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Easy Ways to Dine Out Less

Feb 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Debra Caffrey
With inflation and the price of groceries these days, many folks may feel like throwing their hands up about home cooking and head to a restaurant instead. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice meal out or picking up some fast food after a long day. But make no mistake about it–dining out is still drastically more expensive than preparing your own food, especially when you consider that the price of a meal out is meant to cover overhead and a profit on top of the food cost. Simply put, even with rising grocery costs, cooking and eating at home is still your biggest surefire way to save money long term.

So how can you commit to dining out less and cooking more when it’s seemingly so much easier to do the opposite? Here’s how to get started:

  • Determine Triggers: Keep track of what usually compels you to give in to the idea of eating out. Is it laziness? Overwhelm? Busyness? Change cannot happen without awareness.
  • Track Expenses: If you eat out and get takeout often you simply may not be aware of how much it’s adding up. Face the fear and reality by tracking every penny you spend fora month to really see what you are spending. Don’t forget the Doordash and other delivery fees!
  • Start with Counter intuitiveness: Actually incorporate convenience meals or takeout into your meal plan by anticipating what nights you’ll likely need them most. Then try your best to prepare easy meals at home or in advance for the rest of the week. For instance, if it’ll be impossible to cook Thursday due to sports and driving duties, it’s OK to run to a drive through that night if you can commit to setting up the crock pot or making a casserole the other busy nights to offset the cost.
  • Keep it Simple: When you’re trying to change habits, start small and easy to increase success. If you dine out a lot because you hate cooking or lack skills, there’s nothing wrong with boxed pasta and a bagged salad for dinner. There’s little technique involved in serving grilled cheese and canned tomato soup, but it gets the job done.
  • Indulge Wisely: Using coupons, BOGOs, Attraction book deals, “kids eat free” nights and other deals are great ways to still enjoy eating out and save a little money. Looking at menus in advance and signing up for a restaurant’s loyalty club can help too. 

Finally, here’s a huge motivation for you to stay focused on being more conservative with dining out: the average household spends about $3,500 a year on eating out. Even if you can improve your habits to reduce that by one third or half, think of what else you can spend that money on! Set a long-term goal to put all the money you’ll be saving towards, like Christmas or a family vacation, and then make it happen!

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