Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Every Meal is a Decision

It's no secret that food is expensive in NYC. Probably more expensive than anywhere else in the country. My boyfriend and I don't go out to dinner without spending $100 or more, and sites like Midtown Lunch that focus on cheap options end up profiling a whole lot of street vendors who offer neither ambiance nor service. Even when we order in, we easily spend $40 with tip.

So I tried to go grocery shopping Monday night. I stuck to the outside aisles for fresh ingredients like they tell you to, venturing into the other areas only for condiments and a box of cereal for my carb-lovin' boyfriend. I bought:

green peppers
red onions
whipping cream
unsweetened almond milk
turkey breast
chicken breasts
dark chocolate
cream cheese
hot dogs
baking cocoa
herb salad
bacon bits
spicy ranch salad dressing

And do you know how much my bill was?

EIGHTY-EIGHT DOLLARS. And that doesn't include any of what I'll spend on lunch at work this week.

Clearly that's cheaper than the $40 my boyfriend was spending on us every night, but it's still oppressively high, and now it makes sense to me that people talk about being too poor to afford eating well. When I was at my poorest, which was naturally in college, I was living on all-carb Pasta Roni. (Not ramen, mind you, because I had class.) And I was buying it in Ohio, where everything is so inexpensive it hurts me to think about it now.

And of course my immediate thought was that I could buy a whole lot more clothes and ebooks and movie tickets if I stuck to cans of Chef Boyardee. I don't want to have to choose between eating what's good for my body and saving money, because I'll almost always make the wrong choice.

This is also a problem for me when it comes to eating out. With everything being so expensive here, I want the most delicious thing possible for my dollar. When I see a salad costing $12 right next to a breaded buffalo chicken sandwich with fries for $10, it's an easy choice. And even if that sandwich is $14 instead, it's well worth that extra $2 for me to get the dish I'll really enjoy, even though I know the salad's much better for me in the long run.

Every meal is a decision to change my life, and it's never an easy one.