$540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

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pax4235
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$540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by pax4235 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am

As a graduate student, I am wondering if I am spending too much on food per month. I am basically eating out for every meal right now (subway, chipotle burritos, burgers/tacos, etc) and the cost comes out to $6-$7 per meal. Even if you buy subway $6 dollar sandwiches, that would be $6 * 3 subs/day * 30 days/month = $540 /month on Subway sandwiches. I am guessing that to save on food I would need to go to the grocery store and buy rice or pasta and it would be much cheaper. If I live in the Houston, TX area will it always be cheaper/greater bang for my buck for me to buy groceries than eat out like this? I find $540-$600+/mo for 1 person very expensive for food (more expensive than rent almost!).

Does anyone know a good site that gives you ideas on recipes to buy that is designed to minimize your food budget while giving you healthy recipes?

ThriftyPhD
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by ThriftyPhD » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:10 am

You can definitely cut that down by cooking yourself. For example, you mention chipotle burritos. You can make your own burrito bowls by cooking up rice, beans, and meat yourself. A couple dollars for a pound of dry rice, a couple dollars for a pound of dry beans (or a few dollars for a couple cans of beans), and 1-2 lbs of ground beef (probably pretty cheap in TX). Add in a few more dollars for onion, pepper, seasoning. If you want to go fancy, get a beef or pork roast and cook it overnight in a slow cooker, then shred it up with some forks.

For the cost of a single burrito at Chipotle, you can make up a batch of burrito bowls and get several meals out of it.

More importantly than the cost savings is the better health. If you're like most graduate students, you're spending a ton of time working and not enough taking care of your health. Eating subway three times a day isn't going to be the most nutritious option, and it may eventually catch up to you. If you cook it yourself, you can make choices like using leaner meat, less salt, or brown rice instead of white.

I know time is an issue as a graduate student. I addressed this by cooking larger amounts on the weekend and freezing lunch and dinner portions for the week. It was actually less time than going out to eat for each meal, and it could be accomplished on the weekend when I had time, reducing the amount I had to do on weekdays.

shell921
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by shell921 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:25 am

Since 2010 I have followed Dr John Mc Dougall's starch/plant based way of eating:

https://www.drmcdougall.com/
http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2005nl/ ... pumary.htm

I have most of his books but one of the many things great about him is he tells you what to eat for free
on his website!

Eating this McDougall way is healthy, simple and inexpensive. It has taught me to think of food as fuel rather than as a means of entertainment, so I no longer need
constant variety and elaborate recipes. Putting a few complimentary ingredients together is simple and easy and I'm happy.

Simple and varied. Simple to prepare and eat, a variety of real food goodness. No need to fuss and
make food complicated.

This way of eating is based on starches, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, or grains. Beans & lentils.
For veggies, there are a
ton of frozen veggie mixes that provide a swath of different veggies already chopped up and ready to heat
(green and yellow veggies, leafy greens, less dense starches, etc...).
And of course a few different fruits is nice that you can simply eat as they are.

I think soups are important... bean soups, veggie soups, lentil soups - all
these are nourishing and satisfying. Soups fill us up. So if you like soups you can make
a few soups in large amounts every so often and freeze what you don't eat in a day or two.
that way you'll always have some soups on hand. Crockpots are good to make soup in without
any fuss and inexpensive crockpots can be bought at Walmart.

In the old days, for most people, meals were simple: porridge for breakfast, soups for lunch, and a stew for dinner.

Easy to plan your meals around a single dish, possibly supplementing it with a salad or vegetable side dish.
Think of pasta with a topping, or rice covered with a sauce, or just plain soup and wholesome bread.

livesoft
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by livesoft » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:32 am

I live in the Houston area. My kids were grad students. They never paid that much for food.

First, I will say you are eating too much food. Most of it is going down toilets. For instance, a Chipotle burrito bowl is 3 meals for me. Such a bowl should be split into two at least and one-half put in the fridge for microwaving later. Or a Subway sandwich can be eaten half one day, half the next days. Or a $6 pizza is good for 3 days. Or an $8 Chinese take-out is good for 3 to 6 meals.

Second, eat a big breakfast. Oatmeal is very easy to cook in the microwave with added walnuts, fruit, and maybe some protein powder. That's a about a dollar a breakfast. See this post: viewtopic.php?p=2242092#p2242092 You won't want to have big lunch if you have eaten a big breakfast.

Third, my son uses a George Forman grill to cook chicken breasts bought in bulk. Some fajita seasoning and he is good to go.

You don't have to eat rice, pasta, bread, potatoes at all. A can of black beans is about 60 cents at Walmart and can be split over 3 meals made of vegetables such as broccoli, corn, spinach, carrots, and so on.

We give our son $175 a month for food, eating out, all groceries, and monthly spending.
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Pajamas
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Pajamas » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:39 am

pax4235 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am
If I live in the Houston, TX area will it always be cheaper/greater bang for my buck for me to buy groceries than eat out like this?
Yes, that's true pretty much everywhere.

Google "fast easy cheap meal" or similar and you'll get hundreds of ideas. You can either focus on keeping ingredients on hand for fast meals such as sandwiches or salads or on making larger quantities of food that can be eaten for several meals.

You might want to start off by preparing something that you currently eat out such as sandwiches rather than trying to change what you eat entirely by focusing on switching to mostly beans or potatoes or oatmeal.

Murgatroyd
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Murgatroyd » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:53 am

Consider this. If you had a bowl of cereal for breakfast that’s about $2 per day. Box of cereal costs about $4 and carton of milk $2 -$3, should yield at least 3 or 4 meals. Bowl of soup for lunch also $1.50 to $2.50 for a large can of “chunky” style soup depending where you shop.

That saves $8 per day x 30 = $240.

Your current spending is outrageous.

bob60014
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by bob60014 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:57 am

"I am basically eating out for every meal right now (subway, chipotle burritos, burgers/tacos, etc......." you have identified the problem, change your eating habits!

livesoft
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by livesoft » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:00 am

^And if you split a Chipotle burrito bowl of sofritas w/guacomole, that would be $8/3 = $2.67 per meal. You could not cook dinners and do take-out in Houston and spend less than many people do cooking at home.

This post has a photo of a meal and a cash register receipt: viewtopic.php?p=2574932#p2574932
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SelfEmployed123
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by SelfEmployed123 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:11 am

I recommend you set a goal regarding how many times you will eat out per week and stick to it. Any time you eat out you are paying more for food than if you cook yourself. I understand you may have limited time due to being in graduate school, but there are many recipes that will take less than 30 minutes to make. Consider it taking a break from your busy life to use a completely different part of your brain. If you set aside a few hours per week you can cook a lot of food and save it for leftovers/throughout the week. In most areas, there are budget grocery stores (Shoppers, Aldi, etc), mid level (Safeway, Giant) and the high end grocery stores (Whole Foods/Harris Teeter). I recommend you check out the budget grocery stores near you. Also, some stores will send out mailers with coupons. The one near me almost always has a $10 off coupon if you spend $50 (which is basically a guaranteed 10% off coupon for my family as we spend around $100 per week at our budget grocery store.

The easiest way to search for recipes is on a site like www.allrecipes.com or on pinterest. Most online recipes will indicate how long it takes to cook the meal. You should come up with 4-5 easy recipes that take 30 minutes or less. Eventually you will have them memorized and can cook them repeatedly each week.

InMyDreams
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by InMyDreams » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:17 am

Recipe book for people on SNAP trying to meet their budget:
https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf

Mr Money Mustache has lots of recipe threads. Their current one:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welco ... h-recipes/

but I seem to remember that someone had started a master thread to index all the recipe threads.

livesoft
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by livesoft » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:17 am

It doesn't take a few hours a week to shop for food and cook food. And eating out / eating leftovers can be cheap and healthy.
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JoeRetire
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by JoeRetire » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:18 am

pax4235 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am
I am wondering if I am spending too much on food per month.

I am basically eating out for every meal right now
Yes, you are spending more than you could. Only you can decide how much is "too much".
I am guessing that to save on food I would need to go to the grocery store and buy rice or pasta and it would be much cheaper.
It's not hard to spend a lot less on food if you shop and do your own cooking.

dknightd
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dknightd » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:20 am

You can easily cut your food budget. And consider it a life lesson, much like going to school. You can make cheaper healthier food at home for a fraction of what you are spending. Yes it takes time to cook, or assemble, your own food. But it is not all active time, sometimes it is just waiting till it is ready. Learning to cook your own food is time well spent. You will eat better, and save money. Win win. That said, sometimes buying prepared food is a good idea, but I can't imagine doing it for 3 meals a day. YMMV

Use google - pick something you want to make and eat - go from there.

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Tamarind
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Tamarind » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:33 am

You can eat the same things you are eating, or much better, for less. I spend about $300/person/month and food is a splurge category for us including lots of fancy fruit, veg, and meat.

dknightd
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dknightd » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:36 am

[OT comment removed by admin LadyGeek] go visit a grocery store. Try it for a couple of weeks, even with increased waste from things that go bad because you did not eat them, you would almost certainly come out ahead. Buy a loaf of bread, some meat, some veg, see how things work out. You could probably eat for a week on what you spend in two days. Then get more adventurous, and go beyond sandwich and burritos.

shell921
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by shell921 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:37 am

dknightd wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:20 am
You can easily cut your food budget. And consider it a life lesson, much like going to school. You can make cheaper healthier food at home for a fraction of what you are spending. Yes it takes time to cook, or assemble, your own food. But it is not all active time, sometimes it is just waiting till it is ready. Learning to cook your own food is time well spent. You will eat better, and save money. Win win. That said, sometimes buying prepared food is a good idea, but I can't imagine doing it for 3 meals a day. YMMV

Use google - pick something you want to make and eat - go from there.
Yes-this is good advice. Time well spent is right. Cooking is an important life skill everyone needs ! But you can learn to cook a few simple things and stick with those. Maybe expand your cooking skills as time permits.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by LarryAllen » Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:51 am

When I was in grad school there were very few "meals" in or out. It was just about always something fast. Throw a bowl of frozen veggies in the microwave. My roommate had a bag of frozen chicken breasts already cooked that he would heat up. Heck, a bowl of oatmeal or cereal. Every meal is a not a celebration. Get to graduation with the best grades you can. Food is just energy to get you there in my opinion.

totallystudly
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by totallystudly » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:05 am

Bigger issue is that you are slowly killing yourself with that crap food and could have undesirable health outcomes if you keep doing it, which is expensive. Just learn how to cook or get some protein shakes if it needs to be something fast.

Glockenspiel
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Glockenspiel » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:09 am

As a grad student, you should easily be able to eat for $200-$250/month.

researcher
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by researcher » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:54 am

pax4235 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am
I am basically eating out for every meal right now and the cost comes out to $6-$7 per meal.
Even if you buy subway $6 dollar sandwiches, that would be $6 * 3 subs/day * 30 days/month = $540 /month on Subway sandwiches.

Does anyone know a good site that gives you ideas on recipes to buy that is designed to minimize your food budget while giving you healthy recipes?
You don't need a recipe website to keep from eating out 3 meals every day!

Breakfast - banana, apple, bowl of cereal, oatmeal, ect
Lunch - PB&J, lunchmeat sandwich, can of soup, ect
Dinner - frozen pizza, grilled cheese, grill out burgers/dogs/chicken/pork, ect

cb122
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by cb122 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:59 am

Generally, $540 is a lot for a food bill for a single person and shows that eating out adds up quickly. To put your bill into perspective, I spend $300 or less each month on food and I have a high activity and athletic motor/frame as a early 30's male. My daily diet requires 3000+ calories a day. I each out around 5 times a month either lunch or supper. Calorie requirements and intake is all relative to the person though. Also, how you view food is important as well like in all things, need vs want.

https://www.eatthismuch.com/

Here's a web site that will give you some healthy food ideas. It has recipes for all kinds, Paleo, Mediterranean, Anything, Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian. etc.. I utilize the Paleo and it helps give new ideas on food choices. If you have an idea of how many meals you want to consume a day and what your requirements are to function, plug your requirements in and different recipes will generate for you. Or just throw a general number in, let it create, and you can make the batches as big as you want. The recipe will also show you an estimated cost associated with the meal.


Good luck

stoptothink
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by stoptothink » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:01 am

I was a single PhD student in Houston 5yrs ago and spent 1/4 of what you currently are on food. I am not a small man and was a highly competitive triathlete at the time. If you can afford it, go right ahead, but you could cut that spending in half with very little effort.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by willthrill81 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:01 am

When my DW and I were both in college, we did all of our grocery shopping, including non-food household supplies, for an inflation-adjusted $250 a month.

We only spend about $600 monthly right now for our family of three in that same category.

Dining out is a separate line item in our budget, but it's only about $150 a month.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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dm200
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:02 am

Consider your health and how diet affects it. www.nutritionfacts.org

Dottie57
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Dottie57 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:03 am

ThriftyPhD wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:10 am
You can definitely cut that down by cooking yourself. For example, you mention chipotle burritos. You can make your own burrito bowls by cooking up rice, beans, and meat yourself. A couple dollars for a pound of dry rice, a couple dollars for a pound of dry beans (or a few dollars for a couple cans of beans), and 1-2 lbs of ground beef (probably pretty cheap in TX). Add in a few more dollars for onion, pepper, seasoning. If you want to go fancy, get a beef or pork roast and cook it overnight in a slow cooker, then shred it up with some forks.

For the cost of a single burrito at Chipotle, you can make up a batch of burrito bowls and get several meals out of it.

More importantly than the cost savings is the better health. If you're like most graduate students, you're spending a ton of time working and not enough taking care of your health. Eating subway three times a day isn't going to be the most nutritious option, and it may eventually catch up to you. If you cook it yourself, you can make choices like using leaner meat, less salt, or brown rice instead of white.

I know time is an issue as a graduate student. I addressed this by cooking larger amounts on the weekend and freezing lunch and dinner portions for the week. It was actually less time than going out to eat for each meal, and it could be accomplished on the weekend when I had time, reducing the amount I had to do on weekdays.
So true on money and health.

Nate79
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Nate79 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:04 am

pax4235 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am
As a graduate student, I am wondering if I am spending too much on food per month. I am basically eating out for every meal right now (subway, chipotle burritos, burgers/tacos, etc) and the cost comes out to $6-$7 per meal. Even if you buy subway $6 dollar sandwiches, that would be $6 * 3 subs/day * 30 days/month = $540 /month on Subway sandwiches. I am guessing that to save on food I would need to go to the grocery store and buy rice or pasta and it would be much cheaper. If I live in the Houston, TX area will it always be cheaper/greater bang for my buck for me to buy groceries than eat out like this? I find $540-$600+/mo for 1 person very expensive for food (more expensive than rent almost!).

Does anyone know a good site that gives you ideas on recipes to buy that is designed to minimize your food budget while giving you healthy recipes?
Are you debt free? Does $540/month stretch your budget or allow you to be debt free, have an emergency fund, and save money? Certainly eating junk food every meal is not healthy and when in grad school I probably spent half of what you are. We were always looking for coupons, catching deals, etc and dinner was always cooked at home.

Caduceus
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Caduceus » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:05 am

I am probably one of the few who think it's reasonable. I spent about $500 a month on food per month in a HCOL area, and I still saved a six figure sum through graduate school. There are some advantages to spending more. Here's what I did.

In a "perfect" week, what I would do was cook bulk meals over the weekend. Curries were my favorite as they taste even better after you freeze/refrigerate them as the spices/meat have time to imbue the curry with their flavor. Also, because they are a little spicy, it's harder to get tired of eating the same thing a few days in a row. I would usually make two curries, one fish/meat-based, and the other vegetarian, and alternate. Usually the meals would last till Thursday lunch or dinner. Friday was usually eat-out day for both lunch and dinner 8-) Plus, I often went on dates on Friday, so that worked out. Saturday and Sunday I would usually get cheap take-out while cooking for the next four-five days. It added up to $500 because I like buying organic fruit/vegetables and seafood.

When I took a second job while finishing the Ph.D., which took up a few nights and half a Saturday every week, I ended up cooking less and eating out more, but it worked out because I was earning more from my second job than if I had not taken the job and saved the money by cooking more efficiently.

Some things I would recommend are: to go to talks that you like and just eat there. I did that all the time. I heard there are even apps for that for students these days. 8-) I would go to talks completely outside my field that genuinely interested me and just eat. And sometimes the food is really fancy. Gourmet cheesecakes and cookies, fancy pasta, and at the very least, decent sandwiches. I think 10% of all the food that I ate was free. Also, it's good to mingle and get to know new people/make new contacts.

I think you should keep the main objective in mind, which is to finish your Ph.D. as fast as possible and yet produce as high quality work as possible. If eating out every day means you will get that one more research publication out, do it. If eating out every day means you will actually have time to actively date and still put in late nights at work, then do it. The goal in graduate school isn't to save $200 more a month on food. I think it was probably a mistake for me to work that second job in retrospect, even if I graduated from grad school with a significant net worth because there were so many other things I could have been doing.

shell921
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by shell921 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:15 am

totallystudly wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:05 am
Bigger issue is that you are slowly killing yourself with that crap food and could have undesirable health outcomes if you keep doing it, which is expensive. Just learn how to cook or get some protein shakes if it needs to be something fast.
totallystudly is right.

Someone mention nutritionfacts.org - great site!

Someone above said" you don't have to eat rice, pasta, bread, potatoes. . . ."

Right- you don't HAVE to eat those things but rice & potatoes are good for us-!
[ pasta and bread not so much ].

Rice and potatoes help fill us up and you can make delicious healthy & non-fattening sauces to put on them.
Instead of butter or cheese or sour cream !

Brown rice and potatoes contain fiber and we need fiber to be healthy. They are filling and
nourishing and contain fiber.

Barley is also high in fiber.

A very high fiber content, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, heart health and diabetes protection are just some of the
barley nutrition benefits that make it one of the best whole grain choices.
Barley is actually one of the oldest consumed grains in the world. You can add barley to any soup.
I mix barley and steel cut oats together in a pan. Cover with boiling water-stir & cover-let sit one hour
and drain and eat.

https://www.drmcdougall.com/health/educ ... h-staples/

https://www.amazon.com/Starch-Solution- ... +mcdougall

Check out Dr Fuhrman's book - eat to live. He talks about
"nutrient density"

Here is some info from Dr McDougall - it's from 2008 but still good.
.....................
Eat for Less than $3 a Day on The McDougall Diet

The McDougall Diet is based on starches—potatoes, grains, and legumes. These plant foods, which provide for the bulk of your calories, cut expenses in several important ways. Starches are inherently inexpensive—a full days supply of calories from starches will cost less than $1.50. You can stockpile grains, potatoes and legumes, cutting costs of transportation to the market. These foods are easily stored for long periods of time without the energy costs associated with refrigeration. Since they do not easily spoil there is little wastage. Clean up after plant-based, low-fat meals is easy and cheap because there is no grease requiring expensive, environmentally toxic, cleansers. A simple rinse will often do.

The McDougall diet also includes some perishable fruits and green and yellow vegetables. These items are more expensive than starches; but they are consumed in small amounts; thus, adding relatively little to the food bill. Focusing on fruits and vegetables that are in season will also help keep your food budget affordable. With the starch component costing less than $1.50 daily, this leaves an additional $1.50 to spend on fruits and green and yellow vegetables; keeping the total food costs at $3 a day per person on the McDougall Diet.

Mary provides several of our favorite inexpensive meals in her recipe section this month. For example, the ingredients for her Stove Top Stew cost $1.40 (fills up four adults) and the Pea Soup ingredients cost $1.80 (fills up 6 adults).
............................

https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2008nl ... odcost.htm

https://www.brandnewvegan.com/articles/ ... rican-diet

Mc Dougall's way of eating centers around:

Fresh Vegetables
Fresh Fruits & Berries
Starches like corn, pumpkin, and potatoes
Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils
Whole grains like barley, rye, and brown rice

AlwaysWannaLearn
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by AlwaysWannaLearn » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:34 am

.....
Last edited by AlwaysWannaLearn on Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TareNeko
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by TareNeko » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:46 am

I would worry about my health more than the budget if you are eating out at those restaurant every meal :)
pax4235 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:59 am
As a graduate student, I am wondering if I am spending too much on food per month. I am basically eating out for every meal right now (subway, chipotle burritos, burgers/tacos, etc) and the cost comes out to $6-$7 per meal. Even if you buy subway $6 dollar sandwiches, that would be $6 * 3 subs/day * 30 days/month = $540 /month on Subway sandwiches. I am guessing that to save on food I would need to go to the grocery store and buy rice or pasta and it would be much cheaper. If I live in the Houston, TX area will it always be cheaper/greater bang for my buck for me to buy groceries than eat out like this? I find $540-$600+/mo for 1 person very expensive for food (more expensive than rent almost!).

Does anyone know a good site that gives you ideas on recipes to buy that is designed to minimize your food budget while giving you healthy recipes?

BogleBike
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by BogleBike » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:47 am

Same as the rest - yes, it's too much. Pay $120-150/month until you have a rich professional salary, then $120-200 depending on your choices.

Personal illustration - I spend $150 month right now, financially independent with $ in the bank (I mean, in Vanguard). Including restaurants that I pay for due to social reasons, $170/month. Previously I spent $350 on expensive groceries and wasted food. Then I started paying more attention and it dropped to about $220 just by watching prices and only buying the amount I would eat (no more throwing away unused vegies). Then I learned to cook some simple dishes instead of buying food products, which dropped me to $170. Casually taking advantage of sales put me at $150 even while including some junk food luxuries, some food products because I cook 70% instead of 100%, more meat than I need, etc.

You can Google any recipe and get lots of examples. You can even Google "cook with" and list some ingredients, and you will get recipes. Include the word "fast" in your search, buy some plastic containers for fridge and freezer storage, cook 2x/week and you're cheap/fast/easy. The learning process is similar to a 1 to 3 unit undergrad course, but pays dividends for life of maybe $100,000 in saved costs. Better value than school, eh?
Last edited by BogleBike on Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

totallystudly
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by totallystudly » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:21 am

You can make a ton if low cost healthy filling meals. Someone mentioned a mindshift from eating for pleasure/entertainment to eating for fuel and for a purpose.

You can do simple, quick stuff like spinach and egg whites and an avocado. Salmon and whole eggs and broccoli. Steaming veggies takes about 5 min. Cooking a salmon fillet is about 13 minutes. I cook for the entire week on Sunday and may have to top up on veggies.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by SuperGrafx » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:41 am

livesoft wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 7:32 am

First, I will say you are eating too much food. Most of it is going down toilets.
Hahahaha!

I find most of the usual Bogleheads posters to be dull and boring.
But livesoft consistently has a way of making me laugh with his posts. :beer

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dm200
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:49 am

Fresh Vegetables
Fresh Fruits & Berries
Starches like corn, pumpkin, and potatoes
Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils
Whole grains like barley, rye, and brown rice
On balance, much less expensive way of eating.

Lower cost and HIGHER health benefits! Win - Win

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dm200
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:51 am

While eating out is almost always more costly - I get the "all you can eat" Garden Bar at Ruby Tuesdays - and I avoid the ham, eggs and cheese.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by new2bogle » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:03 pm

Yes, that is too much. When I was in grad school (12-14 years ago) my monthly food budget was about half of that. I only ate out on friday or saturday nights (one, not both). Made everything else in my apt (grilled cheese sandwiches are cheap).

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dm200
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:04 pm

dm200 wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:51 am
While eating out is almost always more costly - I get the "all you can eat" Garden Bar at Ruby Tuesdays - and I avoid the ham, eggs and cheese.
Other "all you can eat" buffets can sometimes be a net bargain - if you eat enough AND can schedule such visits.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Afty » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:15 pm

I’ll throw out there that eating out, especially for lunch, can take much more time than packing something. You’ve got transportation time both ways plus ordering/prep. Just pack a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a yogurt, and you’ve saved yourself half an hour.

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dm200
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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:25 pm

Afty wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:15 pm
I’ll throw out there that eating out, especially for lunch, can take much more time than packing something. You’ve got transportation time both ways plus ordering/prep. Just pack a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a yogurt, and you’ve saved yourself half an hour.
Very true!

BUT - sometimes - for some jobs or school - it really helps to get out. I had one like that a few years ago ;)

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by JoeRetire » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:26 pm

What are you studying?

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by misscourtneyk » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:02 pm

I just finished grad school (while working full time) and yes your spending WAY too much. I prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday and pack everything with me during the work week. I spend about $200/month on groceries and I have no trouble buying enough food for all my meals. Lean meat, veggies, eggs, complex carbs, fruit, etc are all easily purchased for about $50/week. Not only am I saving a lot of money, but I'm eating much healthier food. I gained about 40 lbs in college doing what you're doing, all those crappy meals out will catch up with you eventually.

I keep it simple in order to save time and money! Example: fruit and greek yogurt for breakfast, or oatmeal. Grilled chicken, veggies, and some kind of carb for lunch. Dinner ideas could be a stir fry, smoothies, or scrambled egg burritos. All inexpensive foods and super healthy.
Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by stoptothink » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:23 pm

misscourtneyk wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:02 pm
I prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday and pack everything with me during the work week.
Good to hear that I am no longer the only Boglehead who does this. I have done it for close to 20yrs, including the past 5 for my (now) 4 member family. Saves an amazing amount of time and money. I understand that for a lot of people eating is one of the most enjoyable components of their life, but like most things, you can make it so much more efficient (time, money, and health-wise) if you establish a few really simple systems and start looking at it with a different mindset (food more as fuel than a source of pleasure).

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Tamarind » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:28 pm

stoptothink wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:23 pm
misscourtneyk wrote:
Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:02 pm
I prepare all my meals for the week on Sunday and pack everything with me during the work week.
Good to hear that I am no longer the only Boglehead who does this. I have done it for close to 20yrs, including the past 5 for my (now) 4 member family. Saves an amazing amount of time and money. I understand that for a lot of people eating is one of the most enjoyable components of their life, but like most things, you can make it so much more efficient (time, money, and health-wise) if you establish a few really simple systems and start looking at it with a different mindset (food more as fuel than a source of pleasure).
Yes, I do this too, but food is absolutely a source of pleasure for me. The two things can coexist. :P

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by HornedToad » Mon Jul 16, 2018 4:53 pm

When i was in grad school I think I spent $150-250/mo on food. I thought I was eating pretty well then too.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by theplayer11 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 5:04 pm

way too much... this is coming from your savings/earnings I hope..

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by Bfwolf » Mon Jul 16, 2018 5:23 pm

OP,

The tricky thing is you probably don't have a lot of cooking skills nor enjoy cooking and that's pushing you to eat out a lot. And cooking for 1 probably seems like a lot of effort. But if you focus on cooking simple meals in bulk, you'll find that you don't need cooking skills and you can make a lot of food at once to eat for days.

I would recommend getting a slow cooker. You can find a decent enough one on Amazon for probably $30, or a bit more if you need one you can program. Slow cookers make things really easy...you basically dump a bunch of ingredients in them and 4 to 6 hours later you've got a meal. Lots of people use slow cookers by putting in the food in the morning, going to work, and then coming home to a meal that's ready for them. You can eat what you'd like and then put the rest in the fridge for leftovers on future days.

If you go to any recipe website like Allrecipes you can search for plenty of easy slow cooker recipes. Something like chili is incredibly easy in a slow cooker...you can use lots of canned and frozen vegetables so you barely have to chop anything.

Since you live in Houston, you probably have a Walmart or HEB near you. Those stores are renowned for their low prices so you can probably save quite a bit of money by trading some of your eat-out meals for eat-in meals.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by jym » Mon Jul 16, 2018 5:29 pm

I don't find your spending out of line, but you could eat better for the same money. Finding an easy breakfast you actually *like* and a healthy sack lunch you actually *like* could do wonders. The advice to leap directly from your current habits to cooking for every meal strikes me as unrealistic. When you do splurge on going out to dinner, make sure you do it with friends.

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by sailaway » Mon Jul 16, 2018 6:27 pm

When I was a grad student, coffee shops and eating out were my luxury and most of my entertainment spending, as well as food. The year of my comp exams, I also paid to have my laundry washed and folded.

The real question, at every stage of life, is can you afford it?

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by capsaicinguy » Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:08 pm

Your food budget is roughly how much we spend on a family of 4 (two are small kids) for the month, not including an occasional (not every month) once a month meal out. Sam's club, crock pot, food for a week (in your case), done. :shock:

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Re: $540 a month on food for graduate student budget too much?

Post by triceratop » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:07 pm

I spend much less ($250 on food) as a grad student, but I can relate to the desire to not plan any aspects of my life beyond academics. I've definitely had weeks where I have not made any of my own prepared food. However, I capitalize on free food on campus in such situations where possible.
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