza crust

  • cake

  • waffles

  • bran cereal

  • flour tortillas

  • donuts

  • pie crust


There are also sauces and toppings and fried items (e.g., onion rings or anything breaded) made with wheat, but don’t get bogged down in the smaller stuff. A Box Lunch Lifestyle means there’s no reason to deny yourself high-quality delicious bread. But you can do a little better for your body nutritionally than eating toast for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, and pizza for dinner. So mix it up, but enjoy what you eat.