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


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 29, 2015, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I bring my lunch to work whenever I am there, and it does cost to prepare the food, and make sure I have everything to put my lunch together, but I think I still save money in the long run. I also know how everything is made, and it is alot healthier than buying something at the fast food counter. As for saving enough for a vacation, I don’t know about that. Good eating!


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