In my recent income/expense report where I showed the world my exact budget for October, I got some interesting comments about my food budget. It seems that some readers are either confused about how I keep such a low budget or are under the impression (due to my own fault) that all I eat are ramen noodles. I’m writing this article today for two reasons. First, I want to show readers exactly what I eat on a daily basis which may or may not actually change anyone’s mind on how healthy my diet is. Second, for anyone who’s so inclined to try and dramatically cut their food expenses this post may serve as motivation or may provide an example of how it’s possible.
My weekly food nourishment routine is very different from my weekend food intake. I’m first going to discuss my Monday-Friday food routine. I work Mon-Fri, so naturally my diet revolves a bit around this fact. My daily diet varies little throughout the week, and the only meal that usually varies is dinner on Friday night due to the fact that the weekend starts there.
My weekly diet is usually thus:
- Breakfast: 1 bowl of cereal (cheap, store-brand oat/rice/grain based) with 2% milk.
- Lunch: 2 packets of ramen noodles and 1 can of pop. (Important note: I use very little of the included salt packets)
- Dinner: 2 sandwiches (revolve PB&J, tunafish, deli meat/cheese, grilled cheese, etc.) and 1 glass of milk or 1 can of pop, depending on what I’m eating.
This is my usual weekly routine. Breakfast and lunch rarely change. I have taken breaks from ramen noodles occasionally where I’ll substitute a sandwich instead. I’d like to reiterate that I use very little of the included salt packets in the ramen noodles to keep my sodium intake down. Dinner changes often and I try to rotate out meals. I’ll sometimes also make macaroni and cheese, frozen pizza, fresh pizza or take-out from local restaurants here. I try to mix up dinner as much as possible to keep things a bit fresh on a budget. The best way I can put it is that I eat like a college student. It’s not recommended, but it’s great on the wallet. I want to make sure my readers know that I advocate eating healthy, and if you can do so cheaply then by all means do so. I really despise most “health foods” and I would find my quality of life reduced simply because I wouldn’t be enjoying my food anymore. Plus, it would likely wreck havoc on my budget. That’s a double whammy.
My weekend routine is vastly different, as thus:
- Breaksfast: Cereal, as during the week. Sometimes on the weekends I skip breakfast, due to sleeping in.
- Lunch: Sandwhiches or leftovers. My only rule: no ramen noodles during the weekend.
- Dinner: This varies quite a bit. Usually on Friday night my significant other will cook Italian sausage, burgers, pasta based dishes, chicken based dishes or fish and rice. This goes the same for Sunday. Saturday night is my choice, as my significant other leaves it up to me. I usually order pizza, get takeout from a local joint or sometimes I take us out to a restaurant on a budget. Chili’s 2-eat-for-$20 comes to mind.
I hope this clears things up a bit. I target ~$180 for all food-related expenses during the month. I’d like to keep it around $150 if possible, but sometimes it creeps up past $200. I don’t watch every penny here. I try to eat cheaply, but enjoy myself. A couple things keep my food budget very low. You’ll notice I don’t have things like chips/cookies/ice cream listed. That’s because I rarely eat that stuff. It’s expensive and doesn’t really fill me up. It’s just empty calories. Another really important thing is that I don’t have a car as I’ve explained before. I get all groceries by foot or by bike. It’s easy to only get what you need when you have to carry it home. Although it might seem like a great idea to buy that pumpkin pie on sale, it’s unrealistic when you know you also have to carry home a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread and two other bags of groceries.
An important note that I’ve never explained before: I don’t pay for all food in the house. My significant other eats here too, as does her child and she pays for food as well. I would say it’s safe to say that when all food and restaurant visits are included I pay at least half of all food expenses. I almost exclusively pay for meals when we go out together.
As a final disclaimer I’d like to say I don’t recommend this diet to anyone. It’s not extremely healthy, but it is cheap and I like eating this way. I work out 3-4 times a week and I’m actually in fairly good shape, as I believe staying in shape is an extremely important factor to retiring early. I’m trying to accelerate my savings and compound my investments as fast as possible to become financially independent by 40 years old. I won’t eat like this forever. Once I have more time on my hands, I’ll try to find ways to eat well, but still cheap. To be honest, even if I had Buffett bucks I’d still eat similarly, as I don’t enjoy “health food”. If I had the money, I’d probably eat a lot more sushi, and I’d eat out more as I enjoy great food and ambiance, but can’t/don’t cook. In the end, I really like my cheeseburgers and Coke. I guess I’m just a kid at heart!
Thanks for reading.