Free Food: The Check-In

Hey there, so it’s been a little bit of time since our last post on what I’ve been doing with the free food at work so let’s catch up. If you haven’t read that last one yet, you can check it out here.

How often I’m actually getting free food

It’s been a good month at work so far. The first week after writing the last blog post, I brought my lunch in on Monday and never ate it that entire week. There has honestly been a glut of free food in the recent weeks but I’m not complaining.

Common at most workplaces is a free lunch for new hires. I was lucky enough to onboard one of our new product managers and took him out to a nice Chinese restaurant that is enjoyed by everyone in the area. Crazy thing is that their portions are gigantic. You could easily stretch an entree out to three separate meals (which I actually did).

Free Food - Peter Chang's Chef's Speciality
Expensed a lunch at a Chinese restaurant because I was onboarding a new hire. This was like a fried shredded chicken with a sweet & savory sauce.

There have also been a good number of company-wide events that have definitely helped out with the free food quest. Last week was our monthly company-wide meeting where we go over progress–these are also catered. This month’s meeting was catered by Zaxby’s and I think that was the most fried chicken I’ve ever seen.

Free Food - Zaxby's Catered
There was a salad at the beginning of the line, don’t worry.

I’ve got way more pictures of all the free food I’ve gotten but didn’t want to spam them all here, so you’ll see more in the end-of-the-month round up!

How much I’ve spent in the past

Alright, let’s really get into the numbers. I track all my savings in a web app named Mint. It’s run by Intuit so I guess it’s trustworthy..? I have my checking, savings, investments, retirement, and so on linked there. As soon as I make some sort of transaction, it’s reported on my Mint account and each transaction is categorized. So a swipe at McDonald’s would be categorized as “Fast Food” and Exxon would be categorized as “Gas & Fuel”.

So let’s take a look at my spending for the last couple of months then. Mint has a category named “Food & Dining” that is a conglomeration of all food purchases: restaurants, groceries, alcohol & bars, and so on.

Spending from September to February

So over the last six months, I spent $669.41 a month on average on food & dining. This is accurate as well, given that I groom most of my transactions. If I go out to dinner with friends and we all put it on my card then they Venmo me back, I make sure that it looks like that in Mint. If I return a jar of soup base I didn’t need, I rectify that in Mint as well.

A few things to note in my spending

I’m not necessarily ashamed of my spending on food but putting it in a format like this is very visceral. I spent almost a thousand dollars on food in October?? How many stomachs do I freaking have? But I dig into it and I see that my girlfriend and I had a really nice anniversary dinner. Then the following week, I took her and her parents out to dinner for restaurant week as well. On some level, that’s permissible. It’s okay to treat people once in a while.

Anniversary dinner
Cacio e pepe from a really nice dinner we had for our anniversary

Usually I try to spread out spending like that but if I’m not reviewing it like this, I’m not realizing it like this as well. Maybe this is why a lot of people in America are struggling financially as well. If it’s not tracked like this, how would you ever really know what you’re spending on?

I did the same thing with my spending at the barbershop over a year ago as well. I tracked how much I spent on haircuts in a year and it was way more than I was thinking. I don’t have the number off the top of my head but maybe this would help. I was getting haircuts every 2-3 weeks. Gotta stay fresh, y’know. Each haircut was $20 and I tipped $5 every time. Let’s pull that out to an entire year. That’s $433 to $650 a year on haircuts alone.

What I then did was cut back to only getting haircuts every 4-6 weeks. Who really needs a bi-weekly trim anyways? My spending, according to Mint, for 2018 was $363–a pretty significant drop compared to the prior year. Imagine what you could do with an extra $300 in your pocket.

Okay so let’s finally go into this month

Right now, it’s only the 22nd day of the month, so there’s still over a week left to go and I’m heading home for the weekend where there will definitely not be as much food and my spending will definitely go up. It’s less than 24 hours though so it shouldn’t be too big of a change.

March Spending

So far, I’ve only spent $264 on food and dining for the month of March. With over a week left, this number won’t stay the same but let’s take a guess at what it might come out to. That amount evens out to $12.57 a day on food and given that run rate, I would be spending about $389 by the end of the month (I’ll just round it up to $400). Not too bad, right?

Compared to my previous average monthly spending of $669.41, this is a huge difference. Almost $300 a month in savings from not changing my way of life too much. It is practically like getting a $4000-5000 raise.

Compare this to the research I found before

If you look back at my previous post, you’ll see that I found the average American spends over $600 a month on food. I obviously fell into that category also. Let’s compare it to this month so far. My predicted spending of $400 for this month cuts the American average by almost $200, so I’m definitely doing better than what I have done in the past as well as most of America.

Next I should also talk about any food I’ve wasted. Since I have been buying food so seldomly, it is also very easy to keep track of the food that I do have. Vegetables don’t get pushed to the back of the fridge to rot. Pasta doesn’t hide in a container until it gets stinky. Meat actually gets portioned out into meals. I’m finding it’s a lot easier to give food a purpose, rather than an occasion. There’s definitely a lot less food waste.

What was I expecting?

First of all, I honestly thought I was going to be spending less money than the predicted $400. What I mentioned before applies to me as well: if you are not mindful in your spending, it’s easy to lose track of where the money goes.

I’m looking at it now and can find a handful of transactions that could have saved me a good amount. These were transactions that I paid no mind to.

One time was when we picked up beer to go to a friend’s. My girlfriend came for a six-pack of pineapple cider but I kinda wanted to try this one stout. Instead of just getting one, we got both. This ended up costing us $20 and we didn’t even finish all the beer.

Another time, we were waiting for a movie and I was kinda hungry so we stopped by a diner really quick to get a milkshake and onion rings. That was another $17 that I had completely forgotten about.

Onion rings and milkshake
$17 of unnecessary (but totally worth-it) onion rings and a milkshake

Okay I am being nitpicky. I definitely don’t regret those things (I really liked the onion rings actually 😋). Just noting that it’s easy to having spending runaway if it’s not kept in check.

What else have I noticed?

First thing to note is that I am definitely not starved. There have been days where there’s so much food that I don’t even know what to do with it. One week, I brought in food on a Monday and didn’t eat it till Friday.

Another thing is that I sometimes feel guilty about taking food. We had catered pizza for the March Madness tip-off. I came back for a second helping long after everyone had a chance to get their slices but still felt that I was keeping someone else from eating. There is a rational part of me that says that this food will otherwise just be thrown away though.

To be continued…

Next time, I’ll talk about whether or not I’m going to continue this. I like free food but maybe there are some downsides as well. I’ll go into if it was worth it and my final thoughts. I’ll also go into an in-depth possibly on certain purchases or maybe even a large set of them. Thanks for reading!

If posts like these interest you, please let me know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *