Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Eating Out Conundrum (this one's for Sue)

In a recent post Sue commented:
January has been good for us too except... and we are still having issues with eating out - any suggestions from anyone? It is without a doubt our biggest vice and we feed off of each other (no pun intended) in making excuses to eat out. I HATE, HATE, HATE to cook and it is basically just the 2 of us now (youngest who still lives at home is barely here) so I'm open to anything. I've tried menu planning, once-a-month cooking, you name it and we just find some excuse to eat out - HELP!!!

Ahh, eating out! It's so wonderful. It has a plethora of amazing benefits. Starting with not having to cook. At home you probably have seven to ten dinners to chose from, that you like, that you have to shop for, and prepare yourself but when you eat out you have probably more than that in restaurants to chose from with entire menus at each. Of course there are a handful that you really like and you have favorite meals at each of them but it's like you're a king or queen with all these quick and easy and delicious options at your finger tips. Of course you don't have to clean up the mess of having just made dinner. That's a huge bonus. You can easily bring home the delicious dining out food if you want to eat at home. And shoot, some of the food will come right to your door; doesn't get better than that. If you love "going out" this eating while away from home thing is a perk in itself. You get to socialize with at least the waiter, people watch, experience different spaces. Ah, this is the life!

Of course you pay a price for all this luxury, all these options and benefits, and it's not an insignificant price either. When my husband and I were living off of credit cards (hey, I always paid the required payment... we weren't doing anything wrong <throat clear>) we ate out A LOT. And it wasn't even that I didn't like to cook (however I hate the clean up) but just that it was fun, and easy, and yummy, and my husband is not super appreciative of a home cooked meal. We ate out, and ate out, and ate take out in, and were happy as could be.

When I finally realized that we weren't making enough money to pay even the minimum credit card payments and pay all of our bills too is when I signed myself up for the Dave Ramsey financial peace university classes at our church. I'll tell you all, one thing I noticed was that all of us horribly indebted individuals ate out often. The price for eating out regularly, even if you can afford it, is a ton, A TON of money spent on the luxury, on the benefits, on the easy options. IF you can afford it and IF you want to spend your money on the luxury of eating out instead of a plethora of other things you could be spending the gobs of money on then more power to you! For real. Live it up and eat till your hearts content. I do not judge you in the least. I'm happy for you. But if you realize that you're just blowing money on eating out but you also realize it's something you've grown super accustomed to and you're having a difficult time stopping the habit then I have a few tips for you; just a few things that have worked for me.

For some people it's easy to just decide, "We're going to stop eating out. We're going to eat at home from now on." At least I think some people can easily make the switch. It was torture, absolute torture for us. Like Sue said we fed off each other all the time. We'd plan to eat dinner at home and then one of us would say "but I'm REALLY craving..." and the other would try and stay strong but there would be a great excuse, or you'd be the martry and want to make the other person happy. "Okay honey, if you are REALLY craving that and it would make you happy if we just went out to eat today. I understand. I want you to be happy." Oh, it took us way too long to change our ways. But they were our ways. We had grown accustomed to a lifestyle and that is not, generally, an easy thing to change.

- Make sure to have supplies/ ingredients at home for several different meals. Chances are that if you're feeling the need to go out and especially to not cook then you're probably not going to want to eat what you have on hand. If you have several options to choose from you're more likely to want one of them at least. It's not usually a good idea to start out the day saying we're going to have ____ fill in the blank. You're going to end up convincing yourself by the end of the day why you absolutely do not want that meal and then you'll head out for yummier, easier food.

- Come up with some really easy meals to prepare that you like. Our main one is tacos. If you have some meals that you can prepare without much torture and that you really enjoy you're way more likely to eat at home.

- Set an eating out goal for the week. Maybe your goal is to eat out twice that week. Or maybe it's to not spend more than $30 on food away from home. Whatever your goal is, goals are a really great way to retrain yourself/ to learn to grow accustomed to a new lifestyle. Make sure you set a goal each week and try your hardest to accomplish your goal. If your goal is simply "to not eat out," you're likely to never accomplish it I mean unless you're one of those earlier mentioned people who can change their habits easy peasy.

- In a very simple, as little work as possible way, track what you're saving on not eating out. Estimate, estimate, estimate, because if you're crunching numbers all the time trying to figure out how much you're saving down to the penny then you're just adding more work on top of the cooking and cleaning. But say you spent $8 on your dinner for two at home and you would have spent $18 on your dinner for two at the local taco place: you just saved $10. I'd highly recommend having a jar that you drop a note into: January 20, we saved $10 today. At the end of the month or the end of the week you can look back at how much you saved and you might be surprised at how motivated you are to not eat out the next week.

- Have a destination for your savings/ establish rewards. Let's say you have a summer road trip planned to see Mt. Rushmore and some other sights. In keeping with the "track what you're saving" thought, put what you're saving towards a reward for yourself. Let's say you end up saving $70 in a week by eating out less (truly you will save so much more). Give that $70 a name; pick a reward. Say you're going to put that $70 towards the price of admission for the two of you to go on a tour of Wonderland Cave in South Dakota and buy some souvenirs. That wonderful adventure is from just one weeks eating out savings. I'd like to think you'd get pretty excited about eating at home after a few weeks of racking up the rewards. Another reward could simply be to put the "eating out savings" into an actual savings account or towards your credit card debt snowball. Rewards are a very good way to retrain yourself.

- Find someone to hold you accountable. If you can get someone else excited about all of the not eating out progress you're making it will be easier for you to stick to your guns. And likewise if you have someone to report back to when you've tripped up and ruined your plans to eat at home today it can make it considerably more easy to stay strong. This blog was my main source of accountability along with tracking my daily spending. Especially in the beginning there were so many times that I was dying to eat out but I decided that I would not because I did not want to come here and report my failure. (those of you who have been here from the beginning, thank-you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to change)

- Bake a cake. This one might be a tip exclusively for me but often times I'd be more inclined to stay home and eat dinner I'd prepared at home if I had a yummy treat waiting for me at the end of the evening. What can I say, I'm a piggy. If I had an eating at home chocolate cake reward, so to say, and I ate out and came home to eat my cake after, well it surely didn't taste as good. Who wants to ruin a delicious piece of made from scratch chocolate cake with a sour mouth full of shame?

- Make sure your kitchen is clean. Remember I said I hate cleaning up after cooking, well I've learned that when I do clean up after cooking I'm WAY, way, WAAAAY more inclined to cook the next time around. Cooking is a chore enough but having to wash dishes that you need to prepare a meal before you prepare the meal can be completely defeating. Plus, not having clean working spaces/ clear counters and an inviting stove top can make cooking feel like a much bigger chore than it really is. I know this is 100% true for me.

- Do not be afraid of frozen pizza. You have to have a go to meal for a really busy day when you just don't have time to cook. We really don't do freezer meals at all but a good cheap frozen pizza (and I say cheap because we happen to like Jack's pizza the best of all the frozen pizza's and it's the cheapest) can be an absolute life saver when you're tired, worn out, been super busy all day and you just need food fast. Having "fast" food in the house is not a crime. It's just smart.


  1. BRILLIANT POST!!! I know these are all things I should and do know, but sometimes it just takes reading it from someone else to really hit home!!! If we eat out say twice a week, if we even take that down to once a week for now and put the other amount we would spend ($25-30 easily) into our Mount Rushmore account - we will be there in no time!!!!

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate the reminder of WHY we need to make changes - to have a better life later on!!! What does Dave Ramsey say - "live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later"? Good advice!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

    Sue :)

    1. Thank-you! You got this Sue, it might take a little time but if you're determined to save money on eating out less you will. I'm excited, honestly, about all the money you're going to save for the trip. It's kind of suspenseful.

  2. Umm, super awesome resource!! Thank you!!
    For me, one of the turning points was this: in Sweden, it's super popular to eat a "salad buffet" for lunch when you go out. There are all kinds of buffets, but the basics is canned tuna, chickpeas, pasta, beans, and salad, tomato, etc. I said to myself, if I keep filling my plate with canned tuna and chickpeas, what, I cannot open a few cans myself? Must I go to a restaurant where someone else opened the canned stuff and dumped it in a salad-bar container?:))

    1. Thank you my friend :)

      That's how I feel about the coffee. I mean I can go through a drive through, say McDonalds and get a coffee for $1.94, a few times a day or wait, if I just make plain coffee at home with my own cream and sugar... it adds up quick.

      I was thinking about writing this post and it was funny, I thought to myself as I brainstormed it, "I've actually learned something from all this hard work." Haha