To Brown Bag, or Not To Brown Bag

I am, unashamedly and unabashedly, a foodie. I live in Portland, after all, which is the super-secret food lover’s paradise. We have great restaurants, great grocery stores (New Seasons yay!), and a huge community of people who like to talk, eat, cook, and then talk about eating and cooking while drinking our local beers, which are the best in the world. *nods*

So, what do I think when Wallet Pop has an article about how much cheaper it is to eat at home?

I add a “Yes, but…”

I currently work two jobs, which means at least once a week, I leave my house at 7am, get to w1rk at 8, leave w1rk at 4.30, arrive at w2rk at 5.45, leave w2rk at 10ish, and get home somewhere between 10.30 and 11.30 (depending on whether I rode the MAX or drove), then go to bed to get up at 6am and head to w1rk.

Let’s say my 2 job day is on Wednesday. Tuesday, I can totally cook up a big pot o’ something and portion it out. Then, my dining menu will read:

Tuesday Dinner: Pot o’ something.
Wednesday Breakfast: Oatmeal (bulk bin, a little cinnamon and sugar, 10.5 cents a serving)
Wednesday Lunch: Pot o’ something nukerwaved at w1rk and horked down real fast.
Wednesday Dinner: Pot o’ something nukerwaved at w2rk and horked down real fast.
Tuesday Breakfast: Oatmeal
Thursday Lunch: If I have to look at Pot o’ something one more time, I will hurl, so this portion either gets frozen or, most likely, will be left in the back of the fridge for three weeks and then get thrown out, which is money going down the garbage disposal.

The nice thing is that w2rk offers a cafeteria. For three bucks I get a nice-sized meal with soup or salad and a pop. They also offer to-go containers, so I have been known to take half my meal home and to w1rk for lunch the next day. That $3, by the way, is an individual line item on my budget. It’s not part of grocery money.

And then I had the brilliant idea: why not do the same thing for when I eat out at lunch?

So, today being a w1rk only day, and me totally forgetting to put together a veg lunch*, I called up the Old Spaghetti Factory and got their pasta with marinara. And after a nice little walk in the sunshine (yay sunshine!) I now have lunch and dinner.

Let’s do the math

Entree+salad+bread+tip** for lunch and dinner: 8.45
Divided by 2 means each meal cost me: 4.22
Cost of a sammich at the deli nearby that would have left me hungry for dinner later: 5.99***
Cost per serving of the pot o’ something I made last week: 2.75

I’ve budgeted so that I can eat out for lunch/dinner twice a month, and eat at w2rk four times a month.

Therefore, I think that yes, brown bagging is still the best bet if you want to save money. But sometimes, depending on your habits and lifestyle, eating out is the better option. So it’s a-okay, folks! Go out and eat, but BUDGET BUDGET BUDGET!

*I don’t eat meat certain days of the week. Because, that’s why.
**If you don’t tip your food service workers, even for takeout, I will kick you. Hard. Budget in the tip as part of your eating out cashy monies.
***Oh, it’s such a tasty sammich, though. Totally worth six bucks. And I’ll have one, yes I will, on the day I pay off my last credit card.


The Experiment

What happens when I put as much time and energy into keeping track of my finances as I do in keeping track of my fandoms? Let's find out!

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