Just for fun

How Much Money Do I Spend On Food? My Most Expensive Meal Every Year

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Yes yes from the title it seems like I don’t budget, nor track my spend. However it’s quite the opposite – I’ve been a very avid expense tracking freak since my university days about 8 years ago trying my best to painstakingly capture every little detail of spend from 61c apples to beers subsidised by a mate. The only thing that’s not a lie is I don’t really budget so I hope that these numbers don’t shock me too much.

I’ve decided to focus on an area of my life that’s really important and that’s what food and drinks I put in my mouth and how much money I spend on doing that. As part of my tracked spends, I’m looking at the “Recreation – Food and Drinks” category which captures any spending I do for any eating I do that’s not absolutely essential to my life (e.g. of what would be essential would be groceries).

Even though I’ve tried my best to track every detail of my spend, will call out some points:

  • Expense data ranges from 1 October 2015 to 31 January 2022
  • I’m missing 6 months of data between 1 May 2019 and 31 October 2019 because I changed phones and forgot to back up my data 🙁 rookie mistake
  • I know I mentioned I’ve tracked every spend since about 8 years ago and this only goes back 7, and that’s because I switched the way I tracked my expenses and I haven’t bothered to migrate my older spends over. Given how many years it’s been, you can guess the chances of me doing that 🙂

Some high level numbers to kick us off

  • I’ve spent $24,700.30 through 1,527 transactions on food and drinks
  • This comes to an average $350 a month through 22 transactions or $80 a week through 5 transactions
  • The average transaction size is $16.18

These numbers don’t come as a shock to me, and seem quite reasonable actually. If I were to go out to eat 2-3x a week with an average meal costing $20, it would come to $40-60 a week. I suppose the other $20-40 could be additional meals when I’m out for a day, coffees, drinks, etc. So far so good!

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Looking at my spend split by year, remembering that I’ve lost half the data for 2019:

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Missing half the data for the year 2019

Not surprisingly, the amount I’ve spent on food since starting full time work in 2017 has jumped right up from 2016.

Coincidentally as well, the amount I’ve spent on food in 2017 and 2018 is pretty much the same, just $20 off from each other!

My spend in 2020 and 2021 has increased as well worryingly, maybe I have been treating myself and my stomach well during COVID lockdowns here in Sydney.

Couple other things to call out that I’ll dive deeper into:

  • Why is there a huge spike in transactions in 2018?? It’s about 170 transactions more than the year prior! This looks really weird, but at the same time, I think I have a hunch why
  • My spend did increase in 2020 & 2021 – is it because I’m making more transactions or is it because I’m spending more per transaction?

Looking at average transaction size by year

Below is a chart showing how much I spent per transaction in each year:

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Really interesting stuff! Some call outs:

  • The average amount I spent on a meal has definitely gone up since univeristy days of $13-15 meals to now about $20. Lifestyle inflation is real but hey, I had gotten a full time job 🙂
  • It’s surprisingly low at $10.99 in 2018! Clearly I’ve been making much smaller transactions in this year
  • In 2020, my average transaction size is $18.03, lower than the average transaction size in 2017 which was $20.07. Looks like I’ve just been making much more transactions in this year. My guess is lots of fast food drive through during COVID lockdowns lol
  • In 2021, the average transaction size is higher and the transaction count is higher as well. Goes to show that I’ve been enjoying the looser COVID restrictions and making more transactions that cost more in general

But what’s driving that spike in transactions in 2018?!

Fortunately I also typed a brief description of what I purchased each time I logged an expense. Looking at the years 2017 & 2018 and looking at the smallest transactions that happened, it became really obvious what was causing it.

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Coffee.

Of course, this was the year that I was working as a consultant, and working mostly client side at a couple different clients! I didn’t have the trusty coffee machine at my home base to drink from so it’d be buying a coffee nearly every day.

YearNumber of Coffee Transactions
20159
201623
201714
2018107
201912
202027
202121
Grand Total213

I had a whopping 107 coffee transactions in 2018!

Let’s see if that fixes things and remove coffees from the transaction counts.. I’ve also broken down my food transactions into several different categories based on how much I spent. Snacks are <$10, Meals are between $10 and $25, a Nice meal is one between $25 and $50, and any higher is classified as “what is this?”.

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From the above, it looks like removing coffee seems to remove most of the spike, but it’s still there!

Splitting up my food spending by these rough categories, it looks like I was in general snacking more and eating out more in 2018. This would make sense as because I was client side, I was likely eating out a lot more with colleagues and in general 🙂

Most expensive meal each year

This was the thing I was most interested in knowing – what was the highlight meal of each year?

YearLocationCost
2015The Rocks Teppanyaki$79.20
2016Meat Wine & Co$150
2017Momofuku Seiobo$385
2018Papas Pasticerria$71.50
2019*Braza Churrascaria$69.50
2020Crust Pizza$83.95
2021XOPP$350
* Missing half a year of data here so it could’ve been something else!

As you can tell, I’m not so much of a fine dining person! I do still remember each of these occasions and they all have been important events.

Money well spent.

Conclusion

There’s still lots more to potentially look at and share so there may be a part 2 on this.

My main takeout from this is how I make an absurd number of coffee transactions if I’m forced to, lifestyle inflation is real but has been most apparent since I’ve gotten a full time job, and the most expensive meal from each year has been worth it upon reflection.

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