Eating Out

Yesterday I posted our sixth monthly spending summary since we started tracking our spending using our credit card statements.  Today I want to write about our eating out trends.  It is the biggest and the last significant area for improvement we have in the way we handle our variable spending money.

It's a little hard to read unless you click on the image above, but our average eating out spending is $470.53.  Our low was $313.83 and our high was $630.03.  Of course our groceries have never been as high as we expect.  I budget around $400 and we spend, on average, $250.  Of course we know these things are correlated, but I'm not foolish enough to think that the solution is just to buy more groceries.

I think we need to buy more groceries in conjunction with eating out less, but speaking of that

 - how often are we eating out, and what meals?

Let's take this on one step at a time.

When eating out, we most often choose a fast food restaurant or gas station pit stop.  This eats up (ha-ha) a significant part of our budget.  We spend $150-$300/month on crap - it's not even justifiable crap like - we went out for a social gathering, or we bought our parents dinner.  It's food we stuffed in our mouths with as little health benefits and high caloric intake for no reason other then we were in a hurry.

hmm....a pause for consideration on that.  We need to eat before we leave the house.  EVERY TIME.  Not only will we get less cranky with each other (we get cranky when we're hungry) - but we'll spend less money.

On average, we go out to a pub with friends twice a month.  This is a social activity with friends, often involving a few drinks, wings, and a sports game.  I don't think that spending time with friends twice a month is unreasonable - how do people watch their pennies when at a pub?

On average, we go out for a sit-down meal about three times a month.  This may be just Jordan and I having a 'date' and/or it may be when we're visiting either of our families.  We don't always buy and hopefully neither do our parents always buy.  For example, the last time we were in BC visiting my parents, my mom came to meet the wedding DJ with us.  Jordan picked up the tab for the three of us - I want our budget to be flexible enough to do this. 

The 'at work' number of transactions are a bit deceiving because up until two months ago Jordan ate of the catering truck that came by the shop regularly, but only paid twice a month (on pay days).  We did really well in December, and then in January I ate out three times and Jordan put a work lunch on the MC (he got cash back from mostly everyone).  We're doing bagged lunches now, just about every day and I'm really proud of our progress here.

Another area to improve is eating out while Jordan is at school - It's a long day for him 7-7pm and so we need to pack bigger lunches and easier food to eat on the go (does anyone have tips on 12 hour day lunches/meals).

So, that's the breakdown of our eating out - It's often an area that gets a lot of comments when I post our monthly spending summary, so hopefully this will engage you in a more specific conversation about where to make improvements.


  1. I guess fast food is just kind of inconvenient here, cause I can't imagine eating like that. I think you are on the right track to eat before you go out. The question is, which do I want more, meet my savings goals, stress free, or eat Wendy's? These are mutually exclusive goals. I agree that a date night contributes to quality of life, but random fast food, not so much...Also, you could bring some fruit in the car if you think you might be gone longer than you plan.

  2. I agree with your mom. Plan date nights. Maybe you can only splurge on fast-food if its with your own allowance. Maybe that would deter you from going. Or try a no eating out challenge for a month to see how much you really save and learn some new recipes. I like the idea of eating at home before you go out and packing snacks in the car. If it's about convenience you could purchase those ready-made meals that are still cheaper than going out, or have a cook-a-thon and make then freeze your own individual sized meals.

  3. For the month of February (and until the end of the first week in March), my boyfriend and I have decided to give up going out for food. It has only been 9 nine days and it is difficult. However, we are spending more money on groceries to made some of our favourite exotic food. The cost is still much less than going out for dinner.

    We do have exceptions in our rule such as engagement parties (we have one to go to) and when we are going to Toronto. We are going to use our gift cards and Entertainment book when we go.

    Eating out is expenses, and usually less healthy. Who knows how much oil, fats, and other ingredients are being put into our foods in the kitchen. We are both watching our weight and our wallets.

    I think it is a good idea to cleanse from eating out at least once a year. Last year we also gave up pop for two months. We saved money and lost weight. We do get pop sometimes but only on sale and only the good kind.

    I find the higher expectations we have for the good food and drinks we have, the less we buy, and the less wasteful we are, and the more we enjoy the treats in life.

    Girl Makes Cents said you should plan date nights. We (will be doing it again in March at least)do this at least once a month and now we are expanding this to include double dates with our friends. WE have found a great restaurant in Burlington, Ontario that has great food and good prices. It costs us $40 for an app, two entrees, tip and tax. We couldn't believe the bill. And this place is FANCY DANCY.

    We always try to spend under $20 when going out. We never buy drinks and that is key to saving. Why buy a $3 glass of pop when water with lemon is free.

    Good luck.

  4. Get lock and Lock containers, you can even put soup in them and it will not spill out. Crock pots so easy to do and so good. Mom and I make them in the morning by throwing veg, meat and broth in than you turn it on and when you come home at night you have a meal. The great thing is there is always left over and trust me taking it for lunch the next day is so good. Also when I was in Uni. I would make a large thing of pasta put in my lock and lock containers take it with me for lunch and dinner for those days I was on campus form 9 an to 12am bc of classes and work.

  5. You mom is totally on the right idea. Those romantics date night dinners and great and add to the relationship, but the meals at McDonalds or Wendy's - maybe not so much.

    Eating before you go out sounds like a great idea. One thing I would recommend is making food at home convenient. The "Once a Month" cookbooks offer a lot of recipes that you do once, freeze, and then just heat up in the oven when you want to eat them. That way eating at home isn't any less exhausting than going to a drive through. Just preheat the oven and heat. Way simpler when you're exhausted than cooking a full blown meal!

    Also, one way to save money at the pub is to not eat more than just an appetizer together. Eat before hand. Get an appetizer to share. And a drink. Space them out - say "one drink per half of the game". That way you don't go overboard. Or just take cash with you. Take $40 and say, "This is all we can spend." Don't even bring the credit card. That way you won't go over your budget. $40 should be more than enough for an appetizer and a few drinks plus tip for both of you.

    As for date night, why not just plan one per month? Make it planning and something you look forward to rather than impromptu. When BF and I try to do impromptu we always end up doing it more - and spending more money. If you know that this month you're going to XYZ restaurant on your anniversary, that makes it more special. Or plan on twice a month at payday. Just make sure you have a budget going in. "The lobster may be delicious but we're spending max $50 with tip on this meal."

    So those are my suggestions, great thought provoking post Jessie. =)


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