What a Traveling Filmmaker Eats on $4,000 a Week in Chicago, Miami, and New York

Bon Appétit

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, a 35-year-old TV producer and director makes $4,000 a week while traveling the country to shoot a premium cable documentary series. She grabs to-go breakfasts at airport Starbucks, sips Diet Coke at late-night shoots, and makes Ali Slagle’s Sheet-Pan Feta when she’s finally able to cook.

Keep reading for her receipts from Madison, Wisconsin; Louisville, Kentucky; Chicago; Miami; and New York.

Skip ahead

  1. The finances
  2. The diet
  3. The expenses
  4. The diary

The finances

What are your pronouns? She/her

What is your occupation? I’m a freelance TV producer and director. This week, I’m working as a producer on a premium cable documentary series. It’s our last week in production. A normal work day is 12 hours, but we’ll often do 14s or 16s.

How old are you? 35

What city and state do you live in? Los Angeles, California

What is your annual salary, if you have one? Since I’m freelance, my income varies widely from year to year. In 2023, I made $50,000 due to a general industry slowdown and concurrent strikes. (In 2022, I made $150,000.) My husband holds down the fort, income-wise. He makes $300,000 as a consultant.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes? $4,000, while I’m in production.

How often are you paid? (e.g. weekly) Weekly, while I’m in production.

How much money do you have in savings? $197,000

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

  • Mortgage: $8,997
  • Car payment and insurance: $800
  • Cell phone and wifi: $125
  • Gardener: $200
  • Subscriptions (Spotify, New York Times, Y7 Yoga, Adobe Creative Cloud, Frame.io, Oura Ring): $170
  • Total: $10,292

The diet

Do you follow a certain diet or have dietary restrictions? I’ve been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since I was five, which means I don’t eat meat but do eat dairy and eggs. (My whole family eats meat; I’m just a stubborn, animal-loving Taurus.) When I’m on the road for work, I try not to think about things like gelatin and rennet and lard in foods because my options would be limited otherwise. If we met, I’d tell you, “I’m a vegetarian, but not a proselytizing one.”

This work week, my team is owed a meal every six hours (at a maximum of $25 to $30 per person). When we aren’t in our home city, we are also paid a $50 meal per diem. Lastly, our team travels with previously purchased snacks and beverages provided by “crafty,” or craft service.


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Author:Bon Appétit Contributor | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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