Counterpoint: Go to a buffet once a week. Leave with a heavy purse. Feast exclusively on jelly beans. Develop scurvy. Repeat.

When did life get so busy? I feel like I’m zipping from place to place like some kind of social Spiderman. No time to smell the roses when I’ve got to sling my way around and be places in a timely manner. I haven’t had a ton of down time lately and sadly enough my communication with friends and loved ones has been the first thing to suffer. So to kill two birds with one stone today, I’m resorting to the mailbag as a way of fulfilling both writing and responding responsibilities.

“Hi, Hope all is well.. Just trying to figure out a food budget for ____ now that she is moving into a house next year. What would you or ____ spend on your own for groceries weekly /monthly..? ____ has become vegan which makes it more difficult since fruit and veggies can cost more, but I want some idea of what it might cost..”

Hah. Budgeting? I wish I was that intentional, but gluttony is hard to plan around. The good thing is, I wasn’t always this carefree (read: idiotic) with my food based finances. Back when I was on my radio internship I had $60 per week to spend on food, bills, entertainment, transport and booze. It’s not much. Then when I got to Toronto it took a while to break even. I had the bonus of savings that I used to pay rent, but my external costs got clawed to shit. I know how to budget and here’s how I’d go about it:

It’s gonna sound obvious, but the first thing to figure out is a basic framework of what she’d eat in a week. How much of a habitual eater is she? Would she eat the same thing for breakfast every day? Lunch? Would she alternate between a few different meals? I’d usually find breakfast and lunch to be the most consistent meals, with dinner being a varied shitshow. By the end of a long day you’re basically gonna want comfort food, so that’s more mood dependent. So, breakfast. Eggs? Cereal? Oatmeal? Toast? Go through and figure out how she’s gonna eat and then you can go from there. Be clinical, then add some buffer room. Is she gonna eat eggs for breakfast? How many would she eat in a session? Two eggs and two slices of toast? Let’s say a dozen eggs per week. A loaf of bread might be a week and a half. That’s maybe $6 a week for breakfasts (including amortising some kind of favoured spread over a month or two. How long does it take to finish a jar of peanut butter?). Lunch? Are sandwiches a go? Because that’s upping your bread costs. If she’s doing the vegan thing she’s probably gonna throw nutritional yeast into the mix. It’s high protein and adds some zest to most meals (including the aforementioned eggs or oatmeal). Is she going hardcore vegan mode? Because cheese is a hell of a drug to kick. Cheese also isn’t cheap, right? Even if you’re stocking up while it’s cheap you’re looking at $5 or so for a 400g block. Is that two weeks worth? What about milk? Almond/soy? Those non dairy milks are a bit dearer too. Costs adding up. I’m not gonna do all your math here, but those could be things to think of.

Next up, is she gonna cook? Of course I’m gonna say she should, but will she? If she’s doing the vegan thing and wants to go about it in a healthy way she’s at least gonna need to take heed of her protein intake. Kraft Mac and Cheese isn’t vegan. Vegan Mac and Cheese is entirely possible (and a friend made some the other night. It’s fucking delicious) with the aid of our old friend, nutritional yeast. She’s gonna need things like nuts and seeds to keep up her macronutrients (easier than taking a ton of supplements). A small handful of almonds is a great snack, way more filling than you’d think. Just don’t let her eat too many pumpkin seeds. The internet never forgets, after all. To buff out dinners she’s probably gonna eat a ton of basic carbs like pasta (yet again, is she eating cheese?), noodles and rice. That shit’s cheap and lasts for many meals. I’m assuming like anyone on a budget she’ll need to save leftovers in the freezer for bouts of evening cantbefuckedism or lunches. Who wants to cook feasts every night? Not students, that’s who.

Vegetables! Muy importante! Yet again, how habitual is she? What does variety mean for her? Is she going to shop on price or just eat what she wants? I shop around a lot when cooking for myself and while my meals were pretty consistent, I’d wiggle around a little depending what was cheaper that week. I used to budget about $10-15 per week for fruits and veges which got me bananas, apples, two sources of leafy greens (maybe a head of broccoli and kale), carrots, a dozen eggs and occasionally sweet potato if I could afford it. This might be comparable for her. I probably eat more than she does, but she’d probably co-opt the extra into lunches. At the time I was budgeting I wasn’t buying meat either (I couldn’t afford to). Also beans. BEEEANS. Chickpeas, black, kidney, lentils, etc etc. Tinned beans have heaps of fibre and protein (and sodium in some cases), just make sure she checks out the labels. They’re usually about $1 a tin and that’s good for a meal or two.

TL;DR: Sit down with her and figure out what she’ll actually cook/eat regularly. That way she gets an idea of what budgeting is. If she’s not gonna cook, she can get a job instead. Add maybe $10 wiggle room for takeaways once a week, you’re not heartless. Love you guys.

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