How to make a sandwich

Flying the red-eye from somewhere to anywhere is often an exercise in a little displeasure and some discomfort. Flying the red-eye from Vancouver to Toronto with a cranky toddler digging into your lap is always pure hell.

So when I flipped on the TV to entertain my kid, I thought I’d found some peace for me and some quiet for the passengers on the plane. The late-night show on offer was CBC’s “Best Recipes Ever” and my kid was immediately enthralled watching a pretty lady in a pink sweater make food.

I was enthralled by the pink lady too, mostly because I love a good cooking show where impossible dishes with mysterious oil-infused ingredients are served with culinary prowess and advanced creative ingenuity. Both my daughter and I watched intently to witness what delicious meal could be considered a “best recipe ever” by the CBC.

If I wasn’t securely strapped to my seat due to turbulence, I would have fallen over. Someone (the people of Canada) had paid the CBC’s Best Recipes Ever (real money) to demonstrate (to the people of Canada) how to assemble… wait for it… a cold ham and cheese sandwich. Yes, a sandwich.

I can’t make this up.

Where was the culinary prowess? The creative ingenuity? The cooking? I hungered for an oil-infused ingredient (or a drizzle of basic Balsamic vinegar) but the TV chef didn’t even rise to bake her own bread. The most alluring thing about this publicly funded sandwich was the 1950s-inspired garnish — a garishly speared toothpick boasting a cherry tomato and a mechanically stuffed olive.

bestrecipesever

I was about to lose it.

The grumble in my tummy wasn’t satiated. The red in my red-eye welled impossibly, trying to hold back the tears. And my daughter refused to stop wiggling. The plane would experience zero peace and quiet this flight ’cause my kid yelped: “I NO LIKE IT” and I belly laughed so hard I nearly launched that child into the luggage compartment above.

The sandwich-assembling recap was especially helpful to those who have never assembled a sandwich before.

And then it happened. No, I didn’t read The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

I don’t know what “it” was but my flight-numbed brain took a nose dive and I saw the brilliance in the now-cancelled cooking show. This defunct sandwich-making program wasn’t ridiculous or lazy — it was pure personal finance genius. By transcending culinary mastery and moving beyond costly infused oils and unique foreign ingredients, the pretty chef lady in pink managed to flip off all cooking shows of past, present, and future by making a budget-friendly lunch worthy of a brown bag. This bit$ch was going to increase your financial bottom line, one slice of fromage at a time.

Everyone knows taking your lunch to work or school saves you considerable cash over eating out. Don’t believe me? Check out Buying your lunch? That’s one expensive habit where I’m interviewed in The Globe and Mail.

So back on the plane while struggling with a over-tired toddler and enduring a cancelled show called “Best Recipes Ever” I decided to crunch the numbers and do the math on the cost of a better-than-average ham and cheese sandwich.

I will save you money, Canada. OK, I’ll save the world money too. Promise.

Number Cruncher: The cost of a ham and cheese sandwich

After landing on two stable and well-rested feet I headed straight to Costco with my sandwich shopping list. I’ve done the legwork, shopping at Costco is really worth it.

ham sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 1 ciabatta bun, sliced
  • 4 oz (113g) rosemary stone baked ham, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz (57 g) Brie cheese, sliced
  • 2 lettuce leaves
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) whole-berry cranberry sauce, no-name
  • Garnish: 1 toothpick, 1 stuffed olive, 1 cherry tomato

If you’re giving my lazy canned cranberry sauce the side-eye, go ahead and delight your savoury senses with my homemade cranberry sauce — it’s delicious and takes a little additional work over opening a can.

Moving along…

I followed the sandwich layering instructions of “Best Recipes Ever” perfectly and I’ll recap the darn recap to prove it. Sandwich Recap: Cut the bun in half, slather on some cranberry sauce, layer slices of deli ham, cut the cheese and stack some Brie, top with a bun and add a garish garnish. Your sandwich is served, Canada.

OK, a panini press would have made this wich more perfect. But since the CBC wasn’t into heating things up with a little flare, neither would I.

sandwich

I weighed the ingredients and I tallied the cost.

panini sandwich recipes

Bottom Line: Eating a premium ham and Brie sandwich once will cost you $2.65/day. Savour the sandy over a week and you’ll pay $13.25/week. Packing the samewich for a year totals a tasty $689 per annum. Pretty frugal (not cheap) considering a premium take-out lunch costs around $14/day, or $70/week, or $3,640/year.

Note: Five business days is a week, and 260 days (5*52) is a year.

Total Premium Sandwich Over Take-Out Savings: Eating the ham and Brie sandwich and skipping the premium take-out saves a hungry diner a stunning 81% — that’s $11.35/day, $56.75/week, $2,951/year. Stuff those savings in your RRSP and rock it.

But wait, there’s more…

Number Cruncher: The cost of a ‘Miser Sadwich’

So, ‘The Carl’ wasn’t sold on the CBC’s ham and Brie sandwich being a “best recipe ever.” Because Carl is a little stubborn, a lot German, and mostly stuck in his ways, he much prefers to munch on a far less costly lunch. He deems “The Miser Sadwich”, which is basically a cheese, mustard, and lettuce lunch nestled between two whole-wheat slices of bread a “pretty decent lunch.”

cheesesandwich

The Miser is not a super-sexy meal, but the minimal cost can tame even the tightest of lunch budgets.

sandwich recipes

Bottom Line: The Miser’s mustardy magnificence will set you back 68 cents a day, $3.40/week, or $176.80/year. Considerably frugal if you calculate an inexpensive take-out lunch to be $7/day, or $35/week, or $1,820/year.

Total Miser Sadwich Over Take-Out Savings: Building a cheese, mustard, and lettuce sandwich saves a midday luncher 90% over ordering low-cost take-out — that’s $6.32/day, $31.60/week, or $1,643.20/year.

Wrapped and ready for lunch. Here’s the front:

schoollunch

And the back:

lunchideas

You won’t won’t find ‘The Miser Sadwich’ in this fancy Sandwich Book. Nope. This blog represents real life, people. Also I’m almost done crunching numbers. Promise.

Where am I going with this?

Campy Canadian cooking shows produced by the CBC will get cancelled if they try to hawk a ham and cheese sandwich as a “best recipe ever”. Also, trapping a temperamental toddler on a red-eye flight from Vancouver to Toronto sucks. Lastly, making a cold ham and cheese sandwich at home costs less money then ordering one in a deli. Vegetarians can save even more cash — a total of 74% with savings of $1.97/day, $9.85/week, $512.20/year by skipping the ham and opting for a cheese and lettuce sandwich.

Now, who rocked the ham and Brie better? Squawky or the CBC?

ciabatta bread

Phew, I’m cooked.
Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom November 16th, 2014

    I think this was a Canadian Living magazine show? Maybe they worked together with the CBC? I didn’t know it had been cancelled. We don’t have cable, so I’ve definitely watched this show before in the afternoon. Most recipes were more advanced than a ham and cheese sandwich, but all were within my reach.

    Your sandwich looks awesome. I’m so glad you followed their tested til perfect stacking system or it would have been a disaster!

  2. Kerry November 16th, 2014

    @Emily Indeed, the sandwich was a success. Toasted would have been perfection. πŸ™‚

  3. RonNasty64 November 17th, 2014

    Love it, love it, love it! Great story, Kerry. I’ve been brown bagging for as long as I can remember. I use bagels for my sandwich because they are sturdy and freeze well. I make my 5 sandwiches on Sunday and freeze them for the weeks lunches. You can’t freeze lettuce or tomato, do you have any suggestions for freezeable accouterments?

  4. Ajka November 17th, 2014

    Since when does Costco carry No Name products?

  5. Linda November 17th, 2014

    I used to take multi-grain sandwiches to work, but now I take wraps. I find it is less filling than the bread slices and I can use various insides – like tuna, egg, pb and j, or meat and cheese (with or without lettuce). Thanks for the break-down on costs.

  6. Nancy W November 17th, 2014

    Love it! A great chuckle to start my day… thanks!

  7. Kerry November 17th, 2014

    @Ajka I knew someone would spy my can of cranberry sauce not purchased at Costco. It was in my pantry, so I didn’t need to buy another can. πŸ™‚

  8. Robin November 17th, 2014

    Excellent article! My local Portuguese deli sells an extra large sandwich (whole wheat sub bun), choice of meat and cheese, loaded with homemade bruschetta, lettuce, olives, red peppers etc. for $6.20 taxes included.
    It it enough for two lunches. Best deal ever!

  9. SC November 17th, 2014

    Your writing style is amazing…down-to-earth and hilarious. After blogging, consider stand-up comedy πŸ™‚

  10. amhp November 17th, 2014

    Kerry-
    Are you on Pinterest? There are so many recipes, craft ideas etc.. I hope you’ll pardon the article suggestion, but I think it would be so interesting if you provided a frugal analysis of some of the recipes and craft ideas. Some seem so useful and some, not so much http://pinterestfail.com/

  11. Marcia@Frugal Healthy Simple November 17th, 2014

    That was so funny. I’m a big fan of packing my lunches, and have, um, lectured my younger coworkers. Funny after the 2nd layoff, many more people are packing lunch.

    The sandwich, ah, the sandwich. Sadly, with my slowing 44-year old metabolism making taking off the 2nd baby weight (my “baby” is 2), sandwiches are off the menu, as is bread in general.

    However, my lunchtime salad is about $2.80. (Lettuce, homemade vinaigrette, hard boiled eggs, almonds, tiny bit of blue cheese).

  12. Pippa November 17th, 2014

    Great piece of writing, Kerry! As one of your faithful follower, practising what you preach, it’s a rare day that I actually buy lunch out, so I didn’t get too excited about the low cost of a tasty sandwich. I always feel disappointed though when I read you’ve shopped a box store for your groceries instead of supporting a local supermarket chain or, better yet, a local producer. Yes, I know the box store invariably comes in cheaper but at what cost to the planet? Lettuce and tomatoes aren’t in season anywhere 12 months of the year.

  13. Connie November 17th, 2014

    Kerry-
    You being gluten intolerant because you have celiac disease: how much does that jack the price for you with specialty breads?

  14. Nancy November 17th, 2014

    Read your article as I munched my gluten-free bunwich (cut in half/toasted, thin slathering of mayo, lettuce, cheese and tomato thinly sliced – open faced). The cheese should satisfy the protein need, which reduces the overall cost. Just diagnosed with a sensitivity to gluten and was appalled at how much gluten-free products cost! But, I have also found that when I eat gluten free, I am not hungry again a couple of hours later. a bonus side affect is I have lost 5 pounds in just two weeks. I am also hyper-glycemic and my Dr. thinks the reduction in wheat is keeping my blood sugar more even so I’m not always feeling hungry and snacking (save money/loose weight – win/win for me. I was thinking of looking at the bulk barn for recipies and getting out my breadmaker/has anyone out there tried to make their own gluten free bread?

  15. Barbara November 17th, 2014

    I’ve watched that show (reruns) from time to time, and one day I noticed how many times the host of the show said “nice.” It’s a word that makes me want to run screaming from the room, especially after the 16th repetition.

    I feel sorry for people who need a cooking show to learn how to make a ham sandwich. But they’re out there.

  16. Emily-Pemily November 17th, 2014

    Yay Sammich! If you calculate how much you pay to buy your lunch (even if it is a sandwich and salad from Foodland), a little effort the night before can result in a better lunch at way less cost. Also, why make a sandwich when doubling up on cooking dinner results in enviable lunches? (O Yummy Lunch, O Yummy Lunch, my husband did not find you first!)

    I figured how much I was saving and plopped it in a savings account for RRSP top-up, and wow, does it add up! I did not even miss it. I also don’t miss my take-out food muffin top I thought was just part of the “middle age spread.” Gone, just by tweaking out the restaurant food and eating clean (not to mention the $’s saved by not having to buy new/larger pants…).

  17. Erika November 17th, 2014

    Isn’t it amazing how much we can save simply by making our own lunch? Love this article, and love the price breakdowns! Thanks πŸ™‚

  18. J. Batten November 17th, 2014

    Dear Kerry. I agree with SC. I think you are a “hoot”! I’ve not strong skills, nor much interest in the culinary department, however, I did enjoy reading this segment. Lucky me; once my husband retired, he learnt how to cook, and I`m now the fortunate recipient of his gourmet creations.
    This is the second time I`ve written you, to compliment you on your succinct writing skills and your exceptionally colourful and humorous style. You impress me to no end. Really just wanted to say `Thank you very much`. (apologies, my computer harbors a crazy, punctuation anomaly)

  19. Linda November 17th, 2014

    I love your Sandy better than the CBC. I am so happy you are back Kerry. Sending love your way ❀️. When I worked I usually brown bagged it. Saved lots of cash and pounds as well.πŸ‘œπŸ‘œ

  20. Carol Shetler November 17th, 2014

    When I taught at an international school (mostly Chinese students) the director noticed I brought a packed lunch every day, and he once said to the students, “Here is Miss Shetler, she always eats such a healthy lunch”. It was usually a bologna or bologna/cheese/lettuce sandwich, a fruit salad, and a glass of milk or cup of green tea. Dessert was usually a few cookies and a portable pudding, and all told it cost me about $1.50 / day. If I wanted to eat a full meal at the cafeteria, it was $3.00 / day for the teachers. The students would pile their plates with mass-produced rice, chicken with sweet/sour sauce, stewed bok choy and broccoli. They would eat about three spoons full and throw the rest in the trash. That wastefulness stopped when they were given limited portions and told they would not get any more till they had eaten all of what was on the plate. The school saved a lot of money, and so did I, by eating edible Canadian food every day! In the winter, however, I would often have the cafeteria’s soup and rice for $1.00, along with my sandwich and dessert. They did make good soups there.

  21. syl November 18th, 2014

    You’re pretty harsh on CBC and BRE. The recipes on the show are usually much better than what you’ve happened to watch on the red eye, with your wiggling toddler on your lap. Maybe that’s why the crankiness?
    As for sandwiches and savings, I wouldn’t want to eat them every day just so I can top up my RRSP! Moderation, please …

  22. sam November 18th, 2014

    WOW!! , great to see someone who’ve been having sandwiches everyday. I have been doing it for the past 4 years at work, and my colleagues were astounded. But they dont know how much money I saved. WOHOOO!!

  23. Chiquita November 19th, 2014

    Kerry, you certainly have a hilarious writing style. I have enjoyed your articles so keep up the good work! I loved the Costco article especially! Keep it coming!

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