I have been asked to list the expected out-of-pocket expenses for attending an approaching conference. I have sources of expenses such as travel, accommodation and food.

So one of my subtitles in the list is "Food Expenses" but I think I could do a better job for describing this item of the list.

"Dietary Expenses"? No. I do not think so.

  • 3
    Usually "meals" is the term used.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 2:14
  • 1
    (M&IE) = meals and incidental expense
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 2:24
  • 2
    "Subsistence expenses" is also quite common. It has the advantage that it covers not just meals but also drinks, snacks and sandwiches on the go.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 6:41

3 Answers 3


As no one has posted a better answer and the question is still open I'm going to elevate my comment to an answer.

"Subsistence expenses" is quite a common term for this. It has the advantage that it covers not just formal meals but also drinks, snacks and sandwiches on the go.

  • substistence?? Where is that common?
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 17:59
  • @Lambie The Cambridge Online Dictionary agrees with me that it is a valid term. Their definition of 'subsistence allowance' is money received from your employer when you have to work away from your usual place of work, to pay for food, hotels, travel, etc.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 22:50

The IRS (among other places) calls these "meal expenses":

You generally can't deduct meal expenses unless you (or your employee) are present at the furnishing of the food or beverages and such expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances.

When I do an expense report for work, the money I spent on food/drink goes in the "Meals" column, which is one of two categories under "Subsistence", the other being "Room". This matches up with other definitions I've found online. Therefore you're not looking for "subsistence", which is a hypernym.


A common word in English for this category of expenses is "per diem," which means "per day" in Latin but is used to describe the daily expenses one might incur while traveling. It's mostly used in a corporate context, though, so it might not be appropriate here. It also includes more than food, like car tolls, parking fees, and maybe even lodging expenses.

Additionally, per diem expenses are typically a fixed dollar amount for each day, and you may not be expected to account for how you spent that money when submitting expenses. For example, if you had a $50 per diem, that would mean you have $50 per day for whatever little expenses came up, including your meals.

You could also use "Food & Drink" or "Meals" as an item on the list, allowing "expenses" to be inferred by the category of the list.

  • 5
    "Per diem" is usually used when you're getting a fixed amount per day to cover these expenses, but you aren't expected to account for how you use it, and the amount won't be adjusted if you spend more or less.
    – The Photon
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 2:51
  • That's an excellent addition, thank you. Quite correct.
    – raster
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 2:53

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