I pride myself on my frugality, particularly when it comes to food. So when CNBC Make It asked me to track my food expenses for eight weeks, I jumped at the chance to show off my budgeting skills.
Here's a bit about me for background: I'm 25-year-old vegan health nut living in New York, one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the world. However, I refuse to buy avocados when the price is over $1.50 and I do my best to bring homemade lunches to work every single day.
With that in mind, my food expenses for the last eight weeks should be extremely low, right? Wrong.
I looked at my expenses from July 16 to September 16 and what I saw shocked me. Over those eight weeks, I spent a whopping $1,327.59 on food.
To put that into perspective, the average 2016 food expenditure for U.S. consumers was $7,203, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That comes out to just over $600 a month. But the average U.S. household is around 2.53 people. I'm a household of one.
After the shock, and, dare I say disappointment, wore off, I began to wonder why my food bill was so high. Was it the BulletProof Brain Octane, which promises to boost concentration? My daily adaptogen purchases, which promise to give my adrenal glands a much needed break? My frequent stops at Whole Foods?
I decided to take a deeper dive.
From September 1 to the 16th, my total food bill was $293.50. Mind you, this is barely over two weeks into the month.
Dining out, which includes meals that I did not make myself, accounted for $47.41 and groceries accounted for $246.09. Most of my grocery bill came from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Foodtown, respectively. My No. 1 purchase when dining out was at Chipotle during my lunch break.
For the month of August, my total food bill was $849.25. Per week, that's $212.31.
I spent $511.31 dining out and $337.94 on groceries. To be fair, two of my best friends had birthdays in August, so my expenses included bougie restaurants like The Polo Bar, The Ritz Carlton and Philippe Chow.
This time most of my groceries came from Foodtown and Whole Foods, which comprised almost 40 percent of my expenses.
In the second half of July, my total expenses were $184.84. Not too shabby. I spent $101.78 dining out and $83.06 on one trip to Whole Foods.
Altogether, I spent $660.50 dining out and $667.09 on groceries, disproving my belief that I "rarely eat out." The numbers also made me realize that I'm nowhere near as thrifty as I thought when it comes to my food expenses.
On the flip side, now that I know how much money I'm blowing through each week, I will actively take steps to limit how much I spend on food.
The next time I go grocery shopping, I will strictly adhere to a grocery list so I don't make on-the-whim purchases. I will also begin prepping my work lunches the night before, so I have no excuse to grab a $12 salad that I could have made myself at a fraction of the cost.
And, by nipping away at these small expenses, my hope is that in another eight weeks my food bill will be drastically lower. Fingers crossed.
From splitting the check to DIY adventures, "Young Money" helps you navigate tricky financial situations.
Check out more in the series:
- 4 monthly expenses I'll never spend money on again
- How I spent $1,230 on convenience in just two months
- 5 things you should never pay full price for
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