How to Start an Office Lunch Club

When my husband started his first real office job, it didn’t take us long to realize we needed a new budget category — the office lunch. He was leaving work daily on his break, spending an hour away with coworkers over lunch. It wouldn’t have been as big of a hit if it were once a week or even fast food. But these were daily, sit-down meals.

I understood the need to socialize with his coworkers and sit down over a good, hot meal. Our budget, however, wasn’t nearly as understanding. We tried packing lunches, but who wants a sandwich in the break room when your coworkers are at a steakhouse? We tried cutting it down to weekly coworker meals, but the interaction was a big part of developing strong, working relationships.

That’s when I came up with the idea of the lunch club.

Instead of packing a simple lunch and dining alone in the break room, he invited several coworkers to join him in preparing hot meals — kind of a co-op for office lunch. They took turns providing meals to share on their lunch break, typically prepared in a slow cooker left in the break room all day.

Chili and soup, tacos, and meatball subs were popular options. After awhile, everyone had their own go-to meal to bring on their turn.

If you want to start a lunch club in your office, here are 8 tips to help make it successful:

1.) Invite 4-6 people to participate
You want it big enough to make it worth taking turns but not so big that your turn is an expensive event.

2.) Decide when and how often you will bring meals
Our lunch club shared a hot meal every Monday. This way, you had the weekend to shop for and prepare your meal. Plus, it was nice for the group to start their week with a good lunch. You could also have 5 people bring a daily meal, if you want to stay in all week.

3.) Have a signup sheet that includes what dish each person will bring
This will give people the opportunity to plan ahead, while ensuring you don’t eat the same thing every time.

4.) On your turn, bring enough food for everyone
You may spend more on a single lunch, but you’ll have 3-5 days of free lunch to make up for it.

5.) Small, portable appliances can help you prepare food on the go
You can prep your meal in a slow cooker or consider a toaster oven, hot plate, or electric grill to cook lunch even in an office with no kitchen.

6.) Don’t forget drinks, plates, napkins, and utensils
You can either have everyone bring their own or assign it along with the meal.

7.) Change up the location 
If you want to just get away now and then, plan picnic lunches outdoors when the weather is nice. You can also move the lunch a little, if you have flexible options in your office building. Setup in an atrium or conference room, for a change of scenery.

8.) Consider a potluck
For shared meals with less commitment, consider having each person in your group bring one item for the meal. A main dish, side items, plates, drinks — everyone has a smaller responsibility while still getting a full meal.

Photo Credit: Flickr User: iagoarchangel

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More from Heather:
Weekday Lunch Savings
How to Pack a Waste Free Lunch

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