We love to go out to eat and we love the concentrated time together that a meal out can bring. It seems like conversations last longer or have more details when we eat out. I’m not sure why that is. But there are a ton of great reasons to enjoy eating out. Some financial experts really pound people for eating out, but not us.
Sure, it can get expensive, but most “experiences” and treats in life do cost money. There are times when it is really worth it to pay someone else to do the work so you can 100% enjoy the moment. We have always really appreciated the required for a good meal and great service. Simply put, we enjoy eating out.
The average American spends over $230 a month eating meals prepared outside their home. That translates to a whopping $745 billion in one year for Americans dining out. That’s a lot of money, so it’s worth taking a look at how you’re spending in that category at your house.
So before you eat out the next time, ask yourself these 3 questions first:
1. Are we eating out mindlessly?
Before you head for the door or text plans to meet at a restaurant, think about it. Why are we eating out tonight? Is it just force of habit or is there a legitimate reason you’re dining out instead of cooking at home?
We noticed that last year our eating out got a little away from us. We did a kitchen remodel, which forced us to eat out for several months. But then … we just kept doing it.
So this year we made a plan not to eat out as much. If we do, we want to make a point of it and not just slide into a booth because it’s easier.
2. Are you proactive with the weekly meal planning and grocery shopping?
Wait. Don’t tune this question out. Are you being proactive with your meal planning? We don’t ask that in judgment. We know that we did a horrible job of this last year.
It’s difficult to make dinner at home if somebody, first, hasn’t taken the time to hit the grocery store. And hit the store with a smart list. We’ve all gone to the store hungry or without a plan and the results are not pretty and usually quite expensive.
We resolved this year to get better at this. There are lots of great websites or Instagram accounts that can encourage your meal planning. You can sign up for daily meal inspirations or weekly planning ones. Martha Stewart has a weekly menu and planner called Grocery Bag. Some of the meals aren’t exactly what we want to cook, but if we get 2 ideas out of 5 each week that’s a great start.
If you’re in the habit of grabbing your refill items and not planning for a meal you will find yourself frustrated at the end of each day when you’re trying to feed your family. Pick a time to plan – maybe on the weekend – and try it for a few weeks to see if it helps your stress level and your budget.
Another reason we resolved to eat out less is for health reasons. We tend to make better choices with more vegetables when we eat at home.
3. Is one of you always calling the shots?
Stop and ask yourself who gets to decide if you get out or stay in.
If your spouse loves to eat out but you think it’s wastefully expensive, you still need to compromise. You won’t lose your entire savings if you please your mate and eat out once in a while. Marriage is about compromise.
If you save every penny, but you don’t enjoy the “ride” what good are those savings?
On the flip side, if you’re eating out too much and your spouse points this out, you need to find some middle ground and compromise. Respect their opinion and adjust.
And in some cases, your budget might do the talking. It’s not cheap to pay for a meal for everyone and then something to drink.
Chris Parente, a host on the FOX Denver Everyday Show, made a good point that for some single people there may be occasions where it costs less to eat out. For example, if you love a salad filled with all kinds of different vegetables it may be cheaper to buy that salad at a restaurant than buying all of the groceries (and then composting or throwing some of it away). For highly perishable foods this is a good point. Experiment and see. Enjoy the salad both ways and see which treats your budget best.
The bottom line is … it’s not always about your bottom line. Treat your spouse well and if that means dining out from time to time (or dialing it back) then do that.
Don’t deny yourself a fun night out to eat. But make sure you’re planning for it and for some meals at home. Remember to enjoy each other as much as you enjoy your food.
Taylor & Megan Kovar
The Money Couple