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How We Are Saving Over $2600 Per Year By Not Eating Out

 

Testimony from Crystal of

The average American family eats out several times per week — which is something people tend to underestimate until they really examine the numbers.

This is embarrassing, but I’ll confess it — eating out for my family was completely out of hand. We tried to cut back, but there was always justification.

  • We “needed” to eat out for our weekly date.
  • We “needed” to eat out on Sundays after church.
  • We “needed” to eat out Wednesday nights since there was no time to cook.
  • The kids and I “needed” to eat out on Fridays after story time at the library.

The list goes on.

My husband and I live on a meager budget and are . We can’t afford all the meals out (we were spending our entire “spending money” budget, “borrowing” from other areas to fund it!)

So this year for Lent, we did something drastic — .

While there are ways to save money when eating out, a meal out for a family of four will typically cost at least $10 for fast food, and $30 for most sit down restaurants. If you are like us, or like the typical American family, just cutting one meal out per week can save you $520-$1560 per year!

Here are some things that have helped us to significantly lower our eating out budget:

1. Plan a Menu.

If you eat out for convenience, you can easily cut out one meal out per week by planning your meals. If you have a roast cooking at home in the crock-pot, it’s easy to skip the fast food on the way home.

I make sure to plan quick meals or leftovers for busy days. Sometimes, just knowing you have a plan gives you the will you need to skip eating out.

2. Don’t Run Errands Right Around Mealtime.

When possible, I plan errands so we’ll be home for mealtimes. I keep snacks in my van so that if we get hungry while out, we can have a healthy snack rather than fast food.

3. Pack a Picnic.

If we can’t be home at mealtimes, we pack a picnic. Now, instead of eating out after story time, we enjoy a picnic at the park. This even allowed me to reach out to some of the other moms and start a weekly playgroup after story time.

4. Have Creative Date Nights.

One of our biggest problem areas was date night. Eating out became our date each week, usually at a sit-down restaurant costing $30+ after taxes and tip. Now, our dates are more creative: we’ll have a movie night at home or do something like a $5 Little Caesar’s Hot & Ready Pizza.

For the occasional splurge, we participate in rewards programs like MyPoints or Swagbucks to earn dining gift cards. By doing this, we are able to limit ourselves to spending no more than $5-$10 per week on eating out, which is within our monthly spending budget.

With these changes, we have nearly eliminated eating out from our budget, saving us around $50 per week, or $2600 in a year!

Do you eat out? If so, what are your tips and and suggestions for saving money on eating out?

Crystal Brothers is a daughter of the King, wife to a forest ranger, and full-time mommy to two rambunctious little boys.  She blogs at  — a blog dedicated to encouraging and equipping women to serve God and their families with a joyful spirit.

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140 Comments

  • Celia says:

    I can totally relate to this post, omg! We stopped eating out this month and I’ve made an effort to pack lunches for the hubby, I can’t believe the difference in our wallets and waste line!

  • says:

    We don’t eat out….except once or twice a year, very rarely for special occasions! It does save money, but the reason we don’t do it, is because we don’t have the money for it in the first place.

    • marney says:

      Exactly! By the time I have paid my bills, bought groceries and put gas in the car there is literally NO money left over to eat out. I don’t budget for it at all.

    • Wendy says:

      We’re in the same situation but we’re probably healthier for it.

      • Lisa says:

        I agree with the no money in the budget for this-we barely have the money for the need categories without strict budgeting. It does sound appealing at times when you are out or caught off guard, but meal planning and having food in the house makes a HUGE difference. My twins will be 3 and I can count on one hand how many times they have had fast food-and 2 of them were when they were out with my parents and it was a special treat. It also stops them from asking for it-they don’t know the difference.

        • says:

          Sometimes it sounds so tempting…but usually I talk myself out of it by reminding myself that usually I don’t like the flavor, I can make it better myself anyway and cheaper!

        • says:

          Lisa, this is awesome! Definitely an area of failing for me for a brief while, but I’m working to correct that 🙂 It’s really awesome that your little ones have rarely ever eaten out and I wish I could say the same.

  • says:

    We have recently stopped eating out as much. Our big times to eat out is after errands and after church. So now I am trying to make extra at dinner on Saturdays to avoid having to stop for something on our way home after church. We just stopped getting anything out when we do errands. I will pack a little snack for the kids to eat if they really want something. I also just bought some ready made hamburgers from Zaycon foods to make it easier for me to make a burger at home when we get the craving to have burger out.

  • Jennifer Brown says:

    I really love this post. I am guilty of this myself. When my husband started his new job, we had more income coming in, but yet no more money left in the bank after payday. I realized we were eating out more. Starting today, I am going to cut back again. Plus, its healthier and cheaper eating at home. Thanks, I really needed this today!

  • Kay says:

    My husband and I ask for gift cards to local restaurants as holiday presents. We only go out to eat once every other month or so and make them last as long as possible by pairing them with coupons and not splurging too much extra while we’re there. I still only get a tap water as my drink, despite having the gift card. 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      See this is a great idea! While I love personalized gifts(as in picked out with love and care) I’ve come around to giftcards for my loved ones. All of us(and I literally mean my entire family) have been struggling these past few years and many things that were once in a while treats are basically extinct now. I enjoy giving them GCs for Christmas/Birthdays that help them do some of these things again. 🙂

      • Kay says:

        🙂 It makes a huge difference, truly! And that way we don’t have extra clutter from unwanted gifts or guilt on going out (on the rare occasions we do… we don’t have wiggle room in our budget like a lot of other commenters), especially since we make sure to maximize the savings we’re getting from it! I’m definitely a fan of functional/useful gifts.

  • Sarah says:

    This is SO true! This summer I wanted to challenge our kids (ages 11, 8 & 7) to realize how much eating out really costs. I’ve allotted us $25 each week for fun & entertainment (I realize this may seem like a huge amount to many but it works in our budget). I explained it much like the cash envelope system by saying, “This is what we can spend. When it’s gone, it’s gone”. Their challenge is to figure out if it’s worth spending the money on eating out or would they rather save it for a trip to the water park or something of that nature. When I was figuring out how much it costs for the 4 of us to eat out, I was amazed! So far we haven’t spent any of the money to eat out. We’ve made ice cream sundaes at home instead of going to Dairy Queen. We’ve stocked the freezer with easy lunches to keep us from eating out based on convenience. We are all excited to see how making a menu & eating at home really pays off. I’m sure we will all be even more excited when our money pays for a day of fun at the water park rather than a meal that is forgotten in a couple of hours!

  • says:

    I enjoy this post, and the others that Crystal has written on her debt-free journey. It’s very encouraging for those who already have a snug budget.

  • says:

    What does daughter of the King mean? God?

  • Diane says:

    We eat out twice a year, too. I usually prefer to eat at home anyway and I do keep a well stocked pantry and freezer. I menu plan and freezer cook, too.

  • SandyH says:

    One thing about restricting your eating out is, when you DO go out to eat, it is a real occasion instead of just EATING. Which is the way it was when I was a child…it was so exciting, and something to look forward to.

    • Natalie says:

      I agree! We rarely went out to eat when I was a kid, so I never got into the habit. We only eat out 3-4 times per year. Usually ocassions.

  • Jessica says:

    We eat out about 6 times per YEAR. Instead of giving each other birthday and anniversary gifts, DH and I take the family out for dinner (us and our kids). Since I do 99% of the cooking, that’s a nice gift for me!

    I do some freelance writing which sometimes comes with the opportunity to review restaurant offerings for a couple of chain restaurants. I just did one this week. They sent me a $10 giftcard to try their newest salad.

    I had a doctor’s appointment and as a SAHM, had to bring my children along. So I told them if they behaved, we’d get Frosty’s on the way home.
    I got the salad, 3 junior frosties and a chicken sandwich and spent $.45 out of my pocket. Otherwise we would not have made that little trip. It was special for my kids, because we RARELY do that.

    I menu plan, freezer cook, make simple meals because I’m pregnant and having severe nausea problems. We don’t have date nights so that’s not an issue. When I have more than a few errands to run (if it’s going to take more than an hour), I do it on the weekend and go by myself. But I do keep fruit snacks and 100% juice boxes in my car for those kid belly emergencies!

  • Heather says:

    Recently on vacation we ate out at a certain burger joint (sit-down, a step up from fast food). My regular basic burger and fries was $7.99, and it wasn’t even that great. For the same price I could have bought enough meat to make burgers for the whole family and had money leftover for a bag of potatoes. Then my toddler dumped his milk all over me and his sister!

    Anyway, I do usually love to eat out, but we rarely do. I just remind myself of how much food I could buy for the same money. I try to cook interesting, high-quality food at home so that we are less tempted to go out.

    • BethB says:

      Yes, this is us too! Most of the time we leave a restaurant feeling like we could have had a better meal at home. And with our kids (almost 6 and 3) it’s more trouble to eat out than just stay home.

      Recently, we went out for lunch after my older son’s K5 “graduation” ceremony at church. Total waste of money. Our friends chose a Mexican Restaurant and while our meal was okay our son didn’t like it at all and complained the entire time (he gobbles down tacos at home, no idea what his problem is in restaurants). It was definitely Not Worth It. As far as he was concerned it wasn’t a treat so we should have just gone to McDonald’s and spent $10 for all of us.

      This summer we decided Date Nights are either going to be using one of the Groupons I’ve already bought and/or staying home watching a movie. I realize that’s not possible if you don’t have somewhere to drop the kids, of course. Another strategy we talked about was going out for a drink and appetizer rather than an entire meal. While it’s still a huge extravagence we’ll get the eating out experience without the huge price tag.

  • Kimberly S. says:

    We probably only spend *total* less than $800 in an average year. That is averaging about $15/week. Sure, we could cut even that much out (and we used to!), but…we figure our sanity is worth that much if we need to grab quick food on occasion or once in awhile have a nice date dinner out 🙂

    • says:

      I agree with you Kimberly–its totally worth it. Date nights are a non-negotiable for us as a married couple and it’s something we’re committed to continue to do regulary to keep our marriage a top priority especially once our baby gets here and our family grows! We can definitely find less expensive ways to go out on dates {and we have fun doing that and being creative} but we don’t plan on cutting that part of our budget anytime soon! 🙂

      • Kimberly S. says:

        Absolutely – now that we do have a baby, date nights are so important! I don’t mind keeping the cost down and doing other things for dates, but it’s also the one time a week when I get a real baby break too…so I usually prefer not to cook for real that night 😛

        • Rebecca says:

          I feel it is worth the money to go out on monthly date nights with my husband. Nurturing our marriage relationship is really important for the well-being of our family. We find cost effective ways of doing this by signing up for birthday clubs on websites of restuarants we like and getting b1g1 coupons for eating out. We sometimes will eat dinner at our house and then go out for icecream and a walk together.

    • says:

      That was a huge thing for us to look at the budget and realize that every spare cent was going toward “treating ourselves” to eating out! And those “cents” added up to an absolutely RIDICULOUS amount! It’s really embarrassing!

  • Jen says:

    When we do go out to eat, we generally frequent local family owned restaraunts. It makes me feel good to know that while it may be more pricey than me cooking at home, we are helping support other families and their businesses.

    • says:

      We too, frequent mom&pop restaurants. In addition to supporting other, generally the food is much, much better!

    • says:

      Depending on what you are making, sometimes it isn’t all that much less to cook at home. For small families, anyway.

  • Natalie says:

    We rarely eat out because we find that we really don’t enjoy it enough for the cost – and we prefer health food. We would rather do other things with the money.
    We invested in a nice cooler and containers (not even $75) a few years ago. We would rather stop at a rest stop and have a picnic/fresh air – than fast food. With hotels, we’ll get one with a kitchenette.

  • says:

    $10 for fast food and $30 at a restaurant – I wish! We rarely can spend less than $15 at fast food places and are lucky if we come in under $40 at a restaurant. I totally relate to this – there’s always an “excuse” for us to go out to eat. The big one of the last couple weeks has been “we are moving” which really translated into “I wasn’t prepared and didn’t plan ahead so that we don’t have to waste money going out to eat” 🙂

    • Wendy says:

      I hear what you’re saying. I have older kids (teens) who are too old and too hungry to order off the kids menu so we rarely eat out.

    • Kimberly S. says:

      My parents had 11 kids (no more than 9 at home at once), so we did not go out to eat often. But when we did, they usually managed to keep it within $20-25 by limiting 2 items per person and ordering off the dollar menus or getting the family deals (like getting two Taco Bell’s grande meals).

      With just my husband and I, we tend to do things like split a $5 foot-long from Subway or get a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s, or share a $5 Chinese take-out meal. If we’re still hungry we can supplement from home, but it helps if I’m not up to making a meal.

      Just some ideas to keep costs down and still “cheat” on meal planning 😉

      • says:

        Those are some good suggestions. We do order pizza once every month or two from Dominos. They do a large 3 topping $8.99 if you do carry out – then it’s definitely under $10 – but if we wanted to eat somewhat healthy and fast food it won’t be anywhere under that.

      • Susan says:

        It’s just my tween-age daugher and me in our little family, and we love the $5 foot-longs at Subway. They good, filling, and healthy. At least once a week we split one for dinner. The convenience is SO worth it for this single working mom.

    • Andrea says:

      I agree with Kristen. I can’t feed four people at a fast food restaurant for less than $15. If I try, they’ll be hungry again in an hour or two.

      • says:

        Great point! If we said that we only could get 2 items each from the dollar menu, it is very likely that at least some of us would be hungry again soon.

    • says:

      Kristen, I tried to lowball the figures because it really bugs me when people exaggerate their savings for effect 🙂 lol.

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  • Jessica H says:

    Great post! When we decided to pay our mortgage off we stopped eating out. We found that we really didn’t miss it as much as we thought we would. Better still our waistlines are trimmer and we have more energy because I know what goes into the food that I prepare at home. It isn’t for everyone, but it has helped us reach savings goals that seemed impossible at the time.

  • Shannon says:

    Well, I’m almost sorry to admit, but my family is one that dines out a LOT. I blame myself for it because I don’t really know how to cook and it’s just easier to go out. I can just call up the family & have them meet me somewhere after I’m off work.

    Our family needs to make some changes because we were looking at our credit card bills and we are spending way too much on dining out!

    • BethB says:

      Are you familiar with the Dinner A Love Story Blog?

      I’m currently reading a book she cowrote called Time For Dinner and they have a lot of strategies for getting dinner on the table. Even if you don’t cook I think this book would be really helpful. The recipes aren’t always frugal, in my opinion, and use a ton of meat but still cheaper than eating out!

    • Denise says:

      what kinds of things do you and your family like to eat? I cook most days for my husband and I but I don’t make anything elaborate or difficult and I am very frugal and I would LOVE to share recipe/dinner suggestions with you!!!

      • Shannon says:

        We don’t eat any fish or seafood meals because of allergies and we don’t really care for the taste. We love beef, chicken and pasta.

        I would love suggestions!

        • says:

          Here’s a few easy recipes for you:

          Super-easy Salsa Chicken:

          Cheeseburger Rice:

          This Pepperoni Pizza Pie is yummy, too:

          And you might like BBQ chicken sandwiches:

        • Denise says:

          One really easy thing I make we refer to as “Sloppy Joe Casserole”

          Ingredients:

          1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
          egg
          milk
          1 lb ground beef
          1 onion
          1 green pepper
          1 can sloppy joe sauce

          Brown your ground beef then add the sloppy joe sauce and the chopped green pepper and onion. Allow to simmer while you prepare the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix in a separate bowl per the directions on the box.

          Spray a 9 by 9 pyrex type glass pan with nonstick spray, pour in the sloppy joe mixture. cover with the corn muffin mixture. Bake in the oven at 375 for 15-20 mins or until the muffin mixture is golden brown. Your meat is already cooked so you basically just need to cook the muffin mix.

          I usually serve this with green beans (I cheat and use store bought canned when I’m out of fresh from the garden)

          I also make a lot of other things that are relatively easy. Feel free to email me at dlknee (at) gmail (dot) com!

    • says:

      Thank you for joining me in the shame-faced club, Shannon! The first step is realizing that there is a problem (like we did)…Now, go buy some chicken breast. You can do amazing things with it and it requires very little effort and know-how 🙂

    • Anna says:

      We have a major eating out problem, too. We keep attempting to make goals/change, and then we fail and are back to square one. I know we NEED to change. I appreciated the inspiration from this post.

  • Zena says:

    We eat out about twice a month. A restaurant near us has kids eat free Fridays, so for the 5 of us it comes to less than $20. To me, the extra $40 a month is money well spent for me to have those days that I don’t have to cook, serve, and clean up. I get to come home to a clean kitchen. Worth every.single.penny. to this mama! 🙂

  • Jay says:

    Thanks for sharing. I was always shocked how many kids would be heading for lunch at McDonald’s every day after preschool – both because of the $$ and the food! Picnic lunches are a must for us if we are going out for the day. Now that our kids have outgrown the kids meal ages, fast food for 4 runs around $25 and sit down around $50! Our teenage son especially can really put the food away!

    We do love to eat out though, and eating out on vacation is often necessary, so we’ve told our families to please give us restaurant gift cards rather than pajamas or knick knacks for Christmas. And my husband frequently gets “paid” in restaurant gift cards when he does free computer repair for friends.

  • Katie B. says:

    When we eat out we try to go some place where kids eat free or where our son can eat off our plates. We have cut back on the number of times a week we go out by meal planning, using the crock-pot, and freezer cooking. I was completely appalled by the amount of money we were spending on going out to eat and while we still go out more than many people, it has been a huge savings for us.

  • says:

    When my husband went back to grad school (15 yrs ago) we had to find $13K in 1 year, so one of the things we did was completely cut out eating out. It was tough, I was home with 3 little ones and #4 on the way and was exhausted. It was easier to say never eat out than to justify it sometimes. We made it work by packing a lot of picnics- especially for the children and I. Rather than meeting friends at McD for play time, I suggested a local park. I explained to the kids that the object was to have a play time with friends. I also told them that our friends might bring McD food, but we were packing ours. They understood and gladly ate pbj so they could play at the park. After 2 years of no resturant eating, we moved across the country and had to eat our every meal for 2 weeks!!! My youngest 2 had not even been to a restuant. At first it was such a treat, but quickly we were ready to have our kitchen back. Now, we eat our selectively. My husband treats me to a super nice ($$$) meal about 2x a year. I know we have budgeted for it and it is super special. We love to entertain in our home and do that much more than going out to eat with friends.
    Planning and just deciding are the keys! If you have little ones, keep snacks with you all the time!

    • says:

      Dee, I think that was the biggest thing for me. I had tried and tried to moderate our eating out and it never worked. The big break came when I gave it up completely for the 7+ weeks of lent. Quitting cold turkey was just what we needed 🙂

  • Jaclyn says:

    We eat out once a week at Chipotle. We split the burrito and sometimes get the chips/ guac. It’s $10 and something we look forward to every Sunday!

  • says:

    we are getting better about it..when we go to a sit down place, it’s 75-100 easy. (5 of us, including 2 teens), fast food is around $30. Although i do pack hubby a lunch everyday, i cant make him eat it. there are days when he still drops $6-$9 on fast food. (and then complains about the money flying out of his wallet ~rolls eyes~)

    we’ve cut down as a family to maybe one sit down restaurant dinner a month, twice at a fast food or pizza delivery.

  • Anon. says:

    Sometimes I go out to eat alone just so I don’t have to eat another meal alone. It’s better to be around people sometimes even if it means I have to swipe the card.

    • says:

      Anon, your comment gave me pause. I hope you don’t mind, but I am saying a little prayer for you right now. I totally get what you’re saying.

    • says:

      I understand exactly what you’re saying. I just addressed this today on my blog. right there with you sweetie!

      • Anon. says:

        I love it! Shew girl I’m 26 and getting my master’s, but life sure is lonely sometimes with all the girls in church getting married and pregnant they never want to hang out or do anything. Thinking of you and hope you meet you a nice man soon : )

  • Amy R. says:

    We originally cut out eating out as a health decision. Restaurant foods…even the low-cal options…are notoriously higher in fat, sodium, and calories. The change it made in our budget was an added bonus! As far as date night… We started a long time ago eating dinner at home with the kids, and then going out together to do something fun, often active, and often free. For instance, we love to play tennis. So a lot of times it dinner with the kids, then we go play tennis. Our oldest is old enough to stay with the little ones for a little while, so there’s no sitter cost.

  • sarah says:

    Those curly fries look so good it made me want to run to Arby’s for lunch instead of eating my sack lunch. But I’ll be disciplined and resist the urge.

  • I have been able to cut back on some of my many obligations and have returned to eating in most evenings. Could any of you share some picnic menus for dinner? My husband is a large man who likes to eat meat. I am a concerned wife who wants him to eat more fruits and veggies and a moderate amount of starchy carbs. I live in Southern California in an urban area close to municipal parks. Many of them offer free music performances in the early evening during the summer. I need ideas beyond sandwiches and chicken for picnic dinners. Please help! Thank you.

    • Lana says:

      Taco salad is something I have packed for my husband and myself. I keep the meat and chips separate with the meat in an insulated container to keep it warm. Put your lettuce and other items in a container for each of you and add the meat and chips and any condiments after you arrive at the park. This is easy to eat sitting in a chair because you only have the container and a fork.

    • Jen says:

      Pasta salad is easy to pack with veggies, and tastes great with some grilled chicken. You can also do an Asian noodle salad with peanuts and chicken. We like corn and black bean salad served with tortilla chips. Making your own roast beef is also easy to do, and cheaper and healthier than the stuff from the deli.

    • Andrea says:

      This is still chicken, but a large green salad with plenty of veggies and big serving of grilled chicken breast. You could also try a salad with diced ham, chopped egg and bacon bits.

  • Denise says:

    We do our best to only eat out once a week and I try to always have a coupon for our fave Mexican place in my purse. My husband and I can eat and have leftovers for about $15

    also, when you do eat out drink WATER! The price of pop has gone up so much that even if you get 2 refills for “free” you are still spending an insane amount just for a drink!

    It is helping us eat out less to have plenty of leftovers or freezer meals. Crystal your freezer burritos were a BIG hit and have saved me TONS of money because they are so easy for my husband to take to work for lunch!

    • Laura says:

      Or, you could do as my husband and I do, and share one Diet Coke (our favorite, especially at a fountain!). At McD’s or Baja Fresh it is only $1 and we refill at least once. Yes, I know it isn’t good for you, but it is still a taste that we love and crave occasionally. I usually drink water unless I can get the drink for $1 or less and then I go for it as a splurge for myself :).

  • J says:

    We promised no more eating out but have twice this year. We again have pledged no more this year and both us are determined to make it work. Each time it costs us $25 to $30 and that is money that can be put to better use. Sometimes it just gets so tiring preparing and eating at home and I long for a break from the cooking and cleanup. Once I get a grip on myself and remember to use our limited income wisely it passes.

    • says:

      Only twice this year is still a great improvement. Kudos to you for making a good change and sticking to it.

    • Laura says:

      Wondering if you could ask your spouse to do cooking once in a while to give you a break. Or, barring that, use a frozen prepared meal (like a lasagne or some of the frozen pasta dishes that you toss in a skillet and heat up.

      Or, if you have kids old enough, perhaps you could get some help from them. Or, get together with some neighbors to share duties and make multiple dishes that you trade so you have some meals prepared for you. Just some ideas. Good luck!

  • CJ says:

    I do eat out more than I probably should. But most of the time I use gift cards that I receive from Swagbucks and other rewards/survey sites and I almost always use coupons or order the cheapest items and dont order beverages. With my work schedule it’s a big time saver to eat out and not have to cook and clean up. Some days saving time is more important than saving money for me. Since I live alone I only have the expense of paying for my own meals and not a whole family, so eating out doesnt affect my budget much.

  • lori says:

    we have started a budget and I was IN SHOCK when I reliazed how much money we were spending each month on food (grocery and eating out) we’d spend $600 on groceries and $400 on eating out (2 adults and 1 teenager) and wondered why we were all over weight?! Now we’re down to $400 per month on groceries and NO eating out. We enjoy eat “out” on our back deck. Crazy!!!

  • says:

    The biggest thing I did to help us avoid the temptation of stopping for fast food on our way home from church is to make enough dinner on Friay and Saturday to have for leftovers on Sunday. With food at home that only needs to be heated up, this has saved us a lot of money!

  • Meredith says:

    We eat out one time a week. I allot 15 dollars per week. I know some people can’t eat out but we can afford this much and it’s something we really enjoy doing as a family. We are usually creative with what we do. We have a burger bar close that will cost us 10 or so for our family of three. We use a entertainment coupon (we get a book as a gift from parents every year) and we will split the Bogo meals three ways. Of course I look for coupons, buca di beppo always has a 10 dollar off 20 purchase. We also go out for breakfast on the weekends sometimes…bagels, waffles…..super cheap things. Some times we don’t go out that week and save the money. It works for us.

  • Marie says:

    While I agree eating at home is cheaper and healthier there are definitely ways to eat out on a strict budget. My family of 5 can usually order off the $1 menu at MCD’s for under $7. The kids each get a sandwitch or split one and spilt a fry and then my husband and I get a sandwitch and split the fries. I pack drinks, water bottles. Or even if we go to Olive Garden we can manage for under $25. We never buy the kids a meal. We adjust our meal to something we can share with them, which usually means asking for the sauce on the side. And we use coupons and go at lunch rather then dinner or ask for the lunch portion which is smaller and several dollars cheaper. We only get water to drink.
    Or if we go to chili’s we’ll go on a night the kids eat free, use a free appetizer coupon and share an meal like fajita’s.
    We used to eat out on Sundays after church but now I pack the kids lunch and they eat on the way home and then I make my husband and I something when we get home and kids are down for nap.
    If we are going out to parks or errands that will take hours I pack snacks and lunches. We just went to Mall of America yesterday and I just brought our small kooler and we ate lunch at a table in the food court. Also if we go on trips/vacations I will plan the meals and bring all the food. My kids are happy because it’s all the stuff they love and they rarely ask about eating out. At 5 they don’t even ask for kids meals because they know the toys are “junky.”
    I enjoy eating out but I also know there are ways to do it that are much more cost effective.

  • Lana says:

    I have been married for 34 years this weekend. I cooked and cleaned up three meals a day for most of those years and most of those were for 7 people. During that time we ate out maybe 3-4 times a year. Now that we are empty nesters and debt free we do eat out 3-4 times each week and we enjoy it SO much. I don’t feel a bit guilty! 😀

    • Crystal says:

      Sounds like you’ve earned it for all those years of making meals and cleaning up messy kitchens! 🙂

    • Wendy says:

      Congratulations! You deserve to enjoy some time away from the kitchen! 🙂

    • Amber says:

      Woo-Hoo! Enjoy it! 🙂

    • says:

      When my grandma turned 90 and moved into an assisted living center her big thing was not having to cook anymore! She was so excited. Her quote: “I cooked 3 meals a day for 71 years. That’s enough cooking!” She did eat out very occasionally, but she’s right. And she enjoyed every minute of having somone cook for her the next 6 years of her life.

      My parents were extremely frugal and we rarely ate out while I was growing up. Now that they are retired, they enjoy lunch out a couple times a week and a big brunch out with my aunt and uncle on Sundays after church.

      As Crystal says: You all have earned it!

      Cheers,
      Lea

  • Patti says:

    One way we avoid eating out on Sundays is to have simple meals after church instead of traditional “meat and three vegetables”. We make big breakfasts then or soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or big salads. Nothing ever takes too much time to fix. We then spend the rest of the day together as a family and we never eat a big meal on Sunday nights – usually use up leftovers or have something as simple as peanut butter and crackers. We have done this for years so it is our “family tradition” even though our parents think it is atrocious!! It has made Sunday a day of rest for all of us and we love it.

  • says:

    We eat out way too often. I’m a picky eater, so I don’t even enjoy it most of the time. My hubby, on the other hand, loves to try everything. I hate to blame it all on him …. but I must! LOL! 😉

  • ashley says:

    If you’re tempted to eat out after church on Sunday, make a point to do a little planning and invite someone different from church over every week for lunch. You can usually host extra people in your home cheaper than paying for your family’s meal out, you get to know your church family better! I bet there’s lots of other church goers in the same boat who will be relieved not to be tempted to eat out.

  • jerilyn says:

    We once met a couple that said they spent upwards of 1,000 dollars eating out per month. I almost died of shock as that’s almost what we made per month for years (or more than!). I usually try to do a crockpot meal on sundays because we get home from lunch starving! We also try not go to any stores on the Lord’s Day. For us, eating out is for very special occasions (like my son’s birthday tomorrow!), traveling (which we rarely do! and usually just to the grandparent’s house), and occasional date nights (definitely less than 6 per year).

  • says:

    I always keep a few “quick meals” in the fridge and freezers for those days I don’t feel like cooking. Like a bag of chicken nuggets and fries. I don’t put these on the menu, so that they are there for days when we are in a huge hurry.

  • says:

    This was a great post. The great thing about it is that eating out certainly is a luxury, and if you have no wiggle room in your budget it should be one of the first things to go. BUT if you do have wiggle room, I think eating out once in awhile – or weekly in our family’s case – is a wonderful thing! You can use coupons, gift cards or whatever, but ordering things that are not so easy to make at home and no clean up?! Yes please! My husband hates seafood but I love it, so when we get to go out I love to order fish and he doesn’t have to smell it cooking! 🙂

    • Stacy says:

      I agree with this. Eating out is definitely the first thing to go when $$ is tight, as it was for years. We budgeted a small “us” allowance each month and it usually allowed us to eat out once a month or less. Now that my husband has a job (instead of just me working) we are thrilled to be able to increase our “us” allowance a bit and eat out more often with friends. We enjoy little mom and pop restaurants- almost no chains. We usually split an entree and drink water which makes the $ stretch further while our waistlines don’t. 🙂 I look out for Groupons for interesting restaurants.
      We have friends who eat out or order in multiple times per week, or even per day. I don’t even want to know how much they spend.

  • says:

    We’re eating out quite a bit these days…but I remember that’s pretty on-par for my first trimester last time around. We do it pretty cheaply: stuff from the dollar menu at McDonald’s, one giant sub from Subway or the grocery store (then brought home to enjoy with fruits, veggies, chips, etc. from home), the occasional all-out splurge at Chipotle or the like…

    I’m finally starting to feel less exhausted and nauseous, so we’ll be back to eating in more, but we do enjoy eating out and don’t plan to completely strike it from our budget. Eating out and browsing the grocery store aisles for snacks (with money separate from the “regular” grocery budget). That is basically how we spend our entertainment money…and it works for us! 😀

    • Andrea says:

      Congratulations! I was there recently and am so thankful to be into my second trimester.

    • says:

      I was like that my entire last pregnancy (20 weeks of morning sickness and 23 weeks of bedrest). We were getting take out 3 times a week!!! At first I enjoyed eating out, but soon I (and my tummy) tired of it and I started craving healthy, homemade food. Usually, we consider eating out a luxury, and it’s more for the experience than for the food. But, we budget for eating out and it varies per month based on other expenses.

    • Katie says:

      I’m where you are. The picture actually made me crave Arby’s. I just haven’t felt up to cooking much lately after working for about 11 hours a day. So, I had my husband pick up Arby’s. I did fix our 3yo something at home. I will be in my second trimester soon, and I’m hoping to get some more energy. Right now, I usually only get a splurge of energy to cook/clean twice a week. My nausea has been better this week after I changed my prenatal vitamins. 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    Eating out costs a small fortune IMHO. One way we’ve dealt with it is something we just did today as a matter of fact. My kids wanted to go to McDonald’s. They think the happy meals are so much fun to get, and that’s okay with me. We don’t do it often, so I don’t mind. However, this week, it’s not in the budget at all and I told them this. Therefore I hit the stockpile closet, found brown paper lunch bags and let them color one for each other while I made nuggets and fries in the oven. I sliced a green apple and made “chocolate” milk in my to-go cups. When it was all done, I wrapped it in extra lunch bags I cut up to fit all the items in it and handed them off. They were thrilled to pieces, it cost me 0.00 oop and they love the bags. We’re keeping them again for the next “mommy please” lunch. I think next time we’ll take it to the park 😀

    • Stacey says:

      Great idea for moms with little ones!

    • says:

      That’s a fun idea! Love the idea of putting it in a bag. I bet my kids would even love a pb&j better in a decorated bag. Thanks!

    • Amie says:

      I LOVE this idea. I am a teacher with young children and one of our activities for when I’m home on breaks had been trips to McDs to get out of the house. My youngest son is two now so we’re able to do more activities – story time at the library, our local walking path, playing outside on the swing set, etc. My older son misses McDs, but mostly because he loves having his own bag of food. I am definitely going to do this. Maybe we’ll even make bagged lunches for our river walk. I love it!

    • says:

      Lisa, reading this brought tears to my eyes. You are such a good mother! A lot of moms would have said “no” and left it at that. I think it’s awesome that you went the extra step and made them mommy “mcdonald’s” instead. This made me very happy, and I’m sure it’s little things like this that your children will remember in the years to come!

  • Vickie says:

    My husband doesn’t cook so eating out once in a while is his way of “cooking” and giving me a break. We make sure we have a coupons in hand or we sign up with the local deal sites and get a good deal on resturants.

  • Stephanie says:

    I used to love to eat out on Sundays after church, but I started using the crockpot and I know like coming home to the good smell throughout the house. Plus I don’t want to take 4 tired kids out to lunch when they would rather be taking naps. I have found a little prep work makes it easy to get lunch in the crockpot– I precook the meat, prechop carrots and celery and onions (and keep them in the freezer). I usually have some bread in the freezer I can use to round out the meal. Or I choose recipes that use some processed ingredients (salad dressing, canned soup, etc.)– it is still cheaper and healthier than going out but makes it a little easier for me.

  • dorothy says:

    Wee easy spend around $150 a week eating out and/or doing take out for our family of 4. Friday’s are usually pizza/wing night ($30-35) and Saturday is our family night out($60-70 after tip) and Sunday is whatever take out we are feeling ($20-$30). Plus at least one night a week I am getting my girls Mc. Donalds or stopping for ice cream ($10-15). When you look at the big picture thats $600 a month x 13 (counting the extra 4 weeks). About $8000 a year and there are special occasions where we go and spend $100 + on a nice meal. It may sound crazy but thats where we like to put our $$. We do 1 real vacation a year and buy all our clothes at Old Navy and Justice for the girls. I coupon like crazy and am always scoring freebies so things that we would spend money on we don’t and use that money to eat..

  • says:

    Post-church Sunday lunch is hard on me, too. That’s the meal I plan before any of the weeknight dinners, just to be sure that it’s settled. After that lunch I start getting ready for the week ahead so knowing that it’s not going to be an issue brings me a lot of peace!

    We enjoy eating out and have in the past budgeted to do so as often as 4X a week. Now we’re looking to move that money elsewhere in the budget and one way that I found to make the transition easier was to increase my grocery budget. I know that sounds counter-intuitive! Basically, for a family to eat out 4 times (or more) per week, the grocery budget was artificially low. But by increasing my money-saving activities (coupons, etc.) as well as the overall budget for groceries, I was able to not only make those extra 12 dinners per month, but also expand my cooking repertoire. We know eat fish tacos at home as well as dal and rice, dan dan noodles, kabobs, and so many other things that formerly were restaurant-only foods.

    • says:

      Marsha, I completely agree with this! When I first stopped eating out, I would give myself permission to have a little grocery “splurge.” We rarely eat steaks because of the cost, but on a night that we would have eaten out otherwise, I felt good about spending the $7 on 2 cheap steaks since it was still much less than eating out.

  • Heather T. says:

    We rarely eat out, not only does this save money for our family its really just so unhealthy to always “grab” something, even if you think you are getting the healthier of options, I know on the rare occasions we eat out it takes days for everyone to feel better, just saying its one more for eating at home. I just had our fourth child and my older 3 and daddy were looking forward to the day because they had their fast food menus planned weeks in advance! I know too many people who spend what to me is a small fortune on bad food just to save a few minutes. A menu plan is crucial for anyone that feels overwhelmed in the time crunch for meals.

  • kat says:

    I need some suggestions with making my boyfriend’s lunch. I make him a meal before he goes to work but he eats out for his lunch and after work EVERYDAY! He eats a TON and I’m worried about his health. He is only 140 pounds at 6′ 1″ but i know it isn’t healthy for him to eat this way. I tried to make him a lunch for work but he doesn’t like to put his food in the work fridge so just ends up throwing it out. He doesn’t eat fruits or veggies and claims to be allergic to them?? I need some healthy lunch suggestions that will stay cool in the car and keep him full so he won’t have to eat fast food. So far peanut butter sandwiches (yes, he doesn’t eat jelly either!) is all that he will eat that i make him for lunch because i keep them cool by leaving them in freezer before work. But he gets tired of these everyday, so i can really use your suggestions so we can save money and his health. thanks 🙂

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