Spending More Money On Food: An Experiment In Decumulation

Once I hit 45 in mid-2022, I decided to enter a decumulation phase. Instead of continuing to save and invest aggressively, I decided to spend more aggressively. One way to decumulate is to spend more money on food.

Dying with an excess of money is suboptimal. If we do, it will have meant that we wasted time and energy trying to make money in our younger days. It would have been more optimal if we had worked less and enjoyed life more instead.

The problem with entering the decumulation phase is that old habits are hard to break. Even after I semi-retired in 2012, I couldn't stop saving a portion of my passive and active income streams. To not save felt foreign so I continued my frugal habits.

Therefore, like with any new financial endeavor, I decided to start small and work my way up. My main problem was figuring out what to spend more money on.

Given I love food and have three other loved ones to feed, I decided to spend a lot more money on food for three months.

Decumulation Experiment: Eating Anything I Want

Like most people, I love to eat! But I'm afraid to eat too much because I don't want to gain too much weight. Extra weight will slow me down on the tennis and pickleball courts. Eating too much may also increase my risk of heart disease.

However, I need to spend more money somehow to initiate my decumulation journey. Food is the ideal decumulation expense since it is recurring, necessary, and enjoyable.

Thankfully we live in San Francisco, perennially one of the top three culinary capitals of America. Further, practically all the food delivery apps were invented here.

For a family of four, we spend between $2,000 – $2,500 a month on food. We figure eating healthier foods leads to healthier lives. We will happily pay up for fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. Finally, to save time, we regularly order food delivery.

Although we spend comfortably on food, I still have had to throttle what I want to buy at times. But for this three-month experimentation, I decided to lift the cap to try and spend $1,000 more on food for two months and an unlimited amount during the third month.

The Initial Joy Of Eating Anything

During the first week of ordering more than normal, it was hard to spend more money. It felt wasteful and gluttonous.

Within three weeks, however, it was easier to increase my spending by $33 a day without feeling guilty. For example, instead of ordering my kids McDonald's cheeseburgers for 99 cents, I'd order them each a Filet-O-Fish for $4.99. Instead of ordering hamachi nigiri sushi for $7, I'd order toro nigiri sushi for $16, and so forth.

To help boost food spending, I also ordered a lot of freshly squeezed juices. I particularly like carrot-apple juice. Each cup costs about $12 after tax and tip. I would never pay so much for juice in the past, but I thought I might as well during this food spending experiment.

I also began ordering a lot more bubble tea for $7-9 a cup. However, I was reminded each drink contains between 800 – 1,200 calories, so I stopped ordering so much after the first month.

Below is a sample menu from a restaurant called Cultivar on Uber Eats. The final price is about 20% more due to taxes, delivery fees, and delivery tip. Food delivery apps make it easier to spend more money, so watch out!

Sample über eats menu

Easier To Spend More Money On Food Than I Thought

The food spending creep was relatively easy due to the substitution of higher-quality food. If the extra spending was mostly about eating a larger quantity of food, it would have been much harder to spend more.

Now I clearly understand why fine dining restaurants offer such small portions. There's only so much we can eat!

Also, I didn't gain weight during the experiment, which I feared was the biggest downside to spending more on food. I practiced hara hachi bu, which is a Japanese saying to eat until 80% full. To prevent overheating, practice mindfulness about the suffering of others who do not have enough to eat.

Below is a picture of chirashi toro, a Japanese dish I began eating once a week. In the past, I'd order normal chirashi maybe once a month for $29-32. Toro, however, is a more expensive cut of fish, which increased the dish's price to $40.

The Experiment Of Spending More Money On Food - Toro chirashi

Ordered Speciality Foods

In addition to ordering all sorts of yummy food from the food delivery apps, I also ordered specialty foods online. The items were delivered in about a week.

Jamon Iberico

The first item was jamon iberico, the best cured ham you can eat from Spain. I had my first taste of jamon iberico when I vacationed in Mallorca back in 2015. Each package costs about $80 from Iberico Club, an online store that specializes in this type of meat.

I could probably eat four packs of jamon iberico a month. However, there's research that says eating cured meats may be carcinogenic. Hence, I decided to eat only one pack a month.

Jason iberico

Gourmet Cookies

The second item I ordered was a box of deluxe cookies from Last Crumb in Los Angeles. My buddy gave me an individually wrapped banana chocolate cookie on the tennis court one day and I was sold. Each box comes with 12 cookies and costs about $160 after tax and shipping!

Each cookie is individually wrapped so they can last for several weeks. The cookies are so rich that it took my wife and me a month to eat all 12 cookies. In total, we ordered three boxes over three months.

Last Crub box of cookies

Fine Wine

We aren't big wine drinkers by any means. We might drink a bottle of wine once a quarter between the two of us. Usually, we'll just buy Two Buck Chucks and use them for making bolognese sauce and then drink the rest with our meal.

However, with this increased food spending experiment, we decided to try out some $50 – $80 bottles of wine from Mantazas Creek and Benzinger since we drove up to Sonoma County for vacation. Sonoma is beautiful and only about 1.15 hours drive away from San Francisco.

We enjoyed various cabernets with our jamon ibericos and steaks. But there wasn't really a specific bottle of wine that blew us out of the water. A red blend from Ménage à Trois for $15 tastes just as wonderful.

For my 46th birthday, one of my good friends gave me a bottle of wine. It was a surprise gift during our tennis hit. He told me it was a nice bottle of wine so I should store it in a cool place.

Not knowing my wine, I looked up Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2006 when I got home and the cheapest price I found was $800! Now I don't know if I should ever open it. It feels like the wine's value has crossed into the collector's territory.

Spending more on food and wine experimentation

My Favorite Fruits

There is one area of spending more on food that I really appreciate, and that's buying my favorite fruits. Because my parents have mango trees at their home in Hawaii, I'd always pick mangoes straight from the trees for free.

In the past, every time I'd go to the farmer's market or supermarket to buy mangoes, I'd balk at the price. $3-7 for one? Forget about it! I'll just go use my mango picker at home!

With my food spending experiment, we regularly order boxes of Keitt and Esquire mangoes from Good Eggs and all sorts of yummy melons. Eating just fruits for breakfast is my favorite meal.

Keith mango is so good

The Beginning Of The End Of Food

At the end of the third month, something interesting happened. My taste buds started getting numb. I remember sitting down with my wife to ask what we should order for dinner one night.

We listed all types of cuisine: Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, Ethiopian, Vegetarian, Korean, Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, BBQ, burgers, steaks, oysters, lobster, crab, and decided WE WERE SICK OF EVERYTHING!

After only three months of gluttony, we no longer had a craving for any type of food. We had eaten one too many pieces of toro, one too many lobster tails dipped in melted butter, and one too many slabs of dry-aged rib-eye with scalloped potatoes.

The only type of food we are not sick of is fresh fruits. I think we'll continue to order the best seasonal fruit money can buy for the rest of our lives.

Related: The Ideal Body Weight Pisses Me Off

Could Have Gone To A Fancy Restaurant To Blow Our Budget

To spend even more money, we could have gone on a date night to one of those ultra-fine dining Michelin-star restaurants. But we don't like spending two-to-three hours eating by ourselves, which is how long it regularly takes at these type of restaurants. Add on the fact that we have two young kids, and spending so much time on dinner felt too wasteful.

We also don't enjoy food so much that we are willing to spend $200+/person on this experiment. After all, I'm an In N' Out burger type of guy! A double-double for $6 is heaven on earth, especially after a good workout.

The entire meal below consisting of four protein-style double-doubles, four single cheeseburgers, and a milkshake only cost $42. It was enough to feed my entire family of four after taking my son swimming for 1.5 hours. Spending 10X more for only two people just feels stupid.

In and Out burger and spending more money on food. It's so much cheaper and yummier to buy an In N' Out Burger than eat gourmet fine dining

Moderation Is The Key

To detox from our food binging, we took a break from ordering any food for a week. Instead, we made salads, cooked fried eggs, and made instant yakisoba noodles. We essentially went from eating like Kings and Queens to eating like college students again.

And you know what? Our taste buds recovered.

Having a fancy meal once a week is nice, but not every day. Even if you have all the money in the world, you will get sick of eating the most expensive food if you do so too often.

Eventually, you'll start taking the food you eat for granted as well. Instead of savoring the $20 piece of miso-glazed black cod, you'll wolf it down in 20 seconds. Instead of saving the fancy bottle of wine for a special occasion, you might just pop one open on a random Monday.

Just like how vacations are more exciting after months, if not years, of hard work, fancy foods taste better after prolonged periods of eating normal foods.

Today, I might order a dry-aged steak once a quarter. When I do, I'll try to open up a $40+ bottle of wine and slowly enjoy every morsel. But knowing my eating habits, I'm sure I'll be happy with a $15 bottle instead.

Need Less Money Than You Think To Eat Well

This food spending experiment teaches me we don't need as much as we think to live a rich life. A fancy meal every so often is enough to feel rich. Because I guarantee you the richest person in the world isn't eating caviar every day!

I used to wonder who the heck spends $350+ for a regular-season NBA game ticket. I love my Golden State Warriors and all, but come on. That's a lot of money for 2.75 hours of entertainment per person!

Then I realized most of these folks aren't going to the game regularly. Instead, they might be attending two games a season. With such a low frequency, a middle-class income household can afford such tickets. The rest of the games can be easily watched for free in the comfort of their own homes.

Enjoy nicer things on occasion to prevent taking luxuries for granted.

Decumulation Failure With Food

Decumulating your wealth by spending more money on food is a nice first step. However, I doubt it will move the needle because you will not be able to keep up your elevated spending for very long.

There's only so much you can eat before you get full. And there's only so long you can keep food in the refrigerator before it goes bad. Freezing tends to degrade the quality of food after a while too.

A year after entering my decumulation phase, I'm back to spending my steady state amount on food for the family. My body can't regularly take food that is too rich. It's as if I have a self-regulating mechanism on how much and what types of food I can eat.

Hence, if you're looking to spend down your wealth, by all means, spend more money on nicer foods on occasion. Go out to the highest-rated restaurants and drink the finest beverages available. Eventually, your frequency for fine dining will decline and you'll long for quick and simple foods again.

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Readers, have you ever had a food spending experiment? If so, how did that go? What are some other baby-step ways to begin spending more money? How have you been able to convince yourself to spend down your wealth? At what age did you start decumulation mode?

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75 thoughts on “Spending More Money On Food: An Experiment In Decumulation”

  1. Best time to spend on food, is when travelling in foreign countries. We didn’t go out of our way to find expensive restaurants or dishes. But not obsess over cost if we saw interesting local / ethnic dishes that we knew darn well are very difficult to find back home in (Canadian) biggest cities. ie. it is rare to find quality German restaurants. Same for many German white wines which many are not exported overseas.

    Hence, enjoyed our meals in Germany certain dishes…flatbread with apple slices, etc. Same for Japan and Seoul.

  2. If intentionally spending more, think in terms of win-win. Spending that improves both your life and someone else’s life who needs it. So for example, even if you have a car, consider taking Uber for all of your trips. Uber drivers typically need the money. You get to have a nice conversation, or time to think and not have to drive. And heck, this may not be all that expensive if you consider the true cost of driving. Hiring others to do tasks you don’t like to do would work as well albeit a personal assistant for example, may come with some management hassles.

    Splurge on concierge medical care. Can’t go wrong on better health. Someone who will spend more time on you and your family and not rush you out. A friend has a concierge GP and his annual visits are hour or more while I’m rushed out in 20 minutes….

    Eating out at most restaurants is unhealthy. The lay on the fat in all forms to make it taste good. Have to be wary. The wealthy learn quick to hire cooks that can cook meals to their liking that are both good tasting and healthy. A cook may be too expensive, but maybe someone could be hired to come over and cook a meal a couple times a week???

  3. I also found that fresh high quality juice is a tremendously efficient way to blow money on food.
    In particular, you can bump up the cost by getting some exotic and out of season; the transport costs for dragon fruit, goji berries, imported olive oil and the like really help bump up the price.
    Nutrient density in general is a great way to spend more.

    Taken to the extreme, you could also start getting into supplement regimens. The track record on many of them is still a bit of a gamble, but you can easily add another 500 bucks a month in supplements for every conceivable need or want without breaking a sweat. I tell people that the most consistent side effect of high end supplements is expensive urine haha!

  4. Choke full o nuts $11 for 730 grams of coffee

    Cup of coffee 6 oz requires 10 grams

    730 gram/ 10 = 70 cups of coffee

    1100 cents/ 70 cups = 16 cents for cup of coffee welcome to the 1960s and fill your thermos at home.

  5. Ms. Conviviality

    Your post is making me think…

    I’m still in the frugal phase of life and rarely splurge on food. I told my husband that when we’re “rich” I would like to eat out once a week. I’ve been reminding him of this goal for years because I’m a foodie. I wonder if we were to buy whatever food we wanted for three months if that would get it out of my system? But what if it’s the opposite and I continue wanting to splurge on food? Maybe the latter will motivate me to work even harder.

  6. Prior to covid, my girlfriend and I would eat out every day. We did not go to the most expensive places but we did vary quite a bit with respect to food choices. Then the lockdown occurred and I started to cook; we actually enjoyed the food more and furthermore knew exactly what the ingredients were. We have traveled a bit since then and returned to eating out, but once we get home, we really do now prefer to cook ourselves. Not only is it less expensive, but it is hell of a lot better tasting!

  7. Hi Sam,
    Long time reader. That was really fun but I caution everyone to really think about what they consume even when you can afford it.
    Food quality is important. I always ate great and what I thought was healthy food. Then I ended up with emergency open-heart surgery, a very long recovery, and another surgery because sometimes graphs fail and in my case, it was 3 of 4. Yes, I was in good shape, exercise and all that. It was a total shock to everyone who knew me. In order to live a full life going forward and be there for my kids I had to change what I ate and thought about food.
    It can be a challenge but we became vegan over a year ago and spend more on food than ever. Good produce, a vegan chef for help and additional kitchen tools add up to a big financial commitment but it has given me back my life. Without our life and health, it’s not much fun.

    1. Hi Harold,

      I’m sorry to hear what happened.

      Can you share what you think the culprit was? What were the habits and foods you were eating that caused emergency open-heart surgery? Or was it genetic? Because if you were healthy and exercise, what could be the cause unless you were actually not as healthy as you thought?

      Are there are some signs we should look out for? Absolutely agree that without half, having Wealth is not much fun.

      Thanks for sharing and glad you are better!


      1. Probably just the Standard American Diet. If you want to get into it check out the book “How not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger. The info is all available free on nutritionfacts.org but having it all in one place is nice too. I’ve gotten copies for all the people I want to stick around.

      2. Buddhist Slacker

        Thank you for asking this question Sam I got really worried. Yes, standard American diet is not the way to go for longevity lol regardless of how much you exercise or what have you. A co-worker of mine only ate McDonald’s and she’s thin but yet she wonders why she has such high cholesterol lol. On the other hand, my mom the dietitian eats super healthy, and is also thin, but also has high cholesterol. Hers is genetic. She’s completely fine though. She has no heart problems or any other health problems except for bone density problems which is sort of to be expected as an Asian old lady.

      3. Hi Sam,
        Hard to know all the answers but here are my best thoughts.
        1. Keep LDL well below 100 forever, mine had been just over 100 for years.
        2. Stress management, I lived with a great deal of stress, and I think that state over the long term can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.
        3. The “must have been genetic” can be used as a copout for bad behavior, a slippery slope.
        4. Watch out for any chest discomfort, pain, or radiating feeling down your left arm and fingers (angina). I never had any pain, just angina but with medicine that went away. I should have had a Catheterization procedure with the right doctor. I was always against surgery and medicine.
        5. If you have any family history, or have LDL of 100 or greater, have even the slightest symptoms get to a cardiologist, start reading and doing research. Remember you have a 50/50 chance of dying from heart disease, you just don’t know when.
        Just like personal finance there are a lot of great books on health.

        1. Thanks for these tips Harold!

          I do wonder how much hyper stress kills us silently.

          After I left finance, almost ALL my chronic pain went away. It was as if I had forgotten what it felt like to live pain free!

          My gray hairs that had begun popping out at age 33 actually went away by age 35. And they have still been hibernating.

          I definitely think too much stress hurts our health.

          See this post: https://www.financialsamurai.com/the-health-benefits-of-early-retirement-are-priceless/

  8. It was interesting to read about how you got bored of better food. I was glad to hear that better quality fruit was the thing that remained. What another areas do you plan to experiment with? I can see things like switching to a leased vehicle or doing home improvements like a shower controller or home automation being next.

  9. Got back from Taiwan a week ago on a two week plus trip doing a similar experiment. Eating whatever we want regardless of price partly because everything seemed like half price with better taste compared to the US and partly because we were on vacation. Top restaurants for Peking duck, hot pot with separate course of turf and surf (including lobster), teppanyaki special order with huge variety of surf and turf, etc. By the end of our trip, we had enough and just wanted simple food. I agree moderation is key.

    1. Love food in Taipei, especially the fruit and boxed lunches. I’d say sending anything on food in a cheaper place on vacation is pretty easy. It’s vacation spending mode.

  10. You are so right! Your conclusion, whether it be for food or basketball tickets, is defined by the “Law of Diminishing Returns” (one of last things I remember from Econ 101). The first sip of a cold drink on a hot day is better than the second sip, with the satisfaction decreasing with every subsequent sip. Another example; I was a MN Timberwolves season ticket holder for several years. We had low expectations, and they were met, but it was still fun to go to games just to see some of the fans in the stands. We had two good seats, but it wasn’t San Francisco and the total cost for two seats was about $10,000 for the entire season. The most games I personally attended in any year was 26, which left 15 games to give away or sell, neither of which was all that easy to do. Every year I would reach a point where I would be sitting at home at 6:30 knowing I should head to Target Center for the 7:05 game, but thinking I would rather sit at home and watch the game on TV. When we gave up our seats I thought we would still go to a couple games a year, but we haven’t; I found I am fine watching at home.
    Thanks for what you do, I really like reading your posts!

  11. Matthew Drybred

    I absolutely loathe food delivery apps because they take advantage of their drivers who often operate below cost because they simply don’t understand the unit economics or their true costs.

    DoorDash hides a portion of the customer’s tip (any tip over $4 in many markets depending on mileage) just to keep their dashers guessing and get them to take no-tip or low-tip orders in the hopes that there’s a hidden tip. And UberEats hides tips over $8, however, GrubHub doesn’t hide tips. All of the delivery apps now have a $1-$2 base pay in most markets, plus tip. So a 20% tip on a $10 order is $2.00.

    California is a little different because of Prop 22, but the delivery companies lobbied for that because it’s in their favor.

    Some delivery drivers boast that they pay $0 in taxes as if they are smart like a major corporation that does the same. But, sadly, they don’t understand that they pay $0 in taxes because their costs absorb their tax burden.

    Hopefully the delivery apps go out of business, or make the arrangement with their drivers symbiotic instead of parasitic and overreaching.

    1. If it’s tough to make money delivering food, why do you think there are so many drivers who are willing to deliver food?

      I gave over 500 Uber rides and then stopped when I decided it was not a good use of my time. So maybe rational economics world government driver behavior as well.

      I saw Stanley, one of the founders of DoorDash this past weekend at the playground. He seems like a happy guy.

      1. Matthew Drybred

        Because the drivers don’t understand that delivering food for $1 per mile, or less, is below their cost.

        As I said, California is a little different because of Prop 22 supporting a minimum wage, but there’s other markets where DoorDash is paying $2.75 for 12+ mile deliveries that are out-of-zone and in the middle of nowhere.

        A rational person would decline such deliveries, but DoorDash ties false incentives to a dasher’s acceptance rate to con(vince) dashers that they must accept every delivery offer to get a higher chance at higher paying orders. And sadly, many dashers are immigrants and just need any cash that they can get. So they’ll earn $2 on Monday and figure out to pay their $3 in costs on Friday, so to speak.

        Sure, if a customer is ordering $100 worth of food and tipping $20 for a 5 mile delivery, that’s not bad, but that’s also not most orders and doesn’t happen in most markets. Plus, DoorDash would bid out that delivery for $7.50 ($2.00 base and $5.50 of the tip), and as dashers decline it the order and it’s becoming late, they’ll slowly expose more of the existing tip.

        I built up a $1mm equity and real estate investment portfolio with proceeds that came mostly from delivery driving for DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, and AmazonFlex, so I know how they work, and I also know how they game their drivers.

        I don’t mean any ill will against the founders. I simply shudder when I see many delivery drivers being taken advantage of. But, I’m also not blind to the fact that the drivers do have a responsibility to choose to play with the apps, or find another job.

        1. Making $1 million largely from delivering food sounds pretty darn good! Your example seems contrary to what you just said about it being difficult making money delivering food.

          I know there are a lot more millionaires now. But if you can become a millionaire delivering food, I say that’s pretty good too. No college degree necessary, and another argument for community college or no college.

          I’d love to learn more about your math to $1+ million delivering food!

          1. Matthew Drybred

            I’m an outlier amongst most delivery drivers, and because the pandemic is long over, it’s highly unlikely I could repeat my own results. I simply saw an opportunity and I worked it until it was gone.

            I only brought it up to show that I agreed with your positive comment about Stanley because gig work can provide a source of income that would otherwise be unavailable without the work of Stanley and others. But it’s not without less desirable aspects, so I was merely being candid in my initial comment, not disrespectful to Stanley, or others.

            I have a combined equity and real estate portfolio that’s worth about $1mm with reasonable leverage. (I didn’t intend to imply I earned $1mm) I started with about a net worth of $150k and then used DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, and briefly AmazonFlex, simultaneously to build delivery routes in my market throughout a shift so I could balance my profitability with good customer service.

            I sometimes coordinated 5-6 deliveries across the platforms at once and then would run them efficiently throughout my market while respecting everyone’s time and keeping the food at temp. I made it into a game and mapped out the logistics in my head and employed other shrewd strategies. I worked about 35-45hrs per week, plus my full-time W2 job.

            But I quit at the end of May ‘23 after completing ~21k or so deliveries (GrubHub doesn’t show total delivery figures) because my rental cash flow is strong enough that I can just work my W2 and keep building up assets, albeit more slowly.

            1. Good stuff. I hope see your example to know what’s POSSIBLE.

              When I was driving for Uber in 2015, I met other top drivers who all made over $100,000 a year. Some over $200,000 a year. They took advantage of the pricing, worked smarter, and knew the best hacks and routes.

              See: Are You Too Proud To Be Rich? When Uber Drivers Make More Than Uber Corporate Employees

              There are fortunes to be made everyday. Whether we want to take action and take advantage is a different story.

  12. Hi Sam,

    Long time reader here. Thank you so much for all your interesting and informative content. I usually don’t comment but I have a burning question about how your normal food budget for a family of 4 is $2k? Are you shopping exclusively at Whole Foods type stores? Or is this including eating out as well? If you could provide a break down for a month that would help me but I understand if that’s too much work.
    Granted I’m only a family of two right now with my husband and me and our budget is about $400. We live in Orange County, CA which isn’t exactly cheap, but we do shop primarily at Aldi’s and then Costco for bulk items.
    I’m really curious about your food budget because we plan on starting a family soon and I am curious if our food costs will go up this significantly with children.

    1. Hi Paige, it includes everything. Groceries, food delivery, eating out, snacks for kiddos etc.

      I think $400/month or $13.33 for two people a day is impressive! A regular sandwich for lunch at a local sub shop costs $12-$14 pre tax. A modest dinner for two in SF is $50-$60 after tax and tip.

      I’d love to know your tips and tricks for spending $400/month for two a month. How much does a regular for two cost for you in OC?

      1. Okay, our $400 budget only includes store bought groceries. I looked at our spending for eating out/food delivery and it ranges from $250 – $350 a month. So that would make our budget closer to $750 a month instead of the $400 I originally mentioned. I would agree a modest dinner out is $50-60 each time. Lunch for two down here at a sandwich place is probably $30 or more. So now looking at the budget you said for 4 people isn’t that far off and makes more sense.
        Thank you for the response!

        1. Buddhist Slacker

          What a fantastically fun food experiment!!! I love it!!! I also think it’s really good to support the organic farmers and grass-fed cows and free-range chickens and all that. Omg I spend $400+ per month just on groceries and I’m only one person!!!! I even shop at Costco and Walmart in addition to Whole Paycheck and TJ’s and the Asian store and and and. I guess it’s all those ands that up my grocery bill lol. That doesn’t even include eating out! And I consider myself a smart shopper and I cook almost all of my own meals! Lol!!! Yikes. I have a penchant for organic herbs and fruits and veggies so that does up the cost of all the foods. I spent like $25 on organic cherry tomatoes and dry farmed tomatoes alone. Not to mention the organic plums, etc. Then you add the organic fresh basil, organic fresh cilantro, organic fresh mint, etc etc etc. Apparently it all adds up lol.

    2. Family of 4 here too and it’s around $2k.

      We make weekly Costco trips for fresh fruits, produce, meat (beef, poultry), pre-made food that we can quickly put together for dinner, etc., and it’s almost always around $150 per trip. We also buy groceries from Trader Joes, Wegmans, and H-mart which adds to the grocery bill.

      Eating out is typically around $70 including tip. And we eat out 3x per week, mostly on weekends. Then there’s snacks, coffee, treats, that adds a bit to the mix as well.

  13. This sounds strange to write, but at one point my wife and I had $8,000 we could only spend on Door Dash. We couldn’t necessarily order ANYTHING of course (not all restaurants are on there), but we had hundreds of options in each city. We ate like royalty (well, to-go royalty). But after a while, we ran into the same issue that you and your wife did: we were sick of everything. We ended up craving home cooked meals and began missing the act of cooking. It was almost a relief when the money was gone. It was an interesting experiment.

    I’ve found the same to be true in other areas of life. It reminds me of the Epictetus quote:

    “If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please.”

  14. I wonder… were your kids happier/healthier, eating a Filet O Fish instead of a cheeseburger? Do they still ask for it?

    Another thought — a dozen cookies for $160?????

    I do agree that it’s ok to splurge now and then. And it is very nice to have fresh fruit. But I couldn’t help but think that in the long run, since you went back to the ‘other,’ that you really weren’t more satisfied, healthy, etc. by spending so much more money. It’s good that you found this out, rather than wondering, at least.

    We have never felt free to ‘just buy anything’ for a three-month period, even when technically we could. Both Husband and I grew up in lower-income households, though on a farm (me), we had incredibly fresh veggies, fruit and meat. We have gone out to higher-end restaurants to celebrate — that happens maybe twice a year, but would still be on your lower end ($20-60 a plate). I love sushi, but try to limit myself to buffets, Safeway/Sam’s (if you can call that sushi). Otherwise, I’m careful on what we spend for food and going out — and I like to bake our own brownies, bread, etc. Which are pretty good.

    What that care HAS gotten us, even on modest incomes (and God’s grace), is letting us pay for a house in the mountains we just bought — in cash. That, to my mind, is much better than lobster and Wagyu beef.

    Here is a thought. There are plenty of charities that deal with hungry people in other countries that would be thrilled to have that extra donation. Compassion lets you ‘adopt’ kids and pay every month — something your kids might really identify with. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty at all. It’s just logical to help someone else, if you have extra to do it with.

    1. No problem! I expect to be judged whenever I discuss how I spend my money. It’s only human nature. I just hope people are consistent with their beliefs and actions.

      Do you think I should write more about how much time and money I spend on charities? I feel it is a private decision that also may come across as virtue signaling, so I am uncomfortable sharing.

      The Financial Samurai newsletter community and I spent the past two months raising about $45,000 for the Lahaina fire victims. It took me over 15 hours to sign about $8000 worth of books. And then it cost another $1,900 to send them out.

      I’d love to know about the money you are donating to help fight hunger and adopt kids. Which organizations are you donating to? I’ll check them out.

      And yes, my kids like McDonald’s.

      1. Maybe you could clump all of your charity activity into a single annual post. I would be interested to read about what you decide to donate to.

          1. Yup!
            I’ll reply again before 10 October with exact numbers but I donated around $2000 total to these organizations in 2022:
            -Boise Bicycle Project
            -Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance
            -Idaho Walk Bike Alliance
            -Strong Towns
            My income in 2022 was around 74k so that amount(2%) is below what I would like to give.

            So far this year I have given more but also need to check exact amounts.

            My current and previous employers offer donation matching, $3000 and $10000, so that has motivated me to increase how much I donate. Long term I am working to regularly donate 10% of my gross income.

          2. My exact numbers
            2022: $2034
            2023(so far): $3639
            My income so far for 2023 is $94k so my giving rate is 3.8%

            Most of it goes to Boise Bicycle Project
            $2332 came directly out of my pay
            $268 separately to Strong Towns
            $83.04 to Parking reform network
            Other orgs: BikeDFW, Bike Friendly South Dallas, Transit Alliance Miami, Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance.

            This exercise has shown me that while I do donate regularly I don’t have a great way to track my donations since the ones from my paycheck don’t show up as a transaction in my records besides my paystub.

            I choose the orgs I donate to by supporting local groups that are working to make places I live or lived at safer to walk and bike.

      2. YES, Sam —
        I do think you should write more about your time and money given to volunteering and charities — it’s not “virtue signaling,” so much as it’s acting by example for your readers. Your experiences may be just the push they need to start doing more themselves.

        We have had ‘adopted’ kids through Compassion.com for decades. Our current ‘daughter’ is from Mexican, but we’ve had ‘sons’ from Brazil, Panama, etc. You can actually choose the country you would like to sponsor from. It’s not that expensive, and it really does help the child and their family.

        I’d also strongly suggest MCC, or the Mennonite Central Committee — in part, because they use so little of the donation for office costs. And they do a lot of water/agriculture projects for communities that desperately need it.

        Your local food bank is another possibility — particularly if you take the kids shopping with you to buy items to donate. Any time you can set an example in this area, you’ll just be teaching your kids to do the same when they’re older.

        The one charity I would NOT consider would be the Red Cross. They’ve pulled a number of fast ones, including taking in donations for a certain disaster — but never using it for that. Excessive office costs and staff salaries (especially the CEO). Charging for items that were donated free. Things like that. My uncle remembered them doing similar things in WWII, so it must be a long and fine tradition for them.

        (And thanks for listening to a negative comment. I half-figured you’d toss it, because I didn’t necessarily agree with you. BTW, 10% of our income goes to donations — right off the top. (Yes, we’re ‘tithing.’) And I can honestly say we’ve paid our bills, and never really missed it, even when our income was much less. Been doing it now for more than 40 years.

  15. I’ve told this story before but hell I’m getting old so I’ll tell it again. When I was a kid I used to go to the community pool during the summer. After swimming I’d either head to the local burger joint if I had money or head to Albertsons for the free cookie if I was broke. I made a goal to make enough money so I could choose to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. To this day I’ll eat anything I want regardless of price.

    As far as decumulating, the only things that bring me joy are spending money on my daughter, friends and a few charities. However, if I spend to much on these then it goes from appreciation to being taken for granted which ruins the feeling of joy. My wife and I will die with to much money. It will be up to our heirs and charities to spend our money. However, I don’t feel I’ve wasted my life chasing a buck. I enjoy making money, learning how to make money, learning how to make money with money and so on. Hopefully someone better than me will be able to find a use for our money.

  16. Billionaire Warren Buffet says he eats like a 6 year old-cheeseburgers; 6 cans of cherry coke/day; and Dairy Queen. I’ve noticed since my kids have grown we do tend to go to nicer places to eat. I still like pizza once a week and Italian pasta at places like Olive Garden and Carraba’s.

  17. Interesting article and thank you for sharing your experiment. Instead of decumulating on food, why not just use that money towards philanthropic causes you really care about (e.g., environment, local charities, etc)?

    And in addition to practicing mindfulness about those who don’t have enough to eat, I also hope you are mindful of the many cows, pigs, chickens and fish who were raised in the most horrific conditions in factory farms and ruthlessly killed — to become someone’s food.

    1. For sure. The food spending decumulation experiment is not mutually exclusive to others. I spent a lot of time and money recently trying to support the Lahaina fire victims. But I’ve kept the discussion in my newsletter.

      What are some of the causes you are giving to? And I’d love to know how long you’ve been vegan. I think that’s great! I will go on a vegan diet next to see how it goes. I try to eat vegetarian/vegan at least once a week.

      What line of work do you do? I’m actually looking for new work, and I’d love to be inspired. Thanks

      1. I appreciate your thoughtful response, Sam.

        That’s great you’ve given both your time and money for the Lahaina fire victims – I know you have a special connection to Hawaii. Such a tragedy.

        Some causes I give to are for animal advocacy/protection (as you probably guessed) such as Mercy for Animals, World Wildlife Fund and Animal Legal Defense Fund… as well as for disaster relief (e.g., Lahaina, Turkey/Syria earthquake and Ukraine).

        I’ve been vegan since January 2022 – it was a journey that took me >10 years and so happy I did. Feels great to be morally aligned and I feel/look much healthier (my cholesterol went from 180 to 140) at age 49. I’m glad you’re going to try out a vegan/plant-based diet… it’s not hard to do (especially living in CA – I live in SoCal)!

        I work in the data/advertising world as an Account Executive (Sales). But thanks to your great blogs/podcasts, you’ve inspired me to be more financially savvy and ironically, I plan to move to Asia early next year and retire early (geo-arbitrage)! :) What type of work are you looking to do?

        1. Hi Stephen, may I ask why it took 10 years? That’s quite a long time, which I think would result in you being more empathetic to those who would like to eat less meat but have a hard time doing so. I try not to judge people for their lifestyles and choices since we’re all different. But I understand it’s tempting to do so.

          I’m thinking about joining an AI company. But these are hot jobs with a tremendous amount of the band. So my chances are probably less than 10% I’ll land one.

          Good job getting your cholesterol down. I have to check mine as it’s been a couple of years. I hope it’s OK given I lost about 5-6 pounds since last year and has been eating better and exercising more.

          If you don’t mind leaving a review on my podcast, I appreciate it. Every review accounts.

          1. No problem – it was a 10+ year journey for me because: [1] I wasn’t aware of how cruel the dairy/egg industries are till a few years ago (I stopped eating land animals years ago) and [2] fear.

            My bad if my comment came off as judgey – definitely not my intent. I wasn’t aware you were trying to consume less . I think seeing the pictures of animal flesh you posted along with your mindful comment produced a visceral reaction in me as I’ve been to an actual slaughterhouse and dairy farm… it’s absolutely horrendous. I think if more people actually looked in the eyes of the animals they consumed, they’d definitely be more mindful that there are victims involved who feel pain and fear like dogs and cats.

            Best of luck in your AI endeavors – I went down the rabbit hole on AI and its potential impact on the future and highly recommend Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark and Superintelligence by Nick Bostrum for fun reading.

            Thanks for the note – health is wealth and I’m sure yours is great.

            5-star review posted! Again, much appreciation for all that you do. I recommend all my friends to read and listen to your content – it is gold.

  18. What a fun experiment! I go through phases with food, usually dependent on how busy/stressed I am. When I have breathing room in my day to day, I love to cook. It really is a fantastic way to completely block out everything else. All I think about when I’m cooking is what I’m doing in that moment and what’s next in the recipe.

    When I’m feeling more stressed, however, just thinking about cooking overwhelms me. It can be quite time consuming to prep a well rounded meal or even throw something together if you don’t have the right ingredients on hand etc. That’s when I lean on take out and delivery much more.

    Ideally, I should actually do more cooking when I’m feeling the most stressed as a form of a mental break. But in reality it doesn’t always work out that way.

    I’m not that great of a cook, but slowly I’m building a bigger repertoire of recipes that I can make pretty well. Like most things, skill comes with practice and learning from mistakes. I’ve certainly botched my share of meals, ha!

    Minestrone is on the menu tonight though. I’ve blocked off a chunk of time to do prep and cook this afternoon. So I better get cracking at work now!

  19. If you’re big into fresh fruits without consideration to the cost, you should try the Hawaiian Sugar Loaf pineapple. I’ve not had one (though I badly want to try one!) but heard they’re delectable. Problem is, A) they degrade too fast to ship away from the islands, and B) they’re not cheap, often fetching $35-40 each at island farmer’s markets. Our next trip out to the islands will have us spring for one.

  20. My wife and I felt the same about spending more money on food but are taking a different tack. Soon we are enrolling in different culinary classes. Might as well learn how to cook like a pro. We figure friends and family will benefit too after we master a few dishes.

    1. Alan, that’s a great idea!

      I forgot to mention — during a trip to Mexico, we tried to bring back some of the Spanish cured meats for a friend of us who’s a chef, and loves tapas. We were shut down at the border when a “meat-sniffing” dog found us. (I am not making this up.) Turns out that the U.S. does not allow cured meats to cross, especially pork products, for fear of bringing in diseases caused by worms. Anyways, that’s what the guard told us. I had visions of them enjoying all sorts of exotic meats that night in the guardroom for supper.

  21. “Eventually, your frequency for fine dining will decline and you’ll long for quick and simple foods again.”

    I think like so many things in life, it’s mostly about the experience that’s enjoyable when spending $$$$ on food/drinks. No matter how nice something is, the novelty will fade…

    I’m not a wine person either, but I do love drinking good cabernets every now and then. During the pandemic, I was bored out of mind that I decided to just buy a 2016 Cabernet from Robert Mondavi (it was a $400 bottle at the time of purchase) to enjoy. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try so why not.

    Was it good? Of course. Was it 25x better than some of the other decent cabernets in the $10-20 range? Absolutely not. But the experience of buying something expensive, sharing it with family, and just having something to talk about was worth the price tag. I wouldn’t purchase a $400 bottle again unless it’s for a special occasion.

    Same with food. There are nice Michelin rated restaurants that are $$$$ and the food is honestly really, really good, but it’s more about the experience that’s enjoyable.

    Something that’s almost always worth the splurge for me are concert / performance tickets. No ragrats. Not even a single letter.

    1. I’m impressed you splurged $400 on a bottle of wine! You should watch Somm on Netflix. Quite enjoyable.

      What I would do is probably buy my favorite $15 bottle of wine, pour it into my large wine glasses, then serve the glasses to my parents and speak highly of it. I’ve found the power of persuasion works marvelously in making wine taste better!

      1. Haha. This is why I bought a decanter! To make my 1.75mL bourbon that cost $65 look fancy when I pour it for my family and friends.

        As I pour: “this is great bourbon…(for mixing)…”

      2. I love the *soft* red blend (“Silk”) from Ménage à Trois but neither blend should cost $15; it’s usually between $7 and $10 (whether at Safeway, BevMo, Costco, or Smart & Final). I’ve tried some $30-$40 bottles which have been good too, but soft red blend is my affordable go-to — just as plenty of folks like their two buck chuck (or whatever it costs now with inflation).

  22. That’s an interesting experiment. The result is surprising too. I thought you’d enjoy the fancy food more and keep going. We mostly cook at home and our food is just as good as eating out. I enjoy cooking so it isn’t a big deal to cook. Eating out once in a while is more enjoyable too. It’s a nice break from cooking. I think moderation is the key. You enjoy the fancy food more when you don’t eat it every day. IMO.
    What’s next on the decumulation experiment? Fancy clothes and shoes? I like this series.

    1. Nah to fancy clothes. I’ve got nobody to impress as I have no job. I wear the same clothes every week. T-shirts, jackets, running pants, and shoes. I’ll wear them until they were out with holes! Which they often do.

  23. You can do better than that, Sam! hahaha

    We’ve been in the same boat (trying to decumulate):

    1) More trips, paying for business class, paying for the nicer rooms etc. You need a fancy tennis trip!

    2) Monthly furniture budget for our 2.95% 30 yr fixed home. My wife starting buying new rugs etc.

    3) More self-care….I even tried botox recently! Plus fancy ointments etc

    4) Fancy $15 hot lunches x3 kids at the fancy private school (instead of packing lunches)

    The truth:

    Your kids are too young right now, but soon you will be able to spend more money on the same tuition, hot lunches, summer camp, summer programs, tutoring, clothes, travel, food etc that we do. That destroys whatever Uber Eats you are trying to order :)

    1. Botox! How was that? Could you tell the difference? I don’t like to voluntarily inject needles in me if I don’t have to ha.

      Yes sir on kids being too young. I feel flying travel / fancy travel is a waste before my youngest turns 5 because she won’t remember most of it. So we’ve been making the most out of driving distance travel e.g. Sonoma, Lake Tahoe.

      If my kids were older, I’d totally splurge on grand slam tennis tournament family vacations. No doubt!

      Alas, baby steps with food.

      1. California Expat

        Put Roland Garros at the top of your list – I’ve been to all 4 Grand Slams and the French has the best experience IMO. Wimbledon is great too, but the quality of the tennis on clay puts RG on top. Well worth the money to go.

        1. “When we were in Paris …” (how I LOVE saying that phrase!) way back in 2003 the French Open was ongoing. While making our vacation preparations way in advance, I discovered we would be in town at the same time as the tournament. I asked my “sports pig” hubby if he wanted to attend one of the tennis matches. (Perhaps I was overly naive in thinking we could even get tickets???) I know I was excited by the possibility of going! You can imagine my surprise (and disappointment!) when he said no. That’s (almost) like passing up a World Series game when you “just happen” to be in the same town as the game when it’s being played. *sigh*

      2. What about a personal chef a few nights a week? If I had unlimited food budget, I would definitely hire someone to do all the family meal prep (and cleanup!), just for regular healthy meals. I find it super time consuming and difficult to keep little ones happy with healthy and varied meals.

        1. Good idea! We have thought about it before where there is a private chef, who delivers the food to us based on our food requirements. It is probably healthier and cheaper as well. I think we will try again!

      3. One thing is certain for me after reading this article: the author does not know anything about food. He talks about McDonald’s, cookies and steaks/fish from delivery apps and he thinks that this is quality food. Expensive may be but not quality. Quality food has nothing to do about money. Quality doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Quality is quality. I am sure you don’t understand what I’m talking about.

        One kind suggestion to you:
        Live for min. 1 year in a Mediterranean country in Europe (eg Greece, Italy) and then you will understand what I’m talking about.

        It’s sad to realize that even rich people can have low quality of life compared to poor people who have taste and knowledge when it comes to food.

        1. A key point in my post: One of the good thing about being poor or middle class. You don’t need to be rich to eat well!

          Btw, this is a post on decumulation and spending money, not on how to eat the healthiest possible food. Please differentiate the two.

          I enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, and fish.

          1. Thanks for your reply, appreciated.

            Maybe another experiment you could do is to cook yourself meals with expensive ingredients. But please avoid giving to your children any type of fast food, and avoid ordering food online from delivery apps. This doesn’t promotes a food culture. Food is all about the procees of cooking, unique, fresh ingredients come together to naturally produce flavors and taste. I am well aware that US/UK do not have any knowledge on this process but food is sth more than just a daily routine in Italy, France, Greece. People there know about food. They eat much better than ultra wealthy people who don’t have any knowledge. Ultimately, they enjoy a better quality of life. Food is quality of life. And as you know, quality of life is not a 3M experiment but a way of life. I would advise you to continue giving highest priority when it comes to food, experiment yourself with some recipes, try good restaurants (doesn’t have to be michelen) where you can meet and talk to the chef.

              1. I’m just a 35 year old finance professional from France who has lived in Greece and Italy for some years. It’s incredible to me the quality of life in these countries, achieved through their food culture, even though people are facing financial difficulties.

                If you want to look more into this, you could start here: https://akispetretzikis.com/en

                I don’t want to offend you, but the way you talk about food, make me just to believe that you don’t know anything about food. You are excellent when it comes to personal finance matters, I have been reading you for many years. About food, I think you failed to even touch it as it’s not a matter of health, money, diet. It’s not about maximizing efficiency or utility. It’s way more. It’s about food IQ, experience, and knowledge.

                1. Sounds good. Clearly, you are an expert at food and I have much to learn from you and others.

                  Don’t worry about offending me. People offer other strong opinions and criticize me for mine all the time. It’s no big deal.

                  It is also interesting how you’ve taken this article about food quality and not the financial angle it intended to be about decumulation.

                  Would you like to write a guest post about food IQ, experience, food culture, and health?

                2. Agree. We have found OMAD one meal a day cooked at home is the key to health. The garden and shop 1/2 hour per week frees you.

            1. The entire US/UK has no knowledge about the process of cooking or about quality food? Seems a bit sweeping.
              Even if we accept Mediterranean food as the gold standard, that statement would discount the millions of people of Greek, Italian, and French heritage who live in both those countries.
              Sam, I am very impressed with your diplomacy in your replies.

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