Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
Food can get expensive — and fast. While some people stick to a strict food budget, others do not. Additionally, some people get free meals at work, others cook, and still others are BFFs with Seamless or GrubHub. That said, Millennials spent 44 percent of their food money on eating out — aka $2,921 per year (!) — according to the Food Institute's analysis of the USDA’s food expenditure data from 2014. Wow, right?! However, one thing's for sure: There's definitely a way not to go broke due to your food budget.
Brianna McGurran, student loans and personal finance expert at NerdWallet, has some ideas. "When spending money on food or dividing up food costs, you could put all your grocery or restaurant expenses on a cash-back or rewards credit card so you can track them easily," she tells Bustle. "Then, settle up with your partner/roommates at the end of the month (and get cash back or points at the same time), and always pay off your balance so you don't rack up interest charges." Such great advice!
1. Kate, 33
"I spend anywhere between 30-60 percent of my paycheck on food, including eating out and delivery. I developed this nasty habit of eating out or getting delivery nearly 4-5 days a week, and that really adds up! I live alone and find it very difficult to cook efficiently for one, so I always have food left over or produce that goes bad because I haven't had a chance to use it. I recently signed up for one of those meal delivery services that costs $60 per week, as I think that could help me not waste so much food and eat healthier. It's still annoying they don't have an option for a one-person meal — it's either for two people or a family."
2. Kerri, 28
"My husband and I spend way more than we should on food; outside of rent and student loan payments, food is one of our biggest household expenses. It pains me to say that, because it's mostly because we go out to eat or get take out rather than buy groceries. He and I split everything evenly, and we use a joint credit card for all food expenses — whether it's grocery shopping or dining out. I don't allocate a set amount to groceries versus eating out, but I do have a recurring delivery set up with Instacart for the same basic grocery items, about $250 per month. But, we eat out 100 percent of the time — we both work hectic schedules. Advice? COOK FOOD AT HOME. I know you always hear it, but it's totally true — if you really want to save money on food, you need to stop ordering out."
3. Jess, 31
"My husband and I spend approximately $700 a month on groceries and household cleaning items, which we divide evenly. We cook all three meals at home almost every day. I'd say we go out to dinner once a week and occasionally go out for lunch. The best way to keep our spending from getting out of control is to plan our meals in advance and make a grocery list. We shop at Wegmans, which has an app that lets us total our bill while creating our shopping list. This is really helpful because we're never surprised at the register."
4. Brianna McGurran, 29, Student Loans And Personal Finance Expert At NerdWallet
"To save money on food, I'm all about the one-two punch of meal planning and using a slow cooker. You might feel like an old lady at first, but now I love scouring blogs for recipes on Sundays and picking a few to try that week. Making big batches of food definitely cuts down on impulse lunch buys — just make sure you have a high tolerance for leftovers."
5. Knox, 22
"When it comes to groceries, I keep staples stocked, like eggs and coffee. Knowing my personal essentials helps me keep from overspending on all the things that catch my eye at Trader Joe's. I just moved to a new city and don't believe you can know a city without knowing its food, so I budget to make sure I can afford a few good meals out each pay period and really capitalize on any happy hours or deals, like restaurant week in D.C.! If I've eaten out more one week, that just gives me the opportunity to be a little more creative at the grocery store."
6. Gab, 27
"Up until a few months ago, I lived alone and thought that it was easier to buy dinner (and breakfast and lunch...) as opposed to making it for one person. What a fool I was. After moving in with my sister, I've found it's much easier to budget my food spending. Now, I try to make a breakfast smoothie at home, bring a salad for lunch (as opposed to spending $12+ on one), and cook dinner every night. I don't beat myself up for buying one of those meals out, though — you have to enjoy yourself! — and I do tend to spend more on the weekends. I'd say that we spend around $50 on groceries every week, and with dinners with friends added in, my food budget probably totals in at $100-150 a week."
7. Karina, 23
"I live with my fiancé and we completely split everything 50/50. Our budget for groceries is $500 a month — so around $250 from each of us — which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two people. We eat out about 4-8 times a week. That budget is not included in our grocery budget and, now that I think about it, we don't have a budget allocated for that, which is crazy! If I had any money-saving tips, definitely pack your lunch. We started doing that and definitely noticed a cut in our costs."
8. Aussa, 30
"My husband and I spend about $1,500 a month on groceries and eating out — $400 of that is groceries, and the rest is a combination of eating out or picking up meals to go. We usually plan to eat dinner at home three nights a week, but, more often than not, it ends up only happening twice. We keep to our weekly grocery budget, but definitely spend more than we intend to on dining out. We buy our groceries at Whole Foods — it helps to meal plan in advance, so we know we aren’t buying anything we won't actually get around to eating. We also plan one of the meals around 'non-perishable' items, like frozen pasta, so that it doesn't go to waste if we decide to eat out."
9. Maleeka, 26
"As I am just now starting to live off a budget, I can honestly say that I spend close to $300 a month on food and eating out. It's just my daughter and me, so at first spend, it doesn't seem expensive. But, once I add it all up, it is!"
10. Brianna, 25
"Between groceries, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and sitting at restaurants, I probably spend about $350 a month. I’m married, but we are dorm parents at a private high school, which means we live rent- and utilities-free, and we have access to their dining hall! While I don't go to the dining hall often, my husband goes at least once a day, so his food budget is much lower. We don't share any groceries. When we go out to eat, we either split the check or switch off paying for meals. We definitely eat in more than we eat out, as we’re trying desperately to save for a house! My quirky money-saving food tip is that eggs are a great, cheap form of protein for packed lunches."
11. Penny, 31
"I actually have a 'food budget' account tied to one of my bank accounts. I have an automatic transfer to that food account every month. I was trying — trying! — to spend only $200 per month on food, groceries, and eating out combined. And when I'd run out, I'd run out — PB&J the rest of the week, toward the end of the month! But then I upped it to $400 per month, and still tend to run out a lot. I want to say half of that is groceries and half is eating out, but eating out probably accounts for 75 percent of the food budget. I need to eat in more!"
12. Danni, 30
"Use cash! When I started using just cash for eating out and shopping, it was a game-changer. I mean, how many of us go grocery shopping hungry and then end up buying a TON more things than we really needed?! But if you only have a $20 bill with you, you have to budget and just get the essentials — what you came to the store for. Often, I even leave my credit cards at home so I’m not tempted into buying something I don’t need (like Oreos!). Try it!"
13. Cassie, 32
"My boyfriend and I live together and have a firm food-spending policy. On Sunday nights, we make a big Crock-Pot full of something we won't mind eating for the week, like beef stew. You can get a huge roast for under $10 at the market and you’ll be amazed how many days it’ll feed you — and it was less than $10! You can first eat it as stew, then as beef sandwiches, etc. Of course, we'll buy some foods to go with it, like carrots or potatoes. We'll also eat breakfast at home or make it at home and take it to work to eat — a peanut butter sandwich is inexpensive and great for protein! Only after we've eaten our Crock-Pot stew all week will we go out to dinner (as a reward), once a week, maybe twice, but that's a big maybe. We try to spend $50 a week on groceries and one meal out, $50-100 for the two of us, give or take, depending on what we feel like eating."
14. Lili, 29
"Budget? What budget?! Sadly, I don't make a food budget, which I know is bad, bad, baaaad. If I want to eat at home, I eat at home. If I want to eat out, I eat out. Yes, a few days before I get paid, I am down to nearly no food in the house and have to say no to dining out with friends (otherwise, I'm the weird friend who doesn't want to chip in even though I didn't eat anything!). So, yes, I should make a budget — and stick to it."
As you can see, a lot of the Millennials I spoke to eat out, as well as believe they spend too much money doing so. And, as you were reading the above, you probably thought of your own food budget — or lack thereof — and thought of ways you can save even more money on food. I definitely know I did!
Check out the “Get Money” stream in the Bustle App for more tips and tricks on how to save and spend your money.