Food Diary: How a 26-Year-Old Line Cook Eats on $17.50/Hour in Indianapolis, Indiana


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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, a 26-year-old restaurant line cook makes her own smoked trout dip, snacks on cake and pizza at work, and hates working the brunch shift in Indianapolis, Indiana. Keep reading for her receipts.

Jump ahead:

The finances

What are your pronouns? She/Her

What is your occupation? 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 vary from 20 to 60 per week. I pick up overtime when I am able. If I worked 40 hours every week for a year, my gross income would be $36,400. However, hours are getting cut across the board due to declining business.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? $1,200 on average, currently

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

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

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

  • Rent: $1,000 
  • Gym membership: $40
  • TV streaming services: $30
  • Spotify: $10 
  • Utility bills: $125 
  • Total: $1,205

The diet

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

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any? Sparkling water, canned tuna, and health supplements such as pre-workout protein powder and collagen. I’ve also been trying out different vitamins, but my goal is to find a good multivitamin that gets me B12 and iron.

How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home? I get a free meal for every shift I work. I usually make it myself and I do pay for it in my labor. Outside of food I get from my job, I try to only eat out once a week or less.

How often in a week did you dine out while growing up? My parents divorced when I was fairly young and I grew up in a small town. My mom was pretty heavily against eating out, so it was a rare treat when we were with her. As for when we were with my dad, we were more likely to eat out, but not by much. When I was a child there were only maybe six restaurants in my town, four of which were fast food. The next closest town was only a 15-minute drive, but we often opted for the convenience of staying close to home. 

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