A foodie and her money is soon parted
If there is one thing on which I spend most of my waking hours thinking, planning, and dreaming about, it’s food. I don’t have a food blog, I don’t take pictures of food, and I’m not a food purist in the sense that a locavore or a vegan or a Michael Pollan devotee may be. I’m not even particularly adventurous when it comes to food (foie gras, yes, fried locusts, no). I have equal love for hole-in-the-wall places and chain restaurants – as long as I think the food is yummy, I will eat there. Basically, I love to eat and I don’t particularly like cooking after a long day at work. Ergo, money = consumed.
As a personal finance blogger, my ears also perk up around anything that ties money in with food. And so it is with great interest that I read New York Magazine article that featured food lover Diane Chang, a 27-year-old digital strategist who admits that she spends most of her available money on the procurement and enjoyment of food. Diane makes $70,000 a year and spends around $1,100 a month in rent in Park Slope (which is actually an extremely reasonable amount of rent for New York City). Aside from student loans, most of her money goes to food. The week that she kept a food budgeting journal for NY Mag, she spent $350 on food and related purchases, a number that she has mentioned is on the high side of what she typically spends.
In March 2012, my fiance and I spend $814.93 on food between the two of us.
After I read the article, I added up what CB and I spent on food last month. Food – groceries, take-out, restaurant meals, coffees and snacks – constitutes the majority of my monthly discretionary spending BY FAR, but I had thought we might be in the $500-$600 range. Once we ran the numbers, we looked at each other and mouthed HOLY… We have crossed into the $800+ territory. Granted, March was fairly atypical in terms of our spending – we had two very nice meals that cost $200 total, and those were both special occasion meals to celebrate our entrance into grad school. Still. $800. Quite a wake-up call.
Of the $814.93, 14%, or $117, went to a 5-course tasting menu at a pop-up restaurant. That was our most expensive meal. The cheapest prepared meal was $6.69 at Trader Joe’s, where I got a chocolate bar and a miso salmon salad. Sprinkled in between those two extremes are $30 bills at our favorite ramen noodle shop and twice-monthly Costco runs where we get a dozen individually-packaged Greek yogurts for $10 and cooked chicken breast strips for $5 per package. Our normal monthly food costs is around $600-$650, which is what March would have been had we not gone to those two nice restaurants.
A couple years ago, before we moved in together, I’ve had the romantic notion that we’d just spend just $300 a month for the two of us. Obviously that has not gone to plan! Our spending is not only high by personal finance blog standards, it’s just high. Period. A 2009 The Nest article says that a couple typically spends $531 a month on food. And according to the USDA, as of January 2012, a family of two who spends $481.30 is considered to have a “Low Cost Food Plan” and a couple who spends $597.40 is considered to have a “Moderate Cost Food Plan.” (Check out this site for more fascinating information on U.S. average food spending for different family sizes).
More Information About Food Spending Statistics
With this nifty interactive app, you can enter in your spending and see how it stacks up against other people in your demographic, your city, and among your income level. According to the app, a married couple without kids spend around $8,000 a year on food, or around $666.67 on month (see below).