Eating Out and Ways to Combat this Expensive Habit

I would say the vast majority of my spending goes to the restaurant industry. There are three main reasons for this. Some people call them “meals.”

  1. Breakfast
  2. Lunch
  3. Dinner

Let’s dissect these further.

Breakfast

Like most people the morning time in our house is a whirl wind. Showers, getting the kids up, fed and out, checking to make sure homework is done, checking to make sure nothing is due to the school, daycare, or the PTA, looking at the calendar to see what is going on after work, making sure I have my keys so I don’t lock myself out of the house AGAIN… it’s a wild time. 99% of the time I neglect my nutrition needs.

I’m using the term “nutrition” here lightly.

After dropping the kids off, it’s time for coffee and something quick to eat. This could be one of a few things: trail mix, a donut or pastry, a protein bar, or a couple of hard-boiled eggs. This wholly depends on how healthy I feel like being. Since the coffee is $1, this usually runs under $5. That’s roughly $25 per week.

Lunch Time!!

I work in a pretty cool town. It wasn’t always as bustling as it is now. 

About 10 years ago, I started working in an office in a place that had a few restaurants. Your typical pizza place or two, Chinese, a couple of delis and bagel places, and a handful of sit-down restaurants. Nothing was too expensive, and of course you could always get a slice of pizza and a drink for $5-7.

Over the last 10 years the town went through a major revitalization. Condos and apartment buildings were built, business moved in and more restaurants opened. All of this is great for the town, and horrible for my wallet. 

On any given day I can choose between Sushi, Barbecue, Cuban, Colombian, Peruvian, an Italian Deli, Poke Bowls, Oysters, really good bar/American food, a German deli, Bagels, Chinese, Upscale restaurants, a place that specializes in meatballs, fast food, pizza, burgers, and the list goes on. New places open up every day, and yes, there is more than one sushi place. In the nice weather, I can even go eat some seafood on the water.

A responsible adult would either:

  1. Bring lunch, or
  2. Choose inexpensive lunch places (ie pizza, bagels, Chinese, and the aforementioned German deli)

I do neither of these things. Instead, I often go for lunches that cost between $10 and $50. (Oysters get pricey and are a huge weakness.)

I’ll start the week off saying, “OK, I am definitely going to bring my lunch this week.”

Bitmoji image of cartoon woman holding a pie with the word “lies” written on it. Above the image are the words “freshly baked”.

Monday: Forget lunch and go to lunch on my own. I usually sit at one of the many bar-restaurants in town. This can range from $14-$30, depending on what I order. 

Tuesday: Remember lunch and a co-worker asks if I want to go to lunch. I rationalize that I can eat the lunch the next day. 75% of the time this is sushi or a Colombian place with the best food. Either place is usually around $15.

Wednesday: Payday! I’ll inevitably go to lunch with a few people, usually to a BBQ place that has been in town since the beginning. This can be as low as $10 and that isn’t horrible, but it still adds up.

Thursday: I have that lunch in the fridge from Tuesday, but is it really any good now? I’ll just go to lunch. $20

Friday: A different co-worker wants to go to lunch. Why fight at this point? The week is a waste. $15

On average I’m spending $15-20 per day, that’s $75-100 down the tube, plus the wasted lunch that I attempted to bring. That’s weekly.

I have been aware of this for some time and have made an effort to change. I now bring soup, leftovers from the night before, or I’ll drink a meal replacement shake. This doesn’t happen every day, and I still eat out a majority of the week. When I DO bring lunch, I end up taking a walk in town, stopping at a shop or the dollar store and spending money anyway.  

All of this eating out has done a number on my waist line, but that’s an entirely different blog post.

Dinner

After picking up the kids and getting home, it’s 6:00 o’clock at night. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to make dinner. We rotate between a few go-to dinners:

  1. A rotisserie chicken from the supermarket paired with fruits and vegetables we have at home.
  2. Hotdogs or frozen chicken nuggets paired with apple sauce. On nights like these the adults in the house don’t really eat or will grab cereal.
  3. Frozen meatballs over pasta or rice with a fruit and vegetable side.
  4. Ordering in or going out. 

Options 1-3 are really not an issue. I’d like a more diverse menu, but again, that’s an entirely different blog post.

Ordering out can get out of hand and can often come to $50. At the low end, we’ll get a pizza for $20. I’d like to say this happens once a week, but it’s closer to 2-3 times a week. 

The Plan

Obviously, I could be saving time and money, as well as reducing stress, by making a few simple changes. The holiday season has its own expenses and stress, so here are the things I will be implementing over the next few weeks. (You read it here first!)

  • Meal planning. By making dinners and lunches on Sunday before the week even starts, I can save time in the morning and at night and eliminate the need to order from restaurants. I’ll save money each week and add variety to my family’s diet. I may even shed some pounds!

This is easy to write. Simple – Meal Planning! It’s the new hot buzzword, it’s the Pinterest mom’s best friend! I am not a Pinterest mom. I will most definitely write a post chronicling my meal planning try.

Bitmoji with “World’s Best Tryer” written over cartoon image of woman.
  • Make coffee or tea at home and bring K-cups to work.

This will save me $1 a day. Less since I still need to buy the coffee to make. PLUS I get every 7th coffee free. I’m not convinced it’s worth it. I’ll get back to you on that.

  • Boil my own damn eggs. I guess this falls under meal planning. 
  • Use credit card points to buy gift cards to places I like to eat. This way when I do feel like going out, I have the card to pay for it.

If my plan to stop spending so much works, I won’t have enough points to do this for very long. Maybe it will make for a good transition.

Let me know your favorite make ahead meals. Bonus points for food my kids will love!!

Keep an eye out for my OH MY GOD I’M GOING THROUGH WITHDRAWAL post.

Published by Melissa 🐝

Melissa lives and works on Long Island, a fish shaped place jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean from New York. She has lots of littles and a husband too.

7 thoughts on “Eating Out and Ways to Combat this Expensive Habit

  1. Sorry I wrote it on FB. But one more thing. My husband finally after 10 years he started a year ago bringing his lunch to work. I have always done this. And yes planning is the key. Plan shopping grocery list first also. That is a weak point for me. I do not plan every week but the ones I do, what a difference it makes. Definitely worth it, if not Sunday, then Monday. Prep breakfast too. I am so happy you are doing this blog. I have been going through this for a year now, and even though I still have a lot of issues sticking to a budget, it has made me realize more where the money goes and make decisions about expending. Debt has not decreased much but it has not increased either.

    Like

    1. I’m finding that writing it down helps a lot. I made a list of things I could write about, ie places I waste money, and it’s so much more than I thought. Once you start writing it down you think of other things. It’s unreal.

      Like

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