The Best (But Expensive!) Food Is From Food Trucks
by Ashley Danielle Burnett
There’s something about buying your lunch from a truck that just makes it taste better. Maybe it’s the strange allure of ordering kimchi quesadillas from a moving vehicle or maybe it’s the fact that you get a nice excuse to slip out of the office and stand outside in the actual sun while waiting for your pork belly sliders to finish. Whatever it is, there’s something about food trucks that will immediately pique my attention. On the long, long drive to my internship, I’ll pass many on the way to Los Angeles and wonder which ones will pop up in front of my internship, sending a few stray prayers out to the universe for the lobster roll truck.
Unfortunately, there’s something about getting your lunch from a truck that is also super expensive. One item, no sides or a drink, will typically come out to about $10, or what I make in an hour at my internship. And, well, I have to have a drink! Especially when the menu has lychee soda, Mexican Coke or a coffee/horchata hybrid. What is the point of the food without the drink?
And what is the point of the drink and the entree if I don’t get sweet potato fries with bacon and maple syrup sauce, or curry cheese curds as a side? All told, if I don’t exercise any restraint, my lunch will probably end up totaling around $17.
I’ll try to curb it by bringing my lunch, but lunches brought from home never fill me up the way a bought lunch does — I could bring as much food as I want, but knowing I didn’t spend anything to get it leaves me unsatisfied. It’s a sickness.
I might also settle on some fast food joint for lunch, but I can still see the trucks from the windows. Beckoning me. Calling me. “Spend this hour’s wage on bulgogi tacos,” they say. And I’ll stop by on the way back to get a side or soda, because hey, it’s a little less money.
A coworker once showed me a small cup of ice cream she bought at a vegan ice cream food truck. It cost eight dollars. Is it the fact that they have to make up for all of the money for gas? How much does it cost to operate a food truck? I have no idea and I guess it doesn’t matter, because I’m willing to pay that much for vegan ice cream. For organic pizza. For crab cake sandwiches. Give me your truck food, your artisanal sodas — I’ll blow my paycheck on them.
The guilt that goes along with buying from food trucks, however, is a lot less fun. After reading more personal finance blogs and figuring out that, yes, I really do need to make a budget, I opened up a Mint account and was horrified to see how much I’ve spent on food since I got my debit card.
Watching as, every single month, I blew through my budget for food because of dumb purchases at food trucks was also a little shame inducing. I’ve cut back severely on how much I spend on food and if co-workers want to go out for lunch, I’ll just grab a small drink to supplement the sandwich I brought from home. It also helps that I’ve learned to pack more food — and good food — so that I’m actually excited to eat my homemade Italian sandwich, rather than sad that I’m eating a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich while a gourmet grilled cheese truck rests outside.
Snacks have also been helpful in curbing my habit, as has instituting a rule that I should only buy food if I’m also hanging out with a coworker for friend while doing it. That way I’m getting fed and being social.
There’s also the fact that, a lot of times, the lunches I buy from food trucks induce a food coma in me so strong I long to nap underneath my desk, which isn’t great for productivity nor getting hired for an actual full-time job. There was also the time a very famous in LA taco truck gave me food poisoning. But the truth is, the tacos were so good I don’t regret it!
That caused a lot of self-reflection, since it almost seemed that money was more important to me than my body. But hey, whatever gets me to put down the hibiscus Italian soda and save my food budget for dinner with my friends.
This story is part of a series examining our financial vices.
Ashley Burnett is a writer living in California. You can see both her short stories as well as other articles she’s written on her website, ashleyburnett.net.
Support The Billfold