The Humble Sandwich

I’m not one to eat a lot of sandwiches to be honest, mainly because I now mostly work from where I live unless I’m in clinic in Surrey, so rarely have to put a lunch together to take with me. But I’ve recently had to think about sandwich fillings for those who work, and need lunch on the run. Well I found that writing about sandwiches became quite interesting!

According to The Work Foundation a group that promotes work/life balance, in the late 1950’s, 70 per cent of men went home for lunch. Those who didn’t brought in a packed lunch, or ate hot food in staff canteens, yes at that point they were still called staff canteens rather than restaurants! So mostly we still prepared our own foods, but what is obvious also from this was how much closer they lived to their work places to enable them to travel back for lunch, which just isn’t the case now with most of us. The daily commute to work has added a time pressure many most obviously didn’t originally have back then, and also with this came the creation of a market of prepackaged lunch time meals, that were eaten at the desk to, of course, save more time.

I was quite shocked when I started to look at the time we now tend to travel to and from our jobs, which is about a year of our lives getting to and from the office , which apparently works out at 10,634 hours! Astonishing really how much of our time we are giving up just getting to work, and no wonder we are increasingly eating prepackaged foods. If you added the time to not only prepare the food in the morning or the night before, and the shopping for the food, you are probably adding another year of your life, to just commuting and making lunch.

The people most unlikely to return home for lunch are those who amazingly are commuting from the Orkney Islands to Southwark in South London, a distance of 530 miles, each week. Home for lunch, yes of course, see you next Saturday darling! But they weren’t unusual, the commute for many is high, and time consuming, leaving people little time for their own lives. How can life have been turned so upside down, don’t we work to live, not live to work?

Jim Winship, of the British Sandwich Association, says: ‘The pre-packaged sandwich has changed our lives”…I wouldn’t go that far, “it’s life Jim but not as we know it”, to coin a phrase from Star Trek for those of you who missed the 70’s. I think our working ethics and values have changed our lives, and that has led to us turning to more and more preprepared foods, but it has led to a change in health, because food is now so easy to find, and we are catered for in so many ways to make it more attractive to buy this food, which is far more attractive than taking the little time we have left to prepare something more healthy for ourselves.

The UK sandwich market has for over a decade now continually increased, which is no surprise really, even the supermarkets are in on the act, and apparently there is no let up, we buy around 2 billion of them every year, that equates to nearly £3.5 billion. With a market and growth like that, we are unlikely to see less prepackaged foods, but more of it, and more attractions to buy it. That I thought I would highlight by the way is a lot of sandwiches by any stretch of the imagination that we are eating, and they are by far the most popular out of any other snack food, nothing gets close to it, chicken is the favourite filler, and the pizza market is only £1billion, still scarily high I have to say for my liking but doesn’t touch the no longer humble sandwich market.

So over 62% of us buy a sandwich at least once a year, and 1/3 of the market is 25-34 year olds with over 70% of these sandwiches being eaten at home, yes you read that correctly, people buy them to eat them at home. I hope that isn’t any of my clients who are reading this! LOL 14% of them are eaten at breakfast, not the worse idea in the world, depending on the filling of course. But this did show me that we consume an awful amount of prepackaged foods, and are often taking them home to eat!

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