View Full Version : Eating out

06-26-2011, 02:10 AM
I just added up how much my family of 4 spent in 1 month of eating out and it was $571.00. I must be crazy. This does not include money spent on groceries. I am tired of family not wanting to eat leftovers or not liking what we have at home. Things are bout to change here. By no means can we afford this. I am sick to my stomach. I have to figure out a budget and enforce it, regardless of who gets upset. Sorry, I am really thinking how better that money could have been spent. :scared:

06-26-2011, 02:16 AM
I just added up how much my family of 4 spent in 1 month of eating out and it was $571.00. I must be crazy. This does not include money spent on groceries. I am tired of family not wanting to eat leftovers or not liking what we have at home. Things are bout to change here. By no means can we afford this. I am sick to my stomach. I have to figure out a budget and enforce it, regardless of who gets upset. Sorry, I am really thinking how better that money could have been spent. :scared:


We have two choices: You eat what is put on the table, or you can fix yourself a peanut butter sandwich w/ carrots or soup w/ salad.

If they don't like what you are trying to do with the meals/leftovers, maybe get them involved looking up recipes, etc. and helping write out the shopping list.

Then, set aside a fixed amount for eating out...don't have to nix it all together. Then, eating out will be something special, not a been-there-done-that.

06-26-2011, 07:49 AM
I had that rude awakening several months ago. I began using mint.com to track spending. I even made a seperate category for fast food. Seeing the totals for eating out was eye opening. In addition to the budget, it also helped us to plan meals for a week or 2. We found most of the time we went out to eat was because no one could decide what to cook.
With some planning and budgetign disipline you will see some nice savings.

Shelly F - Ohio
06-26-2011, 08:21 AM
Now multiply that amt by 12 months! Thats a lot of dinning out that could go towards a vacation.
We eat out once maybe twice a week and that is far and few between.
Plus think of the benefit of eating at home....its healthier.

06-26-2011, 08:51 AM
I ask DH & DS's to help with the grocery planning. They scour the ads also and have even begun helping me plan for "next" week with items on sale now. They also help me cook one night a week each. It helps! We've also added "restaurant favorites" to our meal planning. Although it costs more than our regular food, it's less expensive than eating out and generally tastes even better! Think: fried sea scallops! DH is an expert at making them and we can pair them with other things besides fries to make a healthier overall meal. We can still indulge in fun food, without going overboard!

06-26-2011, 09:20 AM
About a year ago we went to a fabulous fine dining restaurant it was really pricy. I said to my DBF I would give up all eating out if we could eat like this once a month. He agreed so I changed how we do things.

First once a week I cook for the freezer. I have soups, chili, some pasta dishes and chicken dishes. That is the backup for busy nights when I can't really cook.

Most nights I cook dinner. They eat it and that is it. My house is not a restaurant. I try to make things that everyone enjoys and I vary the menu a lot. It's so much healthier for my family.

Sometimes we do a pizza night where everyone makes their own custom pizzas that is a lot of fun. Once in a while we do an appetizer night where all I make are appertizers. We usually pair that with a movie or game to make it extra special.

We treat dinner like an event most nights and my family really looks forward to it.

06-26-2011, 09:50 AM
What types of food do you typically eat when you eat out? I would try to make whatever those foods are at home to sort of curb your behavior. You can't go from eating out a couple times a week to eating just stuff out of the crock pot without getting bored and jumping back to eating out again.

If you eat a lot of burgers, stock up on ground beef (use worchestershire sauce and onion powder to season). And yes, I know I botched that spelling. lol. If that's too much work for you, buy pre-formed, frozen patties. Buy a bag of generic french fries instead of eating McD's. You get what I'm saying.

Eventually, you'll be totally used to eating at home all the time and your culinary skills will improve. You'll find when you do eat out that your homemade food is so much better and eating out will become something you do only when you have to.

06-26-2011, 09:55 AM
We rarely eat out, and if we do it is more for recreation ;) Ya' know just something nice to do. The only reason we do eat out is if we are just stuck doing it because of time etc... My kids appreciate going out to eat much more because of it.
Is your dh on board with you in this? If so MOST definately show your kiddos whose boss :woohoo:

06-26-2011, 10:04 AM
I just added up how much my family of 4 spent in 1 month of eating out and it was $571.00. I must be crazy. This does not include money spent on groceries. I am tired of family not wanting to eat leftovers or not liking what we have at home. Things are bout to change here. By no means can we afford this. I am sick to my stomach. I have to figure out a budget and enforce it, regardless of who gets upset. Sorry, I am really thinking how better that money could have been spent. :scared:
YIKES! That's a lot of money to be spent on eating out. I don't know what kind of income you have but even someone with a higher than average income would struggle with that kind of spending!!!!

My advice is to look for copycat recipes. I've found a recipe that's nearly identical to Boston Market's meatloaf, biscuits that mimic the ones they serve at Red Lobster and an Alfredo sauce that puts Olive Garden to shame. P.F. Chang makes frozen entrees now.

If you want to challenge yourself more, then check Foodnetwork.com and Allrecipes.com for ideas.

Make a weekly menu. Post it on the fridge or wherever you put messages for the family. Let them know that there will be no eating out and no substitutions. If anyone doesn't like what's on the menu, well there's peanutbutter and jelly or canned soup if the complainer feels inclined to cook.

It took going away to college and paying out of his own pocket for meals for my older son to appreciate a home-cooked meal. This summer, he's making it a habit to be home at dinner time.

06-26-2011, 10:13 AM
WOW...close to $7000 a year! That is a significant savings if you can eat at home more.

06-26-2011, 10:41 AM
My family dislikes leftovers, but when I turn them into something different they can't tell they're leftovers. Google your leftovers+recipe and see what you can find that your family might eat.

Sometimes when they are not eating what I made I'll say we'll just continue eating it every day until it's gone. They usually dig in! ;)

I cook really good meals according to the kids friends- they ask for thirds, but my family is really picky. I figure I can't please 5 individuals every night. Tonight may not be your all time favorite but maybe tomorrow will.

Maybe not! :rotfl2:

06-26-2011, 10:44 AM
Thanks for all the ideas. I told my dh this morning how much we had spent and he said "well, that sounds about right" This wouldnt be such a problem except for the fact that we cannot afford to eat like this. I have more than that amount in bills that need to be paid. I am not the greatest cook, but I need to do better. I agree with eating what I make or fend for yourself. I am interested in freezing meals that are prepared ahead of time and truth be told my little angels are 12 and 14. Plenty old to cook. Thanks, I feel the love :)

06-26-2011, 10:46 AM
Don't feel bad. We spend about the same, some months even more. I hate to cook but have made a concerted effort to cook dinner on most nights. They are usually easy recipes since I hate cooking.

On the weekends, however, DH likes eating out. He orders what he wants and we tip our servers well, so it's easy to spend $100 on one meal every Saturday. He asks for so little, if he wants to eat out, more power to him.;)

I do shake my head when I update my spreadsheet but we are fortunate that we can do this and take vacations. We didn't when I was a SAHM because it just wasn't in the budget.

06-26-2011, 10:49 AM
I just added up how much my family of 4 spent in 1 month of eating out and it was $571.00. I must be crazy. This does not include money spent on groceries. I am tired of family not wanting to eat leftovers or not liking what we have at home. Things are bout to change here. By no means can we afford this. I am sick to my stomach. I have to figure out a budget and enforce it, regardless of who gets upset. Sorry, I am really thinking how better that money could have been spent. :scared:

The timing of your post is perfect for what we have been looking at in our lives. We recently had a great meeting with our financial planner (yes we have one and he is well worth the very small fee we pay to have our investments taken care of!) and he asked us a very pointed question...."what are you willing to give up or compromise on right now to ensure that you have the retirement you REALLY want?" Wow....okay so those lazy nights of "lets just run out to Ruby Tuesday and blow $60 for no good reason" now will be "you know, a bowl of cereal or *fill in the blank* is just fine tonight for me" has come to matter a lot more to us.

And please before anyone jumps in about the planner.....let me say that for many years we were flat broke, started saving through a work plan, jobs changed and suddenly we had to take this significant (to us anyways!) amount of money out of a retirement plan and invest it somewhere tax free. It was not in our knowledge base how to take this money and protect it and grow it so we use this professional. It has been an absolute God-send to us and we adopted a policy back then of continuing to feed that account whenever we can so DH can someday walk away from his 60+ hr/wk job and relax. This latest step is just a move towards iensuring our future payouts are a little bit bigger or the choice of where we want to live is a little easier to attain.

06-26-2011, 11:00 AM
I have to figure out a budget and enforce it, regardless of who gets upset.

My mother had a two week menu that she cycled my entire childhood, with a couple of seasonal variations, a couple of "once a year" things, and the occasional addition or subtraction. By the time I was twelve I thought it a nightmare, but no one else seemed to care. :confused3 The blander aspects I can still eat and enjoy, but macaroni and tuna fish once a week meant I don't eat tuna fish to this day. :sick:

I don't go so far as my mom in the "eat what I cook or starve" department, but my general rule is eat what I cook or make something yourself. For little ones I had a short list of options I'd make if necessary -- store brand cereal, pb&j, fried or scrambled eggs, left overs, sometimes cottage cheese with fruit or string cheese or whatever. When my kids got older they learned to cook simple things for themselves -- grilled cheese and canned tomato soup, oatmeal, etc.

But I will say, whether you go my mom's "Tuesday we eat this" or my "something different every day of the year" route, writing out menus ahead of time is key if you want to be eating home more often. So is keeping some stuff in the pantry or the freezer that's quick and easy, be it canned chow mein and noodles from Chung King, or a bunch of frozen stuff from the Quick Cooking cookbook you whipped up some Saturday. My mom writes menus with assigned days; I just write down some lunch or dinner meal menus and make sure I have the ingredients on hand, then decide as I go what I'll cook when (which sometimes means having hubby pick up the fresh veggies later in the week for some thing).

We do have some food traditions, like muffins on Tuesday or pancakes on Friday, where I can fall back on old standards if I don't feel like trying something different. And sometimes I do a mix of both -- the old standards for the kids and something different but on the same theme for hubby and I -- but that's only practical if you've got a large enough family you'd be doing multiple batches of whatever anyhow.

Keeping the super-easy stuff in pantry or freezer is probably more important than the menu for getting away from eating out, especially if you're prone to the "I don't know what to cook; let's eat out" or the "I can't face cooking today; let's eat out" thing. Hubby at one point was adamantly opposed to buying anything processed, partly because he preferred things from scratch but mostly because he felt they were a waste of money. Came a point when the kids were little where no way could I keep up with entirely scratch cooking, and once he realized it was either processed stuff or eating out, and crunched the numbers on those relative costs (instead of from scratch versus processed) he suddenly was gung ho for the occasional frozen burritos and canned chow mein. ;)

06-26-2011, 11:08 AM
i recently moved and its been hectic. i skipped bringing lunch to work quite a lot in the last few weeks. when i realized how much i had spent i wanted to kick myself. one lunch out costs about $15, twice a week is $30. if you add in runs to the deli for snacks and starbucks it was at least $75 in two weeks. on weeks when i just need to grab a few things at the foodstore to re-stock (bfast, lunch, and dinner) i spend less than $30. i am going back to a eat lunch out ban unless its an ER to try to save some money this month.

06-26-2011, 11:13 AM
For those who are wanting to eat at home more often, please check out our "Eat at Home" thread here on the budget boards.


You will find so many ideas and a lot of support! We post meal plans (weekly and monthly), tips and tricks, and recipes. Many of us also have blogs. Ask questions, post your ideas and meals, and learn how easy it can be to eat at home.

06-26-2011, 11:18 AM
Here is what we did, come up with what your reasonable monthly dining out / fast food budget will be (if you don’t have a budget make one and put every $ on paper). Then at the start of each month pull the dining out dollars out in cash. Put that in an envelope and when the cash is gone NO MORE dining out period!
You can do this for any budget category you tend to overspend on, groceries, entertainment, clothing what not… DW and I have also given ourselves a monthly budget of blow money. Its budgeted in and we pull it in cash every two weeks. This is a little bit of pocket money that helps to avoid nickel and diming the budget, things like that starbucks coffee, or so forth.
But again the vest advice create a budget and assign a job to every dollar every month, start telling your money what you want it to do vs finding out what it did on its own…

06-26-2011, 11:30 AM
I include eating out in my grocery budget...I figure food is food and if I don't spend it at a store, we'll eat it from a restaurant. My goal is $750/mo for the 4 of us, we average a little more toward $800.

What works best for me to combat eating out is to have a plan in the morning. Ex. set out a jar of sauce and box of pasta by the stove before you leave for work, take something from the freezer and put it in the fridge. When you get home, just start cooking, don't need to make decisions.

Make a list of all main and side dish options available in the freezer/pantry and decide on in the morning. I think it's good to have written down what your options are. It's not always easy to remember what's in the back of the freezer.

Last, we eat what we like. Pizzas, subs, pasta, breakfast dinner, salads...if half your family doesn't like enchaladas, don't bother making them. They'll be back half an hour later eating all of the tortilla chips for the week!

Good luck - writing it down was a big eye opener for me...we were over $1000(groceries and eating out combined) for the month when I started to pay attention.

06-26-2011, 11:36 AM
Our favorite foods to eat out are Chinese and Italian. So, I've added more variety of them to our menus. I've enjoyed making new Chinese recipes instead of just stir-fry, and I'm trying various pasta dishes instead of just red sauce, alfredo sauce and baked ziti.

Also, Friday is our fast food at home night (think burgers, fries, subs, cheese steaks, pizza, etc.). It's much cheaper and we know what's in everything. Now that we've been making them at home, I'm always disappointed with the fast food when we do occasionally eat it out even though we used to crave it.

06-26-2011, 12:07 PM
We used to eat out too much too, but as more kids came along it got very expensive. I'm pretty good now with the crock pot and remembering to thaw things etc, but I still have things in the freezer that can be cooked quickly without any thinking ahead of time for those days when I forget or don't plan well enough. I second the idea of cooking at home what you might have been getting out. Tacos, nachos, burgers, pizza, are all made at home now. We still get those foods when we crave them but they don't cost as much cooked at home (even meals you think are cheap become not so cheap when multiplied by 8 people).

I am one of those "eat or don't eat" people. I serve it. You can choose to eat or not. We rarely have one dish meals, so I figure most the time you should be able to find "something" on the table that is to your liking.

06-26-2011, 12:23 PM
I keep easy to cook meals at home. Is they healthiest meals sometimes no. But I do cook healthy meals when I have time. We have my kids called cooked veggies and fruit night. Where all cooked is veggies and cut some fruit for dinner. Super easy. Surprise every like its even mom.

The down side to that is go through a lot fruit and veggies.

06-26-2011, 12:27 PM
http://tastykitchen.com/ This is one of my favorite sites. It has a copy of the Red Lobster biscuits, which are amazing,and tons of other recipes. Since DH and I love candy I started making a lot of my own. Who knew my peppermint patties would taste better than the brand out there! Growing up it was always eat it or starve. I am trying to do that with my kids. It has been a battle with my 2 year old, but he is finally starting to try new things again!!!

06-26-2011, 02:49 PM
If you divide 571 by four (weeks) and again by four (people) you come out to about 35 dollars a person. Which is one or two meals out a week depending on where you're eating. But that quickly adds up, like you've shown us. I think instead of cutting out eating out, you should limit it to once a week, and maybe pick a cheaper restaurant. Obviously your family likes to go out to dinner, so don't completely eliminate something you enjoy. Just control it when it gets out of hand like it has.

06-26-2011, 03:32 PM
I bought the book "7 Day Menu Planner for Dummies" from Amazon, it's great! Simple, quick meals with normal food my family will eat, 52 weeks worth of menus! Love it! Also, eat at home cooks is a great site that a disboarder runs, there are menus and lots of yummy meals on that one.

wide awake
06-26-2011, 06:37 PM
If your DH is on board w/ this it shouldn't be a problem. I'm in agreement w/ a PP who said her kitchen wasn't a restaurant. Everyone cannot have their favorite, or even one of their top three meals all the time. Make things you know you're capable of, try to avoid things you know your kids or DH don't like, and cut portions so you don't have leftovers since they won't eat them. We rarely go out, I like my own cooking better, and even on nights when I'm really tired it isn't that hard to make scrambled eggs and toast. I plan a week in advance, and I make sure I have 2-3 easy meals on hand. You're doing your family several favors 1. they expand their tastes, nothing worse than a picky eater 2. you have money for vacation or extras that you would have frittered away on soso meals 3. you lose weight w/o trying 4. you have money for really good groceries 5. you can all go home and rest on the nights you're tired instead of sitting around in a restaurant waiting to be served. When I'm really tired the thought of stopping someplace, or leaving the house after I've gotten home is more than I can stand. Scrambling eggs, making pasta w/ chilis and olive oil, good bread and cheese, grilling some meat and baking a potato...almost no effort, put a bag salad and some fresh fruit w/ any of them and you're done. The kids are old enough to rotate the clean up. If you really do need to improve your cooking, try the pioneer woman's site...all of her recipes that I've tried have been wonderful, and for the most part they're very easy. She uses some processed food, but usually it is good fresh ingredients.

06-26-2011, 08:54 PM
This time of year is a great time to be cooking more meals at home. We marinate something for a half hour while the grill heats, start water for corn or make a salad-add a bake potato or some good bread and you have dinner. Cantelope or watermelon for dessert. I like making something Sunday that we can eat on Monday or Tuesday. Fridays we buy a fresh pizza at Sam's or Wal-Mart, add a salad and drink our own wine. Our local grocery store often has shrimp (which they will steam for free) for 7.99 a lb. With rolls and corn it's a great "fast food" and much healthier for you. Good luck and don't get discouraged-this will be a big change for your family and will take some time getting everyone on board.

06-26-2011, 09:57 PM
We were spending gobs of money on eating out. We ate out so much that our DD would ask where are we eating dinner instead of what are we having for dinner. Then I lost my job and our income was cut by more then half. We couldn't afford to eat out. At all!

At that point I started making a menu. I went through the pantry, freezer, cupboards and fridge and would make my menu based on what we had and then would scan the ads to fill in where needed. Luckily, I found a new job but my pay was cut by a lot and we've needed to modify our budget quite a bit.

Every other week I go through all the food in our house, starting with the freezer meats. Then I hit the pantry and figure out what meals I can put together. Then I go through the ads and see whats on sale and put my final menu together. We have some basic favorites that make the menu in some way shape or form (spaghetti/baked ziti, tacos/nachos/fajitas, etc) and then we usually ad something a little fancier that involves more work or costs a bit more. This last week it was steaks. In the spring/summer we use our grill several times a week. In the fall/winter we do a lot of soups and casseroles. Any leftovers that we have usually go with me in my lunchbox for my lunches at work.

To help get the "buy in" from the family, I ask for suggestions for the menu. When my DSS's are with us for their 5 weeks in the summer, I ask each one for an idea for the menu. DSS 10 loves spaghetti, while DSS 15 hates it. DSS 15 loves grilled chicken legs while DSS 10 hates it. They are understanding of each others picks and will tolerate them. I ask DH and DD for suggestions too. It helps to keep things flowing and generally keeps the family happy. And its known that this is not a restaurant and I am not a short order cook, so eat it or grab a cereal or granola bar or be hungry!

Good luck, I know its hard to make that transition but you can do it! Just make sure that you get that buy in from your family.

06-27-2011, 01:32 AM
We started controlling our dine out budget by actually having a budget, lol. Now once we have hit $125 during the month, we stop. In June, we were done by the 15th. I can't wait for Friday!

BUT, now that I watch it so closely, and we are cooking at home so much more, I found that my standards are so much higher now! If I am paying good, budgeted money, I want it to be great.

We also get $50 a month each for blow. It is so sweet when DH buys me a Starbucks out of his fund or I take him out for an ice cream, it's like we are dating again.

What did it for us was the realization of how much we were spending out in a year eating out. And for what? Crap food at really high prices? Eh, I am over it. We have financial goals which will taste a whole lot sweeter when we hit them!

06-27-2011, 02:53 AM
It amazes me how expensive going out to eat has become. For our family of 4, it is close to $50 with tax and tip and that is a cheap place and we never order drinks and rarely order appetizers or dessert (and if we get a dessert, 1 it is and we split it).

We have tried to cut back by finding cheaper places to go to. One diner near us has 50% off your entire check one weekday each week. It's usually around $30 total with tax and tip.

Another thing we do is try to find places that give large portions and split them. Tonight it was 3 of us and with the 4 course meal at Red Lobster for $15, we ordered 2 meals and split it and it was plenty of food for 3 people for $30 plus tax and tip.

We still try to limit it to no more than twice per week.

06-27-2011, 11:35 AM
Boy do I need to HOP ON THIS TRAIN. :thumbsup2 We are horrible with eating out. I would hate to add up what we spend eating out. :scared1: I am hoping I will get inspired by this board. :)

06-27-2011, 07:57 PM
Set some ground rules for eating out, such as:
No lunches out - everybody takes lunch or buys school cafeteria fare
Set a price limit per person - we never go over 15.00 pp and that's a special occasion
Split large portions
Always go to places where you can use a coupon or some kind of discount
Those are the "ground rules" I would start with. Another tip I'd give is to use a grill - you can cook steaks and ribs at a fraction of the cost at home.

06-27-2011, 08:10 PM
I include eating out in my grocery budget...I figure food is food and if I don't spend it at a store, we'll eat it from a restaurant. My goal is $750/mo for the 4 of us, we average a little more toward $800.


I include eating out in my weekly grocery money--if I don't buy food then I use that money to eat out. I will NOT eat left-overs, never have and never will. If there are three of us eating I cook enough for the three of us-I don't cook extra chicken or anything because it will just get tossed.

06-27-2011, 08:19 PM
We used to spend a lot eating out. Now I include eating out in my weekly budget, I budget $40 a week for eating out. We usually end up eating at the local mexican restaurant that we all love and we can get out of there for $30 inclulding a generous tip! I usually take the extra $10 and put it in an envelope of cash we use for Disney.