Budgeting for Food and Reducing Waste

March 4 2017, 11:31am

Getting ready to cook

Living in San Francisco has its plusses and minuses. On one hand, the city tends to be relatively the same temperature (even when the rest of the country is sweating). Located just a short distance from one another are also gorgeous views, vibrant historical centers, and expansive areas to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. On the other hand, many talk about the increasing homogeneity of the city and outrageous cost of living.

Having lived here for over two years now and experienced the sometimes dizzying pace of keeping up with the Jones', I have a better idea, than ever about how to live and develop as a professional in this City of Love.

This is the first post in a series of posts about how to live well and sustainably in a place that many can only dream of living in. Although many of these experience may focus on SF, I hope they can apply to other large cities and being a great millennial, in general.

Anyway, enough about the logistics, ready to dive into food?

In SF, the average sandwich seems to cost anywhere from $8 to $15. Even foods that one wouldn't expect to be that pricey like street tacos can easily cost upwards of $4 per taco. Between all the times spent working and sleeping, time is made such a commodity that most people don't flinch to spend $15 for lunch and $20+ on dinner. Do this over the course of a week (toss in a drink or two plus brunch) and one is easily spending $250 per week on sustenance.

$250 per week comes out to around $1000 per month and $13000 per year. When one starts looking at figures like this, its no wonder how cities like San Francisco scare off intrepid youth.

Participating in this lifestyle for the first few months, although it was fun, I quickly found it was unsustainable. To combat expenses from burning a hole in my wallet, I eventually took it upon myself to flex my cooking skills and cook more.

Luckily for me, cooking is something that I grew up with and practiced pretty heavily while at UC Berkeley. For those a little weary about cooking, I've found these resources to be good starting points for easily getting up to speed with cooking:

Cooking meals, I was able to reduce my costs from $250 to $100. Figure that the average grocery bill for one person might be $60, the rest of it has been allocated towards dining out on the weekends.

For quite some time, even $60 was a bit much though, as I found many items I bought going to waste—pretty sure this comes from an upbringing where the fridge was always chock-full of groceries. By planning ahead and figuring out how mu meals would look for the week, I've been able to pretty consistently reduce this amount to $30. Places like Trader Joes and local neighborhood markets have great quality, cheap ingredients that can be used to create a host of fun recipes.

In addition to knowing what you're doing to eat and reducing overall costs, planning meals helps reduce food waste in that pretty much everything bought is going to be consumed. This alone is sometimes reason enough for me to enjoy cooking at home, especially when realizing how much food is wasted every year.

San Francisco, can be a pretty pricey place to live and work. With a little diligence though, it can be made more palatable.

How much does food cost where you live? How do you budget for meals better?