ESSA

ESSA

An economist’s lunch: optimisation in the Union House food court


Sabre Konidaris

By

July 31st, 2016


Sabre Konidaris takes the calculator to the counter in a quest to find the most efficient lunch on campus


After the slog of exams and freezing holiday period, many of our diets have likely fallen prey to the mentality of: ‘whatever, I’ve got more important things to worry about’. If you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted as you head back to Semester 2 in the cold ravages of a merciless Melbourne Winter, then perhaps the signs may be telling you to think more about what you eat. By varying your diet to achieve higher energy levels, you may help to lighten your load, or at the very least your attitude towards university life.

Often the foods that are the healthiest do not have as many kilojoules (energy) as ‘junk’ foods, and let’s face it, the price of healthier food can often be extreme. As a university student with a limited budget, eating more healthy food to achieve the same kilojoule intake that you would derive from junk food may be a physically sustainable option in the long run – but in the short term, finding a balance between health and financial priorities is of the utmost importance.

So as you head into Union House, which food should you buy to maximise your scholarly abilities throughout the semester without minimising your cash reserves? By gathering prices data and information regarding the most popular items purchased at food shops in Union House, the following price to kilojoule ratios were calculated. The price to kilojoule ratio operates as an input to output ratio, which you can use to determine the most productive eating choices when hunger and exhaustion strike.

*Note that while kilojoule content was explicitly stated on the menu for items with an asterisk, estimates based upon insights from online sources have been drawn upon to give an approximation as to the energy content of other items. This information may be marginally inaccurate.

Shop Food Price ($) Price (c) Kilojoules Price (c)/Kilojoule ratio
*Subway Foot-long meatball sub 7.95 795 3420 1:4.30
 

*Boost

 

Mango Magic

 

7.00

 

700

 

1820

 

1:2.60

 

*Vending Machine

 

Mother

 

3.50

 

350

 

975

 

1:2.78

 

*Zambrero

 

Vegetarian Quesadillas

 

5.90

 

590

 

1412

 

1:2.39

 

Zambrero

 

Chicken/Beef Burrito

 

11.90

 

1190

 

1850.02

 

1:1.55

 

Pizza Pronto

 

2 Pizza Slices (pepperoni) and 600ml Drink Combo

 

8.50

 

850

 

3464.35

 

1:4.08

 

Hoho’s canteen

 

Small Café Latte

 

3.50

 

350

 

422.58

 

1:1.21

 

Vegie Patch

 

Chicken Schnitzel (half) and avocado sandwich

 

6.00

 

600

 

1548.08

 

1:2.58

 

Express Kebabs

 

Doner Kebab (lamb)

 

8.00

 

800

 

2401.62

 

1:3.00

 

La Bonne Bouffe

 

Multigrain BBQ Pork Baguette (with carrot, cucumber, coriander, salad)

 

7.00

 

700

 

2552.24

 

1:3.65

 

Uni Curry

 

Butter chicken and lamb curry on rice

 

8.00

 

800

 

1643.27

 

1:2.05

 

Uni Catch

 

¼ Roast chicken with chips (cup) and salad (cucumber, lettuce, tomato, chicken, avocado, onion)

 

7.80

 

780

 

2734.24

 

1:3.51

 

Chill Out

 

Chocolate Muffin

 

3.00

 

300

 

2075.26

 

1:6.92

 

Plush Fish Café and Sushi Bar

 

Salmon Sushi roll

 

2.80

 

280

 

1271.94

 

1:4.54

 

Egg Sake Bistro

 

Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry Donburi

 

7.00

 

700

 

1987.40

 

1:2.84

 

After comparing the price to kilojoule ratio for the most popular products of each food shop, the chocolate muffin from Chill Out has come out on top, meaning that for each input (price) the most output (energy) is realised when choosing to consume the chocolate muffin. So does this mean that you should always consume chocolate muffins? Although the data suggests a high productivity energy burst from this option, it is likely that diminishing returns in terms of how energised you feel will set in rapidly if you choose to restrict your diet to mere muffin consumption. We need a balanced diet to function to our optimal level, and for this reason the salmon sushi roll, pork baguette, chicken, chips and salad, and subway may be more effective options long-term.

The least productive food/drink to consume energy wise was the Café Latte from Hoho’s Canteen. Although the caffeine in coffee can provide a quick energy boost, the total energy derived from coffee when compared to other foods is substantially lower. For the price of $3.50 (a common price for coffee in many places around Union House) drinking coffee is not a great way to maximise productivity. However, arguably the comfort derived from drinking coffee on cold winter mornings may be worth more emotionally than any number of kilojoules can physically provide.

For all foods, taste, quality, ingredients, and other factors influence how our bodies process them, and as such, the price to kilojoule ratio may not be the most effective measurement of how energised we become from consuming certain foods. However, if you are ever in a rut, need a rapid and effective energy boost, or just want to load up on calories, you may find this data useful in making informed decisions about what to buy from Union House.

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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