I Spent $270 on Food in NYC Over the Course of One Week and I Only Ate Out Twice

A single glass of vino will set you back $14 while a slice of pizza usually hovers around the $2 range. Le sigh. Still, it’s that high/low mix that makes New York City so great. That’s why we asked a 26-year-old content producer living in Manhattan to track her culinary spending habits over the course of a week. Here, how her food-related budget netted out.

Day 1: Sunday

12 p.m.: I went out for brunch with my boyfriend at a diner near my apartment and picked up the check since we like to take turns treating each other. The fact that it was a diner worked in my favor. We both had two eggs and bacon with home fries. Total Spent: $32.62

3 p.m.: It was Superbowl Sunday, but instead of watching at a bar and paying a cover, we watched at home and picked up ingredients at the grocery store for appetizers and snacks. I bought avocados—a big expense in NYC in the winter at between $3 to $4 a pop—and buffalo chicken wraps and ingredients for homemade chocolate chip cookies. All the food was just for my boyfriend and me, so we ended up having lots of leftovers for the rest of the week. Total Spent: $36.87

Day 2: Monday

9 a.m.: Iced coffee and cereal at the office (a major budget saver). Total Spent: $0

12 p.m.: I ate leftovers—spaghetti, my favorite low-cost meal—from the weekend for lunch. I always cook a big meal once over the weekend (typically, Sunday night), which is where I stretch my money savings throughout the week. If not, I’d be shelling out between $15-20 for a salad with protein. Too much! Total Spent: $0

6 p.m.: I *also* had leftovers from a Saturday night dinner out that I repurposed for dinner tonight. I have class after work, something that requires me to think more strategically about meal planning. Whatever I do has to be easy and quick. It’s one of my favorite eating out spending hacks—if I’m going to splurge, order something that can be turned into two separate meals. Total Spent: $0

Late night: I love dessert, but try to stay at least a little healthy. While doing homework, I had a few frozen chocolate covered strawberries (“Gone Berry Crazy” box from Trader Joe’s) that were in my freezer from a previous grocery run. Total Spent: $0

Day 3: Tuesday

12 p.m. I have a bunch of plans to go out this weekend, so skipped breakfast and scrounged around the office at lunch just to save some cash. It’s a major perk of my office—free snacks in the kitchen. I survived the day eating a banana with almond butter (yes, our kitchen has packs of it in the kitchen), an apple and cereal. Total Spent: $0

6 p.m. No class tonight, so I detoured to Trader Joe’s on my commute home from work. I’m no slouch in the kitchen and whipped up lemon salmon and shaved Brussels sprouts for dinner.  I also prepped my lunch for tomorrow with the groceries I bought at TJ’s. I’m not really a creature of habit—in fact, I refuse to go to the same New York City restaurant twice—but when it comes to work lunches, repetition is the lazy girl’s BFF. Every week, I buy a couple of salad kits from TJ’s, plus a couple of add-ons like a protein (steak or salmon usually) and combine the two before I leave in the morning. It’s so easy and takes me about five minutes to put together. Total Spent: $45.64

Day 4: Wednesday

9 a.m. I had free cereal at work again — seriously, not having to buy breakfast really helps my bottom line. Total Spent: $0

12 p.m. I brought my brown bag lunch—a homemade steak salad—today. Total Spent: $0

6 p.m. I splurged before class tonight and picked up a tall Starbucks chai latte. I never get Starbucks, but it’s right across the street from my school and I needed the caffeine today. For dinner, I repurposed more leftovers—salad with salmon on top and chocolate-covered strawberries, also from Trader Joe’s. Total Spent: $4.63

Day 5: Thursday

9 a.m. I hit up a cart outside my office right before work because I desperately needed an iced coffee today. Total Spent: $2.75

12 p.m. I brought salad leftovers again. Total Spent: $0

6 p.m. I had frozen pizza for dinner. (I’m actually kind of embarrassed how much I eat pizza, but it’s so cheap/easy.) Total Spent: $0

Day 6: Friday

9 a.m. Free bagels at the office today! Seriously, the regular—albeit unpredictable—free food is a major perk of my job. Total Spent: $0

12 p.m. Yes, I’m still eating that steak salad. Yes, it’s not as delicious three days after that initial assembly, but I’m going out a bunch this weekend and need to save. Total Spent: $0

4 p.m. I have a friend’s birthday dinner tonight and it’s a prix fixe meal—something we all agreed to pay in advance. That can be helpful from a budgeting perspective, but a hard financial pill to swallow when you know you’d typically only spend $20ish on an entrée. Instead, I Venmo’d my friend for pizza (I can’t help it!) and unlimited wine for two hours. Total Spent: $70

Day 7: Saturday

12 p.m. I was quite hungover, but managed to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast. It’s actually one of my favorite money/life hacks to always keep eggs and bacon on hand for those weekend days where you don’t want to spend a fortune on a fancy brunch…or—like me, today—can’t be bothered to leave your couch. Total Spent: $0

8 p.m. Another birthday dinner tonight. This time, it’s five of us going out in the West Village. We split the check four ways to pay for the birthday girl and it was also another set cost. Lesson learned: Prix fixe dinners are the worst for saving money in the city. Because both of these meals were birthdays and happen once every few months, I made an exception. (Sometimes you gotta shell out for your friends.) Still, I ended up spending more than I spent on the entire week in just those two nights. Ouch. Total Spent: $77.82

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