Forget Brown Bagging It

For a very long time I believed in collecting my pennies and stashing them away for a rainy day. As the years went by I often found more and more difficult to spend money.

As I waited in the checkout line I wrestled with the decision to spend a few dollars on a sandwich at the local deli. I berated myself with questions like “Why didn’t I pack a lunch?” or “Why didn’t I remember to bring my thermos full of water?”

Every six months I would sit down and review our expenses and balk at my husband as I reviewed the food categories. “How did we spend thousands of dollars on lunches?”

I came up with ways to save. I started packing all of my snacks and drinks. Then moved on to packing leftovers and sandwiches, but after a week or so of following the frugal rules I would fall off the bandwagon.

Now that I stay home with my son I understand why I couldn’t stick with brown bagging it. It is those lunches that I miss more than just about any other aspect of the working day.

Sitting at corner tables in dimly lit restaurants my co-workers and I would complain about management, discuss the latest news and catch up on stories about our boyfriends, husbands, wives and families. I miss the camaraderie and companionship that we shared in those moments.

For the first six years of my career I worked in D.C. My office was within walking distance to a bunch of restaurants and metro accessible to many more. Regardless of the weather my co-workers and I would venture out to grab a bite to eat together.

Since I decided to stay home with my son a lot of people ask me if I miss work. While I don’t miss the hour-by-hour tasks that make up a work day I do miss eating lunch with my co-workers.

I can remember so many specific meals and the people I shared them with. There was the time my 50 year old co-worker told me that I was taking work too seriously. As a 25 year old I wanted to prove my worth and my talent. He told me one day I would have children and leave the working world behind. He said all my desires to ‘be right’ were being wasted, that work wasn’t that important and that once I was gone no would care. He was right on so many counts, but at the time I was to naive to see or understand them.

There was the time my coworker and I talked about her desire to have children, the man she hoped to marry and the dreams she had for their future. She emptied her heart over slices of pizza and it saddens me to know they are now divorced and childless.

Or how about my friend who told me she was coming to terms with the fact that her young son was dying of cancer. I can remember that moment as if I am reliving it right now. As we sat eating tacos on a sunny spring afternoon I wanted to console her, but struggled to find the words to do so.

Those lunches cost me a few dollars here and a few dollars there, but despite long hours, days, weeks and years in the office those lunches are the most memorable.

It’s just another reminder that life is not about saving money. It’s about connecting with the people around you, even when forming those connections means spending a little bit. Those moments may have emptied my pockets, but they certainly filled my soul.

6 thoughts on “Forget Brown Bagging It”

  1. I work at a very small company, so if I didn’t brown bag it, I would just be eating by myself. However, my fiance does meet up with me every Thursday and we go out for lunch.

  2. I think you make a really good point, not everything is about ‘how much can I save?” I take my lunch each day and it works for me because I need my lunch time to recharge and take a break from dealing with my clients problems – so I eat alone, save money and feel better for it.
    On the other hand my DH buys his lunch everyday, he eats at the same coffee shop and it’s a big part of his social life and his business networking. he love it and being with his friends is good for him, plus he does a fair amount of business over lunch too.
    There really is no one size fits all for being frugal, and there IS more to life than saving a few bucks every chance possible!

    • Interesting point. If you get sick of your coworkers, then using your lunch break to recharge makes perfect sense. I know a lot of people go to the gym during lunch, because it’s the only time they have available. I totally get that too. My husband found the same as your DH. They discuss a lot of business while they are eating.

  3. I work at a medium sized firm. It’s nice because we have a lunch room and people can socialize in there. I normally bring my own lunch but on Fridays I sometimes go out with some of them to the local foodcourt or somewhere. I always considered the value of eating out is the social aspect of it šŸ™‚

    • If everyone brown bags it that is certainly an option. I used to eat in the cafeteria even when I brought my lunch so I could chat with coworkers. That’s a great compromise, but I found we had much deeper conversations outside of the office. Maybe because you aren’t worried about what others may overhear. You can talk more personally when other people aren’t around.


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