The slumping economy forced many to revamp their spending habits, but not managing editor Marina Mayer. That’s because she’s been financially savvy this entire time.




Just Brown Bag It

For as long as I’ve been in the working world, I have been brown bagging my lunch. It’s not that I’m tied to my desk and don’t want to experience the world with my fellow employees.

I’m just a financially savvy individual.

For example, when some of my friends were shifting their purchases from their debit cards to their credit cards just to keep up, I was scaling back in hopes that I could preserve my debt-free zone. When some Americans were unhappily trading in their store brand items for private label ones, I was still maintaining my long-lasting loyalty to Archer Farms and Market Pantry. And while others were panicking about how they were going to afford their über expensive mortgage for their oversized McMansion after their spouse just lost their job, I was just thankful to be living within my means from the get-go.

Now that the economy has turned nearly everyone’s spending habits upside down, I’m proud to know that my financial know-how has paid off, and that I’m part of the cool club of consumers who take the time to clip coupons and stock up on lunchtime favorites such as loaves of bread, frozen dinners and snacks.

No, I’m not a spokesperson for saving money. I leave that to the experts. I am, however, enlightened to hear how some companies are making it through this economic meltdown with a string of cost-cutting measures and a loyal fan base of consumers who choose to brown bag it as well.

According to a company press release, Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods expects a 3-4% uptick in long-term sales and 8-10% growth in annual earnings per share. Meanwhile, the board of directors for the maker of Slim Jim, Healthy Choice and Orville Redenbacher’s brand products also approved a $500 million share repurchase authorization with no expiration date, which reflects the company’s strong cash position, the release says.

In another press release, ConAgra’s chief executive officer, Gary Rodkin, said that he’s looking to acquire more companies now that it has regularly cut costs while still creating new products.

Likewise, General Mills expects its revenue to reach $18 billion by fiscal 2015, according to a company press release. In fact, the St. Paul, Minn.-based owner of Totino’s, Pillsbury and Nature Valley products, among others, reports its second quarter earnings will total $1.54 per share in fiscal 2010, which is up 13% from last year.

Kraft Foods also reported similarly rising profits. According to a press release by the Northfield, Ill.-based owner of Nabisco and Oreo brands, net revenues in the fourth quarter increased 3.2% to $11 billion while its operating income nearly quadrupled from the prior year to $1,306 million.

Although private label brands continue to dominate statistical charts and consumers’ kitchen pantries, Flowers Foods, Thomasville, Ga., saw a 7.9% increase in branded retail sales for last year, according to a company press release. The producer of Nature’s Own, Cobblestone Mill and Mrs. Freshley’s products also expects a 2.5% jump in organic sales, the release says.

It used to be that coupon clipping and brown bagging your lunch was un-cool. But a team of new products has certainly added some flair to the taking-your-lunch-to-work experience.

I’m proud to be economically savvy, and am thankful that I’ve been able to roll with the fiscal punches that have been thrown my way.

Now that I’m considered part of the cool club of consumers who pinch pennies, what did you bring for lunch today?

Marina Mayer, managing editor
mayerm@bnpmedia.com