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Food Diary: How a 25

Jul 08, 2023

By Bon Appétit Contributor

Welcome to The Receipt, a series documenting how Bon Appétit readers eat and what they spend doing it. Each food diary follows one anonymous reader’s week of expenses related to groceries, restaurant meals, coffee runs, and every bite in between. In this time of rising food costs, The Receipt reveals how folks—from different cities, with different incomes, on different schedules—are figuring out their food budgets.

In today’s Receipt, a 25-year-old baker bakes gluten-free cookies and figgy flatbread and visits breweries and food trucks. Keep reading for her receipts.

What are your pronouns? She/her

What is your occupation? Full-time baker at a grocery store, part-time bartender at whiskey bar

How old are you? 25

What city and state do you live in? Astoria, Oregon

What is your annual salary, if you have one? About $34,000, combining both jobs before taxes and fluctuating tips

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? Around $900 for baking, around $150 for bartending

How often are you paid? (e.g., weekly) Biweekly each

How much money do you have in savings? $662

What are your approximate fixed monthly expenses beyond food? (i.e., rent, subscriptions, bills)

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? Gluten and dairy allergies. I don’t have celiac disease, but my body still has an adverse reaction after ingesting gluten.

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any? Quite a few Costco products that I stock my freezer and pantry with: chicken breast, canned tuna, brown rice, microwavable quinoa packets, Romaine hearts, frozen broccoli. Lots of produce (bananas, bell peppers, tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, jalapeños, citrus), instant rice, and wine. Always wine.

How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home? I recently broke up with my boyfriend of more than four years who is still living with me, so I go out a lot more often than I used to. Probably about twice a week now instead of once every two weeks. I used to cook dinner for us almost every night (when I wasn’t working my second job), but I am now taking advantage of this newfound freedom and spending more time with friends. Should I be spending extra money? No. Am I going to? Yes.

How often in a week did you dine out while growing up? I would say maybe once or twice a month. Only for special occasions and even then, that was a rarity. Money was pretty tight due to my parents owning and operating their own inn and us living on the property. I was always enthralled with restaurants and their various offerings and constantly asking to dine out. This was usually met with, “We can’t afford that.”

How often in a week did your parents or guardians cook at home? My mom cooked dinner every night and prepared lunch for us all (five people total). It was always of great importance to my parents to sit down together every night for dinner, especially Sundays. Days were discussed and conversations were held. I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen and have been her biggest fan ever since.

I have a salmon fillet in my freezer from a friend who had some good luck fishing at a nearby creek.

4:53 a.m. I instantly feel more awake as I swallow my first sip of cold brew. I often buy a large cold pour from Dutch Bros ($8.00, previously bought) and sip on it for a few days. Meanwhile, in the microwave, a handful of gluten-free oats mixed with a few glugs of almond milk and a pinch of kosher salt hum away. Once done, I add in a blob of peanut butter and an overripe banana for sweetness. My cat gently paws at my foot, awaiting to clean the peanut butter spoon. I sit on my couch and stare out the large window overlooking the Columbia river. This quick and easy breakfast suddenly tastes better once I remember that it’s my Friday from my full-time job.

8:03 a.m. For my morning break, I buy an RxBar and a bottled mint tea from the store I bake at ($4.09 after my staff discount). I sit in my car and watch the mist collect on my windshield.

11:08 a.m. Lunch break for 30 minutes. I live just close enough that I have time to run home and put something together on most days. Thinking through what I have in my barren cupboards, I remember a can of chickpeas. I toss those with a handful of cilantro, jalapeño salsa, cumin, garlic, chili powder, and salt. I microwave some leftover tortillas to bring them back to life. Top them with the chickpea mixture, some half-dead radish, and a squeeze of lime. Not a terrible lunch for not having the time to go grocery shopping for two weeks.

1:57 p.m. I pour myself a small cup of dark roast coffee available on the floor of the store. Coffee is free for employees, thank God. I add a blob of honey and top it off with cold water so I can get this caffeine into my body as soon as possible. Last little push to end my day.

4:04 p.m. I treat myself to a bottle of pinot grigio from work ($7.99 after my staff discount, $9.99 originally) that I gently sip from a chilled glass while chatting on the phone with my best friend of 19 years. Also snacking on some watermelon from a visit to my mom a few days ago.

6:27 p.m. I sit down to my dinner that I am incredibly pleased with. I bought a lemon from work today ($0.91 after staff discount) as well as a pint of sugar snap peas ($3.19 after staff discount) that are from a local farm. I have a salmon fillet in my freezer from a friend who had some good luck fishing at a nearby creek. I use the lemon in a saffron risotto ($13.99/oz. for saffron, $4.99 bag of arborio rice; both previously bought) and add a splash of the pinot grigio. I cover the thawed salmon with an apricot glaze I made last week with some squishy apricots from the farmers market ($7 for a generous bag, previously bought) along with a couple of red serrano chiles ($0.50, previously bought). While that’s broiling, I toss some halved cherry tomatoes with balsamic and fresh basil and oregano from my herb plants on our balcony. All plated on some baby arugula ($3.99, previously bought) I found hiding in the back of our fridge hanging on for dear life. Not too shabby. I eat my plate on the balcony, enjoying the warm breeze while sipping some more pinot grigio. My cat joins me and politely asks for a bite of salmon.

I snag a few sour gummy bears from behind the bar and eat them one by one off of a metal garnish pick.

8:11 a.m. Oof. Slept almost 12 straight hours. I worked a few 16-hour days last week so I guess I needed the sleep. My stomach is grumbling and I can just picture the cartoon flies leaving the fridge as I open it. I notice my ex actually bought some groceries last night so I snag a banana. Figure it’s only fair since I was the one to buy the majority of the groceries when we were together. Pour some cold brew into a glass of ice and dip a spoon into the Jif jar. Sit on my balcony and count the fishing boats among the anchored cargo ships.

11:39 a.m. At my parents’ to do laundry and I’m feeling snack-y. They usually don’t have too many gluten-free or dairy-free options since I moved out. I scrounge and find some pickles, stale brown rice crackers, and rainbow cherry tomatoes. This’ll have to do.

2:48 p.m. At home, I heat up leftover risotto and salmon from last night as my one solid meal for the day before I head out for my bartending shift at the whiskey bar downtown. It’s impossible to know how busy I’m going to be on a Tuesday night so I fill up just in case I don’t have time to refuel.

4:27 p.m. Opening at 5. I snag a few sour gummy bears from behind the bar and eat them one by one off of a metal garnish pick. I pour myself some black tea with soda water and a lemon wedge to quench my thirst on this incredibly warm and muggy day.

7:31 p.m. Pretty slow night so far. Someone ordered a dish of nuts and left remnants at the bottom of the container. I pour them into a dish to snack on before checking my teeth for debris and heading back out onto the floor. It’s just me running the show but it’s been incredibly manageable. I chat with an unhoused man who is a diehard regular that I adore talking to about music and life on the coast. I sip on some more soda water, this time with a splash of fresh grapefruit juice, and scheme new cocktail ideas.

11:02 p.m. Finally done for the night. Tips were measly, won’t be able to contribute much to my French Laundry fund. (I dream of dining there one day; might as well start saving up now.) I meet up with a friend for a quick drink at The Chart Room. Tanqueray and tonic, he’s buying.

Sitting in the warm summer mist while taco juice drips down my hands helps me forget how much of a hassle being a human person is.

8:27 a.m. I pour the last of the cold brew into a glass of ice and rinse off a peach that’s on its very last leg. I quickly finish these since I’m borderline late for an appointment a few towns down the coast.

11:02 a.m. I treat myself to an iced soy dirty chai ($6.50) from The Human Bean. I’ve just had a heart monitor stuck on my chest and blood drawn for lupus testing, so I also treat myself to a couple of chicken tacos for lunch ($10 total, including tip) from El Azadero, my favorite taco truck run by one of the nicest guys. Sitting in the warm summer mist while taco juice drips down my hands helps me forget how much of a hassle being a human person is.

11:38 a.m. I brave the summer crowds and head to Costco and Fred Meyer for some long overdue grocery shopping. I dodge and weave in Costco, not even bothering with a cart. Chicken breast ($20.87 for about 12 breasts; this will stock my freezer for a while), big tub of hummus ($5.99), two-pack of antipasto meats ($12.99; too good of a deal to pass up), kalamata olives ($7.69), microwaveable brown rice and quinoa packets ($12.89). I splurge and buy a bag of Simple Mills honey cinnamon sweet thins ($6.89) that are apparently made from watermelon seed flour?! I’m skeptical about the taste so stay tuned. ($67.32 total) I buy some more necessities at Fred’s (produce, rice cakes, protein bars, tofu, and tamari for $26.18 total) and retreat back to my apartment.

5:23 p.m. Oh, it’s Kölsch night, baby! Obelisk Beer Co provides Kölsch service on Wednesday evenings, which means the staff fills up tall, skinny glasses full of Kölsch-style beer and walk around the tables dropping off fresh glasses when yours is getting low. They mark a tally on your coaster for every round and ring you up accordingly at the end. I meet up with a friend who insists on treating me. This beer seems to be low enough in gluten that it doesn’t bother my insides. Even then, it’s hard to pass up a cold crisp glass of yellow beer on a warm muggy day like today.

7:12 p.m. I heat up the last half of a jasmine rice packet I forgot about in the fridge. I fry up a couple of eggs to go on top and douse the dish with my prized four-year-old prik nam pla, a salty and spicy Thai sauce. I became obsessed with this condiment after studying abroad in Thailand. I’ve filled a glass jar with fish sauce, lime chunks, fresh garlic, and Thai chiles, and I feed it more fish sauce and chiles when it starts to get low. Funky and memory-evoking. Just what I needed to satiate my Kölsch-stimulated appetite.

Friend makes waffle fries. Bless.

5:02 a.m. I smear a healthy amount of peanut butter over a rice cake. I have made peace with this meal since my college days, when I was in denial about having an eating disorder (which I’ve only recently come to terms with). I remember measuring out a level tablespoon of peanut butter and scraping it across the surface of a rice cake till it was a mere thin covering. Sometimes this would be my only sustenance for the majority of the day until I cooked a chicken breast for dinner. I think of how far I’ve come and how much more nicely I treat my body. I now view it as a quick, easy meal or snack to sustain me until the next chance I get to refuel. A sliced banana and sprinkling of chia seeds make this a more solid breakfast. No coffee in the house, will have to get my caffeine from the coffee at work.

8:13 a.m. Morning break. I head to the gazebo overlooking a pond not too far from the store. A coworker joins me and we chat about backpacking and foraging while I snack on an RxBar and drink my cup of black coffee from the store. We’re immediately greeted by my favorite pigeon, whom I refer to as “fancy pants” due to the feathers going all the way down his legs until they brush the top of his pink feet. He’s small and dark with a white spot on his back. I pick the pepitas out of my protein bar and share with him.

11:14 a.m. I head home for lunch and sprinkle some kibble into my cat’s bowl. Wondering what the hell I’m going to make, I uncover a can of albacore in my pantry. I couldn’t bring myself to pay $16 yesterday at Costco for another pack, so I’m overjoyed to find a staple I thought I ran out of weeks ago. I drain off the water (into a little dish for my cat, of course) and dump it into a plate bowl. I also add half an avocado and a diced Roma tomato along with a drizzle of balsamic, dried oregano, cracked black pepper, and Maldon flaky sea salt. I add a few spoonfuls of Kalamata olives and I’m more than content. I enjoy my lunch on the balcony with the last 16 minutes of my break. My cat joins me and lies at my feet in the sunshine.

2:43 p.m. I meet my brother and a coworker at a food truck pod outside of Reach Break Brewing. My brother and I share some seared ahi from the Wahoo Charlie’s food truck. It’s tamari glaze, pickled ginger, and wasabi mayo…delicious. (He’s buying.) I sip on a peach hard seltzer ($10 including tip) that they make on site. We chat and laugh in the oddly warm, overcast day.

5:56 p.m. Heading to a friend's place to hang out and watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, not very hungry but I snack on some brown rice crackers and Costco hummus for a quick snack. I’m once again out the door.

12:13 a.m. Friend makes waffle fries. Bless.

My ex bought cold brew so I pour myself a glass.

8:17 a.m. Leaving for Portland soon in order to make my 11 a.m. tattoo appointment. Another rice cake with peanut butter and banana, it is. My ex bought cold brew so I pour myself a glass. Once again, no guilt. Don’t even want to think about how much money I spent on coffee for us the last couple of years…

10:38 a.m. I buy some snacks at Fred’s on the way to Portland. In Portland, I eat a few Good Thins corn crackers ($3.79) and sip on a lukewarm blue Gatorade ($1.99) since I want to hydrate a bit before the appointment. To top it off, I shamelessly snack on some turkey lunch meat ($8.99) like an animal while sitting in my car. Haven’t had much protein lately so this sounded good.

1:22 p.m. Tattoo break! I eat an RxBar and sip from my Hydro Flask. The piece is coming along beautifully.

3:27 p.m. Just left the studio and am in love with my new bird friend on the inside of my left bicep. Feeling snack-y so I eat a few more crackers and drink some more Gatorade before meeting a friend at Westward Whiskey for a tasting.

5:24 p.m. My friend treats me to a whiskey flight as well as a cocktail flight that we share. He covers the tab and I cover the tip ($20). I haven’t seen him in a long time and I thoroughly enjoy sipping Westward’s stout cask finished whiskey while catching up. It’s a lovely break from the 90-degree day outside.

6:13 p.m. I meet a few of my best friends at Akâdi, a West African restaurant on SE Division that they have been dying to try. The entire menu is incredibly gluten-free and dairy-free friendly and I’m stoked. I order the jollof meal with goat stew and a soursop guava punch mocktail ($41.48 total with tip). It’s an absolutely gorgeous plate, complete with subtly sweet crispy plantains and a bright, vinegary slaw. This is my first time having goat and it’s delicious. Not quite as gamey as lamb, but more tender and flavorful than beef. I’m a fan. The stew is tomatoey and light, perfect when spooned over the jollof rice, which I could eat mounds of. At first I wasn’t sure about eating something stewed on a hot day like today, but everything tastes perfect, especially when washed down with the tart and refreshing soursop mocktail.

7:49 p.m. I stop at a Trader Joe’s on my way out of town to pick up some gluten-free everything bagels ($4.49). Through much searching I have determined that TJ’s has my favorite gluten-free bread products so I always stock up when I’m in Portland. I remember a coworker telling me that TJ’s brand of vegan cream cheese is her favorite so I pick up a container to try ($2.99). Of course, I only come in here for bagels but leave with a bag of dried chile mango ($2.49), sunflower seed butter cups ($0.99), and a canned black cold brew ($1.99) as well. This will help me power through the two-hour drive back to the coast. ($13.05 total)

I “accidentally” destroy a vegan, gluten-free cookie as I’m plucking them off of the baking sheets to wrap up for sale.

5:27 a.m. I toast a bagel and try the Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese. Spreadability: 3/10. Flavor: 7/10. It’s not bad, but I still think Kitehill vegan chive cream cheese reigns supreme due to its A-plus flavor and texture. Pound a small glass of cold brew and I’m out the door for my baking shift.

8:16 a.m. I “accidentally” destroy a vegan, gluten-free cookie as I’m plucking them off of the baking sheets to wrap up for sale. This is one of the few items I make that’s actually safe for me to eat. For my morning break, I happily enjoy the unsellable cookie out at the gazebo along with a black cup of store coffee. The base of the cookie is actually an aquafaba meringue that crisps up beautifully in the oven along with the almond flour and chocolate chips. I snack happily while watching a few killdeer scurry around the grassy hill.

11:23 a.m. Holy Christ, there’s a parade in town and I had no idea. They’ve closed the main drag that I use to head home for my lunch break, and once I realize it, I’m in too deep. Nowhere to turn around, people everywhere. Absolute nightmare. By the time I make it home I have just enough time to drag a few nuked corn tortillas through some hummus that I top with za’atar, sumac, and smoked paprika. (The za’atar was previously bought at Pat’s Pantry, which makes its own za’atar blend!) Back out the door; my cat’s disgruntled that he doesn’t get any cuddle time.

2:39 p.m. Figs are back! I noticed a few pints of them in the produce section this morning and had my fingers crossed they wouldn’t sell out by the time I was off. I snag some of those ($5.59 after my staff discount) along with a frozen ball of Wholly Wholesome gluten-free pizza dough ($7.19 after my staff discount) for a flatbread idea I’m scheming up for dinner tonight. I snack on a few figs while braving the traffic home.

6:40 p.m. I sit on my balcony with a few pieces of flatbread and the rest of that bottle of pinot grigio from a few days ago. I’ve baked the gluten-free pizza dough on a thick layer of corn meal and let it cool slightly. While it was still warm, I spread some Kitehill chive cream cheese and some chili fig jam (both previously bought) to the edges of the crust. I picked through the container of baby arugula I’ve had in my fridge for a hot second and was surprised to find it in decent shape. I peeled off a few slices of prosciutto from one of the antipasto packs from Costco and lofted them over the arugula. Topped it off with some sliced fresh figs, Nonna Pia’s balsamic glaze (previously bought), chili flakes, cracked black pepper, and a few pansies from my balcony. Not bad for a quick dinner. I enjoy the warm evening while I sip on my sweaty glass of wine.

10:17 p.m. I eat a few more fresh figs along with some dried apricots I forgot about in my cupboard. I make myself a mug of lemon ginger tea and enjoy it on the balcony before heading to bed.

I pick up an eggplant that looks like it belongs on Easter Island with its prominent, nose-like protrusion.

5:11 a.m. Another toasted bagel, each half smashed with a chunk of an avocado I found in the fridge. I sprinkle some Maldon flake salt and drizzle with sriracha. No coffee this morning, so I pour a Liquid I.V. packet (previously bought) into a glass of water instead.

8:37 a.m. Morning break with my favorite pigeon. I once again pick out the pepitas from my RxBar and share with him. Sip on a cup of store coffee sweetened with honey. A male Anna’s hummingbird sings away on top of a nearby blackberry bush. His iridescent red throat catches the morning sun.

11:31 a.m. I stay at work for lunch today; the Sunday market usually makes it difficult to get home in reasonable time. I buy a container of quinoa salad that we make in the deli ($7.58 after my staff discount) and head out to the gazebo with a coworker. The weather is in the 80s today but there’s a pleasant breeze.

2:32 p.m. Starving when I get home, I add some more flavor to this quinoa salad (jalapeño salsa, cilantro, cumin, lime, green onion) and finish it off. I pull the tofu from the fridge and wrap it in towels to press for dinner tonight. The Sunday market is still happening so I head down the hill and pick up a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and an eggplant that looks like it belongs on Easter Island with its prominent, nose-like protrusion. ($2.13) This will work for dinner.

5:31 p.m. At a meet and greet at Fort George (a brewery; if there’s one thing Astoria isn’t lacking, it’s breweries) for a new part-time job. Starting next week, I’ll be a marine mammal observer on the Columbia river. It’s temporary so I don’t mind working three jobs these next few weeks, especially since I’ll actually be able to utilize my marine biology degree. What a concept! I nurse a pint of Cavatica stout ($10 with tip) in the warm tap room while chatting with new coworkers. Even in this heat, I can’t say no to a stout. (It has a low-enough gluten level that it usually doesn’t bother me but we’ll see…) I contemplate spending $22 on a small gluten-free pizza from the pizzeria upstairs but can’t bring myself to spend that much. “We have food at home,” I tell myself.

7:54 p.m. Tummy hurts. Classic. I still bring myself to make some dinner. I cube up the pressed tofu and toss it into a high-heat pan with avocado oil and a bit of sesame oil. Once they’re browned, I add some chunked green bell pepper that I bought at Fred’s the other day, half of the eggplant from the market, and a portion of red onion I found in the fridge. I also come across a partial jar of red curry paste and add that to the pan along with half a can of coconut milk I find in my pantry. That simmers gently while I microwave a brown rice and quinoa packet from Costco. To finish it off, I add a few glugs of tamari, a healthy squeeze of sriracha, loads of ground ginger as well as cumin and garlic. I add a couple of ladlefuls to half of the quinoa packet and slice up some cucumber and a radish that I tossed in rice wine vinegar. The dish comes together in less than 20 minutes and I know I’ll be reheating leftovers for the next few days for lunch. The first few bites revive my appetite.

11:37 p.m. For my final act I put together a world-class snack: ants on a log. There’s just something about sweet raisins and creamy peanut butter on the crisp, watery celery that’s crave-worthy. (All ingredients previously bought.) I enjoy it on my balcony in the extremely warm summer evening, the distant sound of sea lions carrying all the way up the river. And with that I bid you farewell. Bon appétit!

What are your pronouns?What is your occupation?How old are you?What city and state do you live in?What is your annual salary, if you have one?How much is one paycheck, after taxes?How often are you paid? (e.g., weekly)How much money do you have in savings?What are your approximate fixed monthly expenses beyond food? (i.e., rent, subscriptions, bills)Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions?What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any?How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home?How often in a week did you dine out while growing up?How often in a week did your parents or guardians cook at home?Monday4:53 a.m.8:03 a.m.11:08 a.m.1:57 p.m.4:04 p.m.6:27 p.m.Tuesday8:11 a.m.11:39 a.m.2:48 p.m.4:27 p.m.7:31 p.m.11:02 p.m.Wednesday8:27 a.m.11:02 a.m.11:38 a.m.5:23 p.m.7:12 p.m.Thursday5:02 a.m.8:13 a.m.11:14 a.m.2:43 p.m.5:56 p.m.12:13 a.m.Friday8:17 a.m.10:38 a.m.1:22 p.m.3:27 p.m.5:24 p.m.6:13 p.m.7:49 p.m.Saturday5:27 a.m.8:16 a.m.11:23 a.m.2:39 p.m.6:40 p.m.10:17 p.m.Sunday5:11 a.m.8:37 a.m.11:31 a.m.2:32 p.m.5:31 p.m.7:54 p.m.11:37 p.m.