If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably have figured out that food is really important to me. But I also spend a lot on it, which makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. So, in true personal finance blogger fashion, I decided to track my (food) spending! Below I itemize what I ate, what I cooked, and how much altogether food cost me in the first half of April.
- I have an annoyingly long list of food sensitivities. I will sometimes eat things I know aren’t the best for me, but I try to systematically bake into my routine food that’s better for my gut. As long as deviating meals are occasional, I tend to be okay. This month I parted from my rules more than is typical due to work related stress, I think.
- “Weeks” in my Cooking tables start and end on Fridays because that’s the day I usually get my pseudo-CSA deliveries.
- In the food diary charts below:
- yellow = takeout/restaurants I paid for
- green = food that was given to me for free (snacks at job, gifts from friends, game nights where it’s someone else’s turn to order/pay for food, etc.)
- I apologize in advance for the lack of food pictures. I am both very forgetful and a mediocre photographer.
First Half Of The Month: April 1 – 14
Here’s everything I ate in the first half of April:
Overall my diet the first half of April was pretty meat and carb heavy. Leftover Matzo from Passover dinner, carbonara, saffron rice for days. As much as I love white rice in particular, by the end of the second week, my stomach was in knots from so much processed grain. It also caused me to rapidly gain weight and inches around my waist, which pretty quickly melted away once I pared back in the back half of April. Sigh.
In terms of free food, I get a lot of snacks from my work. One of the things I’ll miss most– you know, other than my colleagues and a salary– will be the snacks available on demand. I love having an ounce or two of almonds or cashews in the morning, though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to afford to substitute this expensive habit once I fall off the company payroll. Unfortunately, my office ran out in the second week and I think it made a substantial difference in how hungry I was all day long, probably because I was getting 200-ish fewer calories every day.
There were also a few times that I was treated to food by friends.
- April 4th’s shahi paneer came as a game night offering. We take turns paying for food so it’ll come back around at some point as a one-time delivery $80 hit to my food budget.
- April 7th I hosted a dinner with some friends at my home in order to get rid of five pounds of ham sitting in my fridge. They, in turn, provided me with some delicious homemade desserts.
- April 9th, I ate some of Fiancé’s takeout as part of a second dinner (I blame the lack of almonds).
- April 12th, Fiancé treated me to dinner at a new gourmet Peruvian restaurant that opened up in our neighborhood to celebrate his new job.
What I Cooked (April 1-14)
Here are all the groceries I bought in the first half of April:
My second pseudo-CSA delivery had a lot less food for a lot more money than the first because I decided to go the custom vegetable route (where I choose what I want in my box) versus going with their default for the week. Plus, pint nuts are expensive.
I also stopped by my local butcher, which sells a lot of local specialty items other than meat, to buy ingredients for some home-made carbonara. I really enjoy their foraged mushrooms which, at $5/4 oz, are expensive but not unreasonable given the labor involved and the intense flavor they imbue. The butcher also has my favorite fresh pasta– I never buy boxed since the texture and flavor is rarely worth the stomach ache I often get eating wheat products. I figure if I’m going to eat something that is going to make me feel sick, it might as well be worth it.
Here’s all the cooking I did in the first half of April:
This is a decent reflection of the meals I’ll typically make week to week. My cooking is really determined by what ends up in my veggie CSA, which due to the sheer volume of produce helps make sure my diet is largely plant-based. I mostly cook simple dishes– sauteed or roasted vegetables, a stew here and there. I think the most intensive thing I made was the tortilla for my Spanish-themed dinner party, but even that was fairly straightforward.
“Week 1” I actually cooked during the last week of March, but ate during the first week of April. The ingredients for those meals came in March and are therefore not reflected in my spending totals. Similarly, I get deliveries from my meat CSA once a month, so the first two weeks of April I was using up what was left of my March drop-off. I also keep a decent amount of non-perishable food in stock, from oils to spices to grains. It’d be pretty safe to assume that all my cooked meals also include olive oil and salt, but I thought’d be repetitive to throw it in over and over again.
The most decadent, almost-dessert like dish I made was the roasted cauliflower tossed in a rosewater-tahini sauce with pan-roasted pine nuts and raisins. I got the idea for this dish from a nearby Mediterranean restaurant that served something similar but with Brussel sprouts.
One thing to note is that I almost never use recipes for what I cook. I might use recipes as inspiration for flavor combinations or if I’m trying a new technique, but by and large I submit to the “throw things together and heat them up” school of culinary arts.
Eating Out (April 1-14)
Yes, I do like Asian food. Why do you ask?
One of the things I notice looking at this chart is how much more expensive my sit down meals are relative to take-out, usually 2x the price even though all of these were lunch meals!
Part of this has to do with the volume and variety of food I order at restaurants. Usually during the sit-down meals I’m ordering multiple dishes since I guess is already a pretty luxurious feeling and I like to add to it? Plus throw in the cost of service and we’ve pretty much accounted for the difference.
At the end of the day, none of these meals were particularly noteworthy, but they tasted good overall and I think it was nice to take a break from my own cooking for a few days.
What kind of snacks do you eat at the office? How often do you cook versus eat out? Are there certain kinds of meals you tend to gravitate toward? Any frugal paleo recipes to share?