All The Food I Ate Last Month – Part 1 of 3

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.

Notes

  • 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:

April 1-14.png

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:

grocery apr 1-14.png

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:

Cooking april 1 -14.png

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)

Eat out - apr 1-14.png

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?

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “All The Food I Ate Last Month – Part 1 of 3

  1. What kind of snacks do you eat at the office?

    Not great ones haha – cereal, toast, noodles, muesli bars, sometimes fruit.

    How often do you cook versus eat out?
    I try to keep it to 1x work lunch and then 1-2 meals out on the weekend for us.

    Are there certain kinds of meals you tend to gravitate toward?
    CARBSSSSS. Lately I’ve been really struggling with getting veggies in – Mexican style rice bowls seem to be the key.

    Like

    1. I am always craving carbs but also they make me feel terrible. SIGH. If I could eat noodles, rice, and bread all the time without being in discomfort and pain afterwards, eating would be so much easier. Also more delicious.

      Like

  2. I eat out maybe once every month or two and that is usually Chinese food in a college town about an hour and a half from where I live. There are no restaurants in the boonies where I live and only three, where I work…lol! I eat a lot of local food from around here…pecans, catfish, okra, tomatoes, turnip greens, collards, mustard greens, pinto beans, potatoes, black eyed peas, chicken, eggs etc. I guess my diet is rather plain.

    Like

    1. Wow! I’ve always lived in cities so the idea that there are no restaurants around is so foreign to me. I enjoy cooking but I think doing it every day would be quite tiring. What do you do when you’re just not up for putting a meal together?

      Also, looking at your diet I don’t think it is plain at all! I would love to get some good Southern food up here (also some TexMex, but I could write an entire post on that). I’m getting sick of root vegetables and spinach/lettuce greens, which are the only things that grow here in the winter.

      Like

      1. I actually (usually) make all my food on the weekend, and just heat it up when I get home, so it takes about five minutes to get it on the table. I am a very lazy cook, and I also keep a frozen pizza in the freezer for “emergencies”….lol.

        Like

  3. Office snacks – I usually bring a yogurt and try to have almonds (or Costco mixed nut packages) on hand. But there is also a snack store, and I occasionally get cheeze-its or other more junk food type things from there if I’m truly out of snacks. They also sell the mixed nuts though.

    Eating out – this really varies. We usually eat out once a weekend, and get takeout maybe every 2nd week during the week. Sometimes it is more, sometimes it is less. The takeout is usually vegetarian pizza. I don’t eat out for lunch because there are no options near my office, but my husband does.

    Meals we gravitate towards – No. I try a variety of types of meals and go through phases of certain things. I used to cook almost no meat at home, but I’ve gotten a lot more adventurous there.

    This post is exceptionally detailed! I started a post on all the groceries we bought in February, but didn’t keep up with it and it is now just trash. Perhaps I’ll try again, but it always gets messed up if one or both of us travel!

    Like

    1. I am super tempted to just buy big big buckets of nuts from Costoc, but that’d require a membership. Also a car (or at least, convincing fiance to drive us out an hour round trip).

      I made a few attempts before I was finally able to capture a month end to end. Originally I wanted to break down price by ingredient and track calories/macros, but that was definitely too much to do multiple times a day.

      Like

      1. We head to Costco maybe once a month or slightly less often. It is on our way home from dog hiking.

        It may save a little money on select items, but I mostly like shopping there because I only have to think about buying toilet paper once a year (and similar things like that). I also buy frozen organic chicken and beef, cereal, Peets coffee, dog treats, almond butter.

        Like

  4. That was an interesting summary! It seems like a useful exercise to do all that tracking (or maybe I’m just a numbers nerd, lol).

    Your cooked foods sounded delicious! I also subscribe to the method of sticking a bunch of ingredients together under some tried-and-true techniques (stir fry, stew, or roast). I wish more recipe books would emphasize that rather than long lists of ingredients that nobody has. Where did you get the lamb, though? I’m kind of hesitant about the lamb that I see in the grocery store, because I feel like it’s not a popular meat here in the US and thus won’t be fresh or good quality.

    Like

    1. I get most of the meat I buy from my meat CSA which delivers grass-fed localy meats, frozen and vacuum sealed. Otherwise I’ll buy from my local butcher which similarly sources local and high quality stuff but it is $$$. I expect you can probably find reasonably priced, fresh lamb at Asian markets at least? I’ve seen lamb stew meat at Whole Foods before too but have never bought any.

      Like

  5. Who knew I’d be so interested in what people eat? I looked at your chart and started comparing what I eat, and so I feel like this would be a fun exercise for me, as well. I’m astonished how you seem to eat desserts very sparingly 🙂

    For snacks, I eat things like chips and trail mix from home. I sadly don’t get free food at work. I’d say we cook (my husband does) about 80% of the time, we eat out maybe twice a month, and then some nights of takeout here and there. I try to bring my lunch four times a week and buy lunch out once a week.

    I’m kind of ashamed to admit, but I don’t fully understand what you use a crockpot for. I hear people using them, but it seems like they mostly make stews? Basically, we don’t eat a lot of stews.

    Like

    1. I went on a dessert hiatus a couple years ago and then began to find 95% of desserts (especially American ones) way too sweet for my pallette. So it makes it pretty easy. My weakness has always been fat/salt more than sugar though.

      I don’t use a Crock-Pot but I guess people find it convenient for cooking meats that’d either be stewed or covered and baked? If I bought a doodad like that it’d probably be a pressure cooker for the convenience. As it is, I’m pretty satisfied with our Dutch oven. It’s easy to clean and swap between the stove and oven as necessary.

      Like

  6. Hi, I found your blog through Xin’s blogroll. I’ve been getting really interested in personal finance recently and started tracking my own food costs as well since it is currently my biggest monthly expense (I don’t pay rent since I live with my boyfriend who owns his own condo, although we split living expenses including his HOA), which seems outrageous and unacceptable to me. The main problem is that I eat out too often for my own good (both financial and health), so I’m trying to cut back. I’m also lactose intolerant and have acid reflux, so I really should watch what I eat. Anyway, nice to meet you!

    Like

    1. Welcome! It’s nice to e-meet you!

      I also deal with acid reflux. It took me a long time to figure out my triggers and get onto the right diet. I miss dairy often (especially ice cream), but lactase pills help me when I feel a craving to eat cheese and other lighter-lactose dairy products.

      Like

  7. I keep a bag of Trader Joe’s raw almonds and a bar of dark chocolate in my desk drawer at pretty much all times. I also used to keep beef jerky as a office snack, though I’ve gotten tired of it.

    Your cooked meals sound really delicious! Although I enjoy trying different foods at restaurants, when it comes to takeout lunches at the office or the food I cook at home, I end up sticking to the same things over and over. I enjoy cooking, but seem to have less and less mental energy to shop for and cook anything more creative these days…

    Like

    1. I have gotten in the habit of sticking to the same takeout places over and over too. I’d like to be more adventurous with it, but I’ve been burned so many times by mediocre and unhealthy food that I rather with the things I know I like.

      I love cooking but I hear you about feeling too tired to get creative with it. In the back half of April, I ended up joining a meal delivery service (like already prepared meals, not a Blue Apron sort of deal), which has helped a lot getting me through the crazy times at work.

      Like

  8. We’re near the end of the academic year so really tired of all the restaurants in our small town (exceptions for the handmade lo mein place and the Korean place). In late summer all the restaurants that didn’t make it will be replaced by new ones and we’ll get some more variety, but until then we’ll have to go to the city. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to make a city trip in a couple months and we won’t be able to make one for another few weeks. But DH and I both have work trips next week so that will help some with the restaurant ennui (though DH is mainly going to super rural areas and his boss really enjoys diners close to their hotel, so he’s been getting a mixed bag there).

    Even with the boredom, we eat out once or twice a week because sometimes it really is just easier to pick up take-out, even if it’s something we’re not that excited about. (Like, burgers and pizza from the places we get them are good, but we’ve had them so much they’re not exciting.)

    Work snacks: I take 2 pieces of fruit, I keep a bag of trailmix/nuts/seeds (basically whatever we have in the snack bowl that the kids haven’t eaten yet) and a LOT of dark chocolate.

    Like

    1. Handmade lo mein place sounds awesome. Reminds me of a Chinese place here called Gene’s Flatbread and the best thing they make is hand pulled flat noodles. I feel like work travel is so hit and miss; it is the only time I really rely on chain restaurants.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s