Monthly Archives: November 2015

Brown Bagging Saves on Green

By Andrea Freedman

When I first started working full-time many years ago, it didn’t take me long to realize how much money I was spending on lunch. After the first week of my official full-time experience in the workforce, I wondered if I would have enough money for the week’s worth of lunch until pay day. After that I began to bring my lunch from home, and I diligently kept up with this habit for 24 years.

I calculated thousands of dollars in savings every year, enough to instead go on vacation. I would get sarcastic comments from others in the office – including from higher-ups whose salaries were undoubtedly higher than mine – “Must be nice”, they would say. You could do it too, I would tell them, if you only didn’t waste so much money on mediocre lunches at work.

It came that I would bring anything I could find in the fridge. If there were leftovers from dinner, I was only too happy to pack them into a container and cart them off to the office the next day for lunch. Not only was I saving money, I was also making good use of the food I had in the fridge rather than throwing it in the garbage.

Eating healthy costs even more. If you buy a good salad, or something else that seems good for you, it is generally just as or sometimes even more expensive than going out to lunch at a sit-down restaurant. Otherwise, anything you buy at the food court is usually not all that healthy and is often quite fattening.

It’s not even like it’s that much fun to buy or go out for lunch at work, considering the standard lunch break is usually an hour at most. When you spend time deciding what to eat then stand in a huge line-up with other money-wasters, before you know it most of your lunch break is over and you can only wolf down your food or eat it at your desk.

I don’t know how many times when I treated myself to a food court lunch while working that I was actually disappointed, and after looking forward to something “fun” for lunch, often even felt sick or had a stomach ache the rest of the afternoon.

Besides the money I saved by bringing my lunch from home, I chose to make the most of my break either by meeting a friend and spending the whole hour talking instead of worrying about what to buy for lunch, shopping or going for a nice long walk. On a nice day when I didn’t have plans to meet anyone, I would take my home-made lunch outside and read a book.

Now, as a freelancer, I usually am able to have lunch at home, a nice time in the day which I have come to look forward to. On the occasions when I am out on an assignment or covering a story, I always bring lunch with me; you never know when you’re going to get hungry and – no pun intended – it doesn’t eat into my profits for that day.

Vacations and other things on our wish lists are actually sometimes doable if we add up all the money we spend on costly, often unhealthy lunches, and even coffees, teas and specialty beverages that could also often be made at home. I don’t mean to suggest that we should deny ourselves a simple pleasure or treat to brighten our day at work, but for those of us who don’t have unlimited funds, our money could be better budged so that we may ultimately properly enjoy the fruits of our labour.

It is all about individual priorities when it comes to what we spend our hard-earned money on. Personally, I’d rather relax in a real restaurant on a day off instead of having to be stressed out while waiting for food service, and then not having the money to spend on something that would make me much happier in the long run.

If people choose to waste what amounts to a large percentage of their pay-cheques on unsatisfying, over-priced food while at work, that’s their business; but If they added up all the money they spend every year on what could be argued as an unnecessary expenditure, they just might lose their lunch!♦

Have you had your eye on something special but didn’t think you could spare the money? Here’s a challenge for everyone: Bring your lunch to work between now and this year’s Boxing Day sales. Each day, put the money aside that you would have spent on lunch and see how much you have saved at the end; you just might be able to buy yourself that something special after all! Keep it going beyond that and before you know it you’ll be booking your dream vacation!

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2015

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Milking it for all its worth

By Andrea Freedman

When I was little, I have a distinct memory of my step-grandmother on my dad’s side always serving milk from a bag when my family and I went over to visit her and my grandfather. Even as a child, I found the bag off-putting; that is not to say that it stopped me from drinking it with the cookies she made nonetheless.

These days, as a more sensible adult trying to find ways to save a few bucks here and there – especially since launching my full-time writing career – I am now looking at bagged milk through different eyes.

I first started thinking seriously about trying bagged milk again after food prices began escalating and a couple of my neighbours swore by the money they save by purchasing bagged milk, as you usually get at least ½ quart more than you do when buying cartons. Not only that, the price is about the same or less for three bags of milk than it is for one regular double quart of milk, whether the bagged milk is on sale or not.

These ladies can well afford to buy milk from a carton, but they are not too proud to choose the bagged, less expensive milk instead. If it’s good enough for them, I thought, it’s good enough for me.

Off I went enthusiastically to the grocery store, finally committed to giving this a try. However, once I got the bagged milk home, it took a little while before I got the hang of things. If you haven’t yet tried bagged milk yourself but have considered it, although it can indeed be a potential money-saver, there are a few things you should know:

  • At first I thought I would use one of my existing pitchers. Why buy a new one when I don’t really need it, I reasoned? Little did I realize that initial bag placement is actually vital, as milk pitchers are made specifically to fit a bag of milk’s size and shape; cutting corners with any old pitcher will cause the bag to flop around and not stay in place, possibly resulting in a big mess!
  • Things were not quite so simple either when I used a scissors and (or so I thought) carefully cut a hole in the corner of the bag to open it. Well, picture, if you will, the look of utter horror on my face when the milk poured uncontrollably all over the counter (and on me) rather than making its way into my cereal bowl, where I had intended it to go! Yet another purchase would be required – a handy little bag snipper made for the express purpose of properly opening milk bags; another initial outlay of money, but very minimal, and, as it turns out, quite handy.
  • Beware: A bag of milk can take up to two days to completely defrost in the fridge. Even when you think it is completely thawed, don’t be surprised if a there are still a few remaining frozen chunks of milk in there.

Despite the casualties, and the moments when I asked myself if it was more trouble than it was worth, it didn’t take long for this experiment to pay for itself.

I have not noticed any difference in the taste of my milk since using the bagged form. Maybe “Auntie Freda” as we called my step-grandmother, knew what she was doing after all. Once the milk is in your glass, coffee cup or cereal bowl, you can forget about what it was contained in and just enjoy it – and at a lower cost, no less.

It certainly won’t make or break me, but for now I’m sticking with the bagged milk. Imagine all the money I would have saved if I had only done this sooner; oh well, you know what they say – no use crying over spilled milk.♦

Copyright © by Andrea Freedman, 2015