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. Think Refinery29’s Money Diaries but only food or The Grub Street Diet but regular people.

In today’s Receipt a 24-year-old waitress making $18,000 a year tries to eat healthy, cheaply, and deliciously in Durham, North Carolina. Keep reading for her receipts.

Jump ahead:

The financesThe dietThe expensesThe diary

The finances

What is your occupation? Freshly graduated grad student, currently finishing my thesis and working as a waitress and pottery teacher until I find a job in my field. My masters was in linguistics with a certificate in computational linguistics, and I’m hoping to get a job in some kind of digital humanities or data analysis position.

How old are you? 24

What city and state do you live in? Durham, North Carolina

What is your annual salary, if you have one? I don’t have an annual salary, but taxes last year totaled about $18,000 in income. I have kind of a mishmash of incomes: Last year I had my grad school stipend, my savings, work as an intern at a government agency, and some money I got from selling my pottery and working at a ceramics studio.

How much is one paycheck after taxes? My grad school stipend was about $1,250 a month; waitressing ranges $700 to $1,300 biweekly; and teaching pottery ranges from $80 to $380 weekly. It’s $40 per head, with classes of two to four people one to four times a week.

How often are you paid (e.g., weekly)? See above.

How much money do you have in savings? $15,000. My parents gave me money for college and most of this is the leftovers from that.

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

Rent: $800Water: ~$20Electricity: $30–$60Car insurance: $76Internet: $50Phone: $21Spotify: $10

The diet

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? I’ve been a pescatarian for about a year now. Before that, vegetarian for a decade and vegan off and on in college. My proteins tend to be 50% vegetarian and 50% pescatarian, and I’ll occasionally cheat and eat things that have meat when I’m eating out (e.g., potatoes cooked in duck fat, ranch with some bacon bits).

What are the grocery staples you always buy, if any?

Bread, ideally locally made. I grew up on store-bought, never-expiring bread, but I can’t stand it now.A quick protein: sardines, microwave Gardein products, chickpeas, anything I can add to a meal in a pinch.Eggs, for their versatility.Greek yogurt, again for versatility. I can add granola, fruit, honey, etc. and have it for breakfast, add savory seasonings to make a dip out of it, use it as a topping on different dishes. An under-appreciated staple.Some kind of hot sauce.Soy sauce. I love salty flavors.Wine. I like to have a white and a red at home.Mayo. Divisive, I know!

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