Stop for a minute and think about all those times you just “had” to eat out. Maybe you “had” to eat out after the kids’ soccer game, after church, or on Friday to celebrate the end of the week.
If you’re a family of four, you’re probably averaging $30 or even more every time you eat out and that’s just for fast food. Think what this really amounts to. If you eat out three times a week and spend $30 per meal, that’s $90 a week or $360 a month. If you were to cut that back to eating out just once a week, you’d be saving $240 a month or $2,880 a year. Just think what you could do with $2,880.
Maybe not as often as you thought
We know how busy and harried your life can be and why you just “have to” eat out so often. But if you put your mind to it, you may find that you really don’t have to eat out as much as you have been.
I understand that you might not love to cook six nights a week, but you can make things simpler by having a menu. When you grocery shop, you can get everything you need to prepare your meals and have it all at hand when you’re ready to cook. If you can make meal preparation simpler, you should find it easier to do.
Tip: Fix larger portions
Another good idea is to cook larger quantities so that you will have leftovers. We are a family of three but my wife always buys a large whole chicken. She will bake it for one meal and then use the leftovers to make chicken fried rice. When small turkeys are on sale she’ll buy one and will get three or even four meals out of it.
If you just can’t leave home for a dinner, how about having a picnic? You could pack a picnic meal and then eat at a park. This can be a very happy family time and you’d almost feel like you were eating out but at half the cost.
Do you and your partner have a date night? It doesn’t have to be a sit-down meal at a restaurant, complete with wine, at a cost of $50. Instead, you could do a movie night with a $5 Little Caesar’s Hot and Ready Pizza. After all, the important thing isn’t how much money you spend on your date night. It’s spending quality time together.
Treat yourself but only occasionally
Don’t be afraid to treat yourself with a meal out occasionally. However, you can make that meal more affordable by using one of those deals-a-day from a source such as Groupon.com. Even our local newspaper has gotten into the deal-a-day game. Just yesterday it was advertising $40 worth of food at one of our better local restaurants for $20. Since these coupon deals tend to go away fairly quickly, it’s one of those times when you need to strike while the iron’s hot. Just don’t strike too often.
There’s no magic to saving money. It just means living more frugally, which might mean giving up some of those restaurant meals. While this may not feel like fun at first, it will feel a lot more like fun when you see how much money you saved over the course of the year.