Food & Drink

Food Diary: What a 28-Year-Old Laid-Off Marketer Eats on Unemployment Aid in Buffalo, NY

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, we follow a 28-year-old laid-off marketer who receives $441 a week in unemployment in Buffalo, New York. Keep reading for her receipts.

Skip ahead

  1. The finances
  2. The diet
  3. The expenses
  4. The diary

The finances

What are your pronouns? She/her

What is your occupation? Unemployed

How old are you? 28

What city and state do you live in? Buffalo, NY

What is your annual salary, if you have one? Not anymore! My salary before I got laid off (and before taxes) was $70,000. Since January, I’ve been receiving $441 a week from unemployment. Sometimes I do freelance and self-employed projects (writing and focus groups, mostly) to supplement my funds, but the payment can vary a lot per project and they’re catch-as-you-can. I’ve done three so far this year, earning me roughly $1,080 between January and March. My severance and last paycheck combined totaled less than $4,000.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? $441

How often are you paid? (e.g. weekly) Weekly

How much money do you have in savings? Roughly $70,000, including 401k.

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

  • Rent: $400 (My share, I live with my boyfriend.)
  • Car payment: $298
  • Streaming services (Hulu, Netflix, Patreon): $30.04
  • Gym: $28
  • Internet: $25 (Again, my share.)
  • Heat: $70 (Again, split with my boyfriend.)
  • Electric: $24 (Split again.)
  • Insurance (Dental and vision): $36.26
  • Insurance (Health): $460
  • Insurance (Pet): $21.47
  • Total: $1,392.77

The diet

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? No, though my diet leans Mediterranean. My boyfriend loves to cook Korean food, so I’d say I eat a fair amount of that as well.

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any? Green bell peppers, avocados, garlic, spaghetti squash, parsley, onions (green, yellow, white and red), lemons, oranges/grapefruits, feta, Parmesan, kimchi, sriracha, labneh, eggs, Greek yogurt, strawberries. Plus cans of black and garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes.

How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home? I’d say about four times a week—twice during the week for lunch, twice during the week for dinner.

How often in a week did you dine out while growing up? Probably once or twice a week. Friday was always takeout pizza night.

How often in a week did your parents or guardians cook at home? At least five times a week. My mom was always doing Weight Watchers or something of that nature, so a lot of protein-rich or veggie-laden meals.

The expenses

  • Week’s total: $339.46
  • Restaurants and cafés total: 7
  • Groceries total: $89.92
  • Most-expensive meal or purchase: Dinner at Inizio, $74.81
  • Least-expensive meal or purchase: Lime, $.34
  • Number of restaurant and café meals: 5
  • Number of grocery trips: 5

The diary


12:13 p.m. I wake up and linger in bed. Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, which is a big deal in Buffalo—it’s a holiday that reminds Buffalonians that spring is coming, though winter won’t feel like it’s over til April. So I’m a wee bit hungover. I gnaw on a couple of saltines on my nightstand. (Previously purchased.)

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