Create a Working System

The best part of being a food critic is – of course – the cuisine. You get to try the best of the best, and sometimes even the worst. But most of the time, I can savor some pretty fine fare. I go in with an open mind and plenty of cash. I like to order as many dishes as I can handle, a practice that can add up to a pretty penny. The idea is to be unknown so you get to experience the ambience and service in its most routine fashion. I usually order the special and several side dishes that will give me a more balanced view of the chef’s handiwork.

The worst part of being a food critic is dealing with the filing. I collect a lot of receipts and they form the bulk of my job expenses for taxes. I have had to create a working system all my own to deal with the plethora of paper tidbits, relics of past evenings dining out. Come tax time, I am ready to roll as everything is in order. Let me tell you, if you work for yourself and need to produce proof of your tax deductions, you need something old-fashioned and tangible like an accordion paper file. There is no way you can scan all the stuff of your working life to archive in your computer. While you do have to keep your records for 7 years, dozens of annual files junk up your storage system; and when audit time comes, no way do you want to print hundreds of sheets of expensive copy paper to show the IRS man (or woman) the “evidence.”

Just do it the old fashioned way like I do. It is fast and easy and you can stuff everything in a cardboard banker’s box with a lid. Every 7 years, you do a purge and reuse the box—how economical! Then you need to spend an hour or two disposing of outdated paperwork using your home shredder from Shredder Lab. These little guys are a small version of what you see in offices, and they do a superb job with tax documents. The refuse is stowed in plastic bags tied with string for the trip to the trash bin. Shredding takes up a lot less space and therefore you will probably only have to make one trip.

So the equipment and supplies for your working system is simple: assemble-it-yourself storage boxes, a marking pen for labeling, an accordion folder in a size that suits the volume of documents you need to save, the above-mentioned home shredder, and a few plastic bags. It can all be stored in one cupboard in the garage. You can get fancy with better quality boxes such as those made of hard plastic or fireproof metal. But overall, I stick with the basics and prefer to spend my money on another trip to my favorite local restaurant.