How I Ate At 11 Restaurants In 5 Days & Spent $0

Welcome back to Money Diaries Monday! At the start of each week, we take a deep dive into Money Diaries in a variety of ways, from recurring articles as well as fresh pieces for the MD community.
This week we're introducing something a little different: influencer money diaries! It combines two of our favorite things: Instagram influencers and Money Diaries. We're doing these diaries a little bit differently: Since the OPs are not anonymous, it only seems fair that they won't be sharing ALL of their personal financial info. But to keep the diaries interesting, each time, we'll issue a new diary challenge. First up: Alexa Mehraban EatingNYC.
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Eating out in New York City is expensive, though that isn't the case for hospitality professionals and influencers like Alexa. She's worked as a social media manager for a hospitality agency and as the director of marketing and communications for a large restaurant group, all while growing her platform @EatingNYC. After four years of running her website on the side, this spring she took the plunge and decided to pursue @EatingNYC full-time. She still works as a restaurant consultant, but admits the perks of working in the industry has helped her cut down on the expense of eating out.
As a digital influencer, Alexa often gets invited to try new restaurants, and this week, we challenged her to make it through five days without spending a dollar. Below, she chronicles her adventures of eating at 11 restaurants in less than a week without spending a dime.
What was the experience like? Were you ever tempted to buy something?
It was definitely challenging and required a lot of planning ahead. Before the week started, I had to think about how I would get around, exercise, and make plans with friends.
Is it hard eating out all the time? Do you ever get tired of it?
Yes and yes! As crazy it may sound, having so many meals planned and trying so many different foods on a daily basis gets exhausting, especially this week when I was challenging myself not to spend any money.
When it was all over, did you go on a spending spree?
I wish! But I did make sure to do things like a Duane Reade stop and laundry before the week and waited to buy other things I needed after Friday.
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Day 1
9:30 a.m. — I bartered a free year membership with Exhale in exchange for features on EatingNYC. I try to go to barre two-to-three times a week. I started going a few months before I had the membership, and I’m addicted now.
1 p.m. — Lunch at Loosie's Cafe with publicist and a few other media professionals. We ordered the whole cafe menu!
1:30 p.m. — My friend asked me to stop in at Lilia to try sandwiches. They were AMAZING! The owner and chef, Missy Robbins, was there along with her book editor. She gave us a first look at new her cookbook. Really cool!
7 p.m. — Head to midtown for dinner with my mom. I was born and raised in NYC, and I try to stop by my mom's apartment for a *free* home-cooked meal at least once a week. Took a Via to midtown since I have a ton of credit for the app, so my ride is free. (Usually I take the subway, but I that would have cost me $2.75.)
Day 2
9 a.m. — Head to breakfast at Sadelle's to celebrate the launch of the Mister Krisp cookbook with other media and publicists. We eat the entire breakfast menu: smoked fished towers, pancakes, scrambled eggs, blintzs. Definitely an aggressive start to my Tuesday!
1 p.m. — Walk over to Taim Falafel for a photo shoot and lunch. I consult for them, so I can eat for free when I’m there. I love the sabich sandwich, and the date lime banana smoothie is one of my favorite things ever.
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5 p.m. — Head to Exhale for a barre class.
6 p.m. — I have an event this evening, so I swing by Pokee for a quick dinner. I had $15 leftover on a gift card that covered my order. I almost always get a poke bowl made with salmon, avocado, seaweed salad, pineapple, crunchy onions, and the traditional Hawaiian sauce.
6:30 p.m. — Fan meet-up at Milk & Cream Cereal Bar. I did a giveaway the previous week and picked five fans and a friend to come meet for ice cream. It was the first time I did something like this and I think everyone had a really great time. Who doesn’t love free ice cream!?
9 p.m. Check my health app and see I've walked close to 8 miles today!
Day 3
9:30 a.m. — Morning meeting and breakfast at Balaboosta (same restaurant group as Taim). We have some scrambled eggs with harissa.
2 p.m. — Walk to Blackseed Bagels to try their new BLT Month Sandwiches. The lunch was set up by their social media coordinator who is also a good friend. My favorite sandwich featured pastrami bacon from Hometown BBQ. I also tried the pizza bagels for the first time, which were delicious.
4 p.m. — Interview at Pourt Cafe with a college student who’s working on a documentary on digital influencers. The Cafe's PR people invited me to stop by, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to check it out.
8:30 p.m. — Date night at Neta (thanks, bae). We ordered our favorites sushi rolls — salmon avocado, tuna avocado, and some pieces of Ikura with a quail egg.
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Day 4
9 a.m. — Reheat my leftover pizza bagel from yesterday. Yes, pizza bagels make a great breakfast!
1 pm. — Lunch at Chopt using free salad card. I did some freelance work for them back in the spring, and still had some leftover cards from a campaign we were working on. Perfect for a week like this!
5:45 p.m. — Walk to Exhale for a barre class.
7:30 p.m. — Ordered in Parm for dinner using Postmates credit, which I received through a collaboration. Their Sunday salad and all of the sides are amazing, but nothing beats their chicken parm sandwich.
Day 5
10 a.m. — KIND bar at home. KIND sent me a whole box of my favorite flavors, which is basically anything that includes chocolate. The peanut butter dark chocolate flavor is the best.
2 p.m. — Lunch at Sessanta set up through a PR firm to film a segment with CBS News on how I’ve turned my career into a business. Last fall I filmed a segment with CNN International, so I definitely had a sense of what it was going to be like. I love that I’ve had so many opportunities to share my story with so many people.
8 p.m. — Dinner with my fiancé’s parents at Baby Moon out on Long Island; they treat. We always start with the gorgonzola salad and their rigatoni vodka is the ultimate comfort food.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with some additional details.
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