The 30-day no-restaurant challenge
Our savings were significant, and we also learned some interesting things about ourselves.
My family just finished a month-long hiatus from eating in restaurants. The idea for this adventure sprang from some budget-busting car repairs combined with an acknowledgement that we're getting a little lazy about our food choices.
We have a history of eating out too much. When it was just me and my husband, we ate out a lot because we don't like to cook and we could afford it. After we had kids, though, this problem rectified itself for a while because:
- We had less money.
- It's really not very much fun to eat in a restaurant with toddlers.
But now that my kids are older and can sit still long enough for a waiter to serve a meal, we've gotten lazy. At the end of a long day, it's easier and more fun to say "Let's go to Red Robin" instead of "Let's go figure out what hasn't expired yet in the refrigerator."
So we decided to test ourselves with the "no eating out" rule for 30 days. There were a few exceptions. When my husband was on travel on the East Coast, he had a pass, of course. Plus we decided that Dutch Bros. coffee does not count as eating out, because you are technically just drinking. (But we did limit coffee-drinking excursions to two per week, with bonus points for going less than that.)
It was harder than we thought it would be. Post continues below.
We discovered, however, that the benefits were more than financial. Here's a few other things we learned during this experiment:
- We can cook. Sometimes we don't want to cook. But both parents in this household are perfectly capable of making a decent meal. We traded off -- I cooked on even days, hubby cooked on odd days. It helped us both expand our cooking skills.
- Our kids will eat our cooking. Most of the time, anyway. Things our kids have eaten and enjoyed, much to our surprise: fajitas, my husband's chicken and rice concoction, Hawaiian pizza and pork chops. Not every meal was a success. But our kids can enjoy food that doesn't start with the letter "p": pasta, pizza and peanut butter.
- We ate out a lot because we were bored. Mixing it up by trying new recipes really made a difference. Hubby made a lovely roast dinner one night. I had a successful French onion soup. Plus, I dusted off the cookbooks to find new recipes involving baked chicken to curb my appetite for a similar dish at one of our favorite restaurants.
- We have a lot of food in this house. This experiment enabled us to use up things that normally would have gone bad before we got to them. I used up leftover cheese and potatoes that normally would sit and get moldy. I also made my kids eat the cereal we had left in the cupboard, instead of rushing out to replace the empty box of Rice Krispies.
- Leftovers aren't so bad. My husband repeatedly has stated his dislike for leftovers over the 20-plus years I've known him. Turns out, leftovers can be tasty when it's your night to cook. I also started a new tradition of Leftover Night, where we empty out the fridge and everyone chooses the leftovers they want to heat up for dinner.
- If you cut down on your eating-out budget, you can buy more interesting things at the grocery store. I have my eye on some (normally budget-busting) scallops for next month. Yet I can still feed four of us a scallop dinner at home for less than a casual meal at our favorite family restaurant.
What's next? We're extending our 30-day no eating out trial for another month. No one was more surprised than we were. But the numbers don't lie. The money we saved was significant. Plus the fringe benefits to our family are simply priceless.
More on Get Rich Slowly and MSN Money:
We've given up eating out, not only because of the cost, but for health reasons. We learned over the years that the main "tasty" thing at most restaurants is... surprise.... lots of grease, and sugar.
We can cook more healthy meals at home. We have a wonderful, large Chinese recipes cookbook, and the thing you learn about the history of Chinese cooking is that, to put it simply, meat is added mostly for flavoring, not as the substantial part of the meal.
While we're not vegetarian, we've found a diet composed much more of fresh fruits and vegetables, and dishes based more on vegetables and healthy grains with meat just for flavoring, has done wonders for our health, our mood, our ability to taste subtleties in cuisine.... and the fat contribution to the pocketbook is just a nice after-effect after all that.
So yes! Give up on restaurants; they're bad for your health, first, and they're hugely overpriced for what they offer, second. What you have to pay, for instance, to get a really good steak at a really good steak-house is astronomical; you can get far better cuts yourself, cook them perfectly, and enjoy them without waiters hovering over you and the rudeness/noise/distraction of other customers around you. :)
And how can anyone not like leftovers? Obviously, leftover KFC is disgusting (it's gross when it's fresh). A lot of home cooked food though actually tastes better the next day.
As far as costs go, you can grill up some very nice steaks at home for what it costs to go to Applebee's for burgers and beer. You can also grill up your own burgers. They will taste better and cost a lot less.
Just remember... that little mom-n-pop eatery down the block is very dependent upon your patronage.
I would suggest you stop going to Mickey-D's and Flannigans and Chili's and so many other chain restaurants (altogether), and go just twice per month to your favorite mom-n-pop eatery. Make it your regular place, develop a relationship with those folks. You will be surprised at the return you receive (off-menu specials, complimentary deserts, etc).
There are many ways to save money, and we should just as conscious about where we spend as what (how much) we spend.
I don't know how people can stand to eat out so often. I like to go once or twice a month and otherwise I want to make my own food and really get to enjoy cooking. There is nothing more relaxing then putting on my favorite show in the background, strapping on an apron and enjoying a glass of wine while throwing together something that everyone loves. My food is healthier and less fattening then anything on a restaurant menu and I know what I'm putting in the food. I don't get MSG bloat or some science lab experiment that looks like food but leaves a chemical afterburn.
good idea, keep them kids at home and out of restaurants.
I'm all for that. We didn't eat out at all when the kids were young . Thankfully they were well behaved once we started
Kept track of eating out one month awhile back for our family of 4. --Found out we spent over $400 that month. Cut back to 2 times a week and now have more money at the end of the month. This was at sit down restaurants mostly so tips are included
Unless you find roaches reaching for the Alka Seltzer between dirty dishes after you or your spouse cooks, eating at home is the healthier and more econimical choice. I think eating out should be a form of entertainment or a way to experience new foods to try cooking at home for those who know how to cook. Feel free to disagree, I am just offering my opinion, not judgement.
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