Food Diary: How a 26-Year-Old Chef Eats for $17.50/Hour in Indianapolis, Indiana

Bon Appétit

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

In today’s receipt, a 26-year-old restaurant chef makes his own smoked trout dip, cake and pizza snacks at work and hates working the brunch shift in Indianapolis, Indiana. Keep reading for her receipts.

Jump forward:

The economy

What are your pronouns? She her

What is your job? Line cook

How old are you? 26

What city and state do you live in? Indianapolis, Indiana

What is your annual salary if you have one? I make $17.50 an hour and my hours range from 20 to 60 a week. I take overtime when I can. If I worked 40 hours each week for a year, my gross income would be $36,400. However, hours are being cut across the board due to declining business.

How much is a paycheck after tax? $1,200 on average currently

How often do you get paid? (e.g. weekly) Every second week

How much money do you have in savings? $1,500

What are your approximate fixed monthly expenses other than food? (ie rent, subscriptions, bills)

  • Rent: $1,000
  • Gymnastics membership: 40 USD
  • TV Streaming Services: 30 USD
  • Spotify: 10 USD
  • Utility bills: $125
  • Total: $1,205

The diet

Do you follow a specific diet or have dietary restrictions? I am a pescatarian.

What are the groceries you always buy, if any? Sparkling water, canned tuna and health supplements such as protein powder and collagen before exercise. I have also tried different vitamins, but my goal is to find a good multivitamin that gives me B12 and iron.

How often in a week do you eat out compared to cooking at home? I get a free meal for every shift I work. I usually do it myself and I pay for it in my work. Other than food I get from my work, I try to eat out only once a week or less.

How often in a week did you eat out growing up? My parents divorced when I was quite young and I grew up in a small town. My mother was quite strongly against eating out, so it was a rare treat when we were with her. When we were with my dad, we were more likely to eat out, but not much. When I was a kid, there were maybe only six restaurants in my town, four of which were fast food. The second nearest town was only a 15 minute drive, but we often chose the convenience of staying close to home.

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