Wednesday, June 19, 2024

What a 26-Year-Old Wine Chemist Eats on $55K in Salem, Oregon

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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, we follow a 26-year-old wine chemist who makes $55,000 in Salem, Oregon. Keep reading for her receipts.

The finances

What are your pronouns? She/her

What is your occupation? I’m a wine chemist. I formerly worked internationally and traveled a bit with the job before settling in Oregon. I also help property manage a vacation rental property in the area for some extra income.

How old are you? 26

What city and state do you live in? I just moved to Salem, Oregon.

What is your annual salary, if you have one? My base salary is $45,000. With harvest overtime and other bits and bobs, I’d say my total income is around $55,000.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? $1,381

How often are you paid? (e.g. weekly) Twice a month

How much money do you have in savings? $10,000

What are your approximate fixed monthly expenses beyond food? (i.e. rent, subscriptions, bills) Around $1,700

The diet

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? None at all.

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any? I go through the Trader Joe’s Eggplant Garlic Spread with Sweet Red Peppers at an alarming rate. I always have a pretty healthy cheese rotation going through my fridge; you can typically expect to find four to six cheeses in my fridge. I think my record is eight.

How often in a week do you dine out versus cook at home? I usually end up going out/ordering in once a week.

How often in a week did you dine out while growing up? Once every two weeks or so. I grew up in a village in England so dining options were limited to two cafes, a Chinese takeaway, a fish and chips shop, and an Indian restaurant (we ate there a LOT). When I got older, we moved to a smaller village with five pubs in a five-minute drive range, so we’d go there frequently.

How often in a week did your parents or guardians cook at home? Most nights we’d have a home-cooked meal. We had au pairs so they’d usually cook for us weeknights; this meant that we got to try food from a range of cultures. My mom is an excellent cook and would cook on weekends. She lived in France for many years (where my brother and I were born) and learned to cook there. I was always her sous chef in the kitchen; I loved (and still do) having that bonding time with her.

The expenses

  • Week’s total: $136.70
  • Restaurants and cafés total: $28.48
  • Groceries total: $108.22
  • Most-expensive meal or purchase: Takeout dinner from Thai Orchid, $22.50
  • Least-expensive meal or purchase: Morton’s sea salt, $1.59
  • Number of restaurant and café meals: 2
  • Number of grocery trips: 2

The diary


Some of the mozzarella melts into the warm squash, so I fish out those superior bites and ponder life’s big questions, such as, “Why is melted cheese so much better than solid cheese?”

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