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Finances & Money Frugality

Cut Restaurant Spending and Learn to Love Dining In

(Guest Post by Shane of WeWearKhakis.com)

A few weeks ago, I was let go from my job. Since then, my wife and I have kicked into ultra frugal mode. If we do not need it, we simply do not buy it. While we have seen cuts in all areas, the place where we really noticed the cut was in our food spending. I was balancing my checkbook this past weekend and noticed just how fewer debits there were than only a few weeks back when I was working. I started investigating a bit and realized, all these cuts were primarily on convenience food spending.

A long time ago (about the time I had my first child) my wife and I stopped most fancy restaurant dining (as in anything more expensive than $5 footlongs). The dining experience was simply too expensive, the food generally too greasy or salty, and the effort of dragging a baby into a restaurant way too stressful. So we started eating in a bit more. Instantly, all that cash I had previously worried about finding to pay for diapers and other baby stuff emerged from the savings of not eating out!

But eventually, we started eating in more and more. The shift was partly due to the stress of dealing with our two young children after long days at work, and partly just laziness. While we were definitely not spending as much dining in on subs and sandwiches, carry out BBQ, or “Take and Bake” pizzas from Costco, we were spending more than we needed on convenience food.

Since cutting out the carry out restaurant and convenience foods, I have made some great realizations and changes. Meals do take more time to prepare (but I’m unemployed so I don’t care!), and I have discovered a few other nice side effects.

My Meals are Healthier

When I make a pot of chili, I drain all the fat off the ground beef before adding it to the mix. When I cook a pizza, I opt for lower fat cheese or turkey pepperoni. When I make my own sandwiches, I go light on the mayo and eat whole grain wheat bread that my local sub-shop doesn’t offer. When I cook for myself, I can also throw in more veggies, more chicken, and less crap.

Think of all the calories I’m saving. I am also burning quite a few calories in the process of preparing the meal while simultaneously keeping my three year old from killing the baby too.

My Meals lead to More Meals

Some people are picky about left-overs, but I think they are awesome. I’ve found a new love for meals that I can eat for days, especially meals cooked in slow cookers. When you buy prepared convenience food, you’re typically buying one meal at a time, which is one of the less obvious reasons why it is so expensive.

I also learned a neat trick of using leftovers in stews and soups later. A plate of delicious leftover turkey/hamburgers makes a great base for soup later on and leftover chicken breast makes awesome chicken salad for the next evening.

Meal Preparing Time is Family Time

Cooking with my three year old is not exactly akin to taking the path of least resistance, but it really does provide a rewarding and fun experience for both my daughter and me. Since I have started cooking with her, I have quickly become the good parent in the house and eating our creations is always a ton of fun.

With any luck, by the time my little girl is eight, I’ll have her trained up well enough so that she can handle cooking all the meals while I take it easy and watch my afternoon reruns of Seinfeld.

Cooking Can Easily Double as a Hobby or Passion

I would never consider eating out a hobby or passion, but cooking has quickly become both for me. Once you take the dive into the culinary arts, you realize just how much technique, art, and science is involved. My new favorite chef is Alton Brown. I love his mix of science with Good Eats!

And while most hobbies cost you money and give you little to walk away with after the fact, you actually benefit greatly from this hobby. Plus, you have to eat anyway, might as well make it delicious and fun.

Being a Good Cook Makes for a Sexy Guy

Since really learning to cook and fine tuning my skills, I have noticed every woman who dines on one of my delicious creations instantly wants my body. It is no joke. Men who are genuinely good cooks are sexy. My sister in law swoons over me, my wife’s friend’s giggle with joy as they subconsciously touch my arm lightly every time they taste one of my delectable sauces, and my relationship with my wife has been completely reinvigorated since I started becoming a ninja in the kitchen.

Being a good cook is sexy, and women love it- so learn to cook.

Conclusion

Why not make the effort become a master chef in your own right? You’ll be eating better, endlessly learning, building stronger relationships with your family or maybe even helping out your sex life in the process. You will also be saving tons of cash not eating out! So get in that kitchen and get to work.

Have any tips or comments of your own? Let’s hear them in the comments!

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Shane writes for www.WeWearKhakis.com – a site about life at work, personal finance, self improvement projects, and how to have a fulfilling life on a budget.  Check out his site and learn how you can be an awesome guy or gal in Khakis too!

About the author

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5 Comments

  • Hi Shane,

    I wrote the guest post before yours, and we too cut our grocery bills by over 50%! I was a-m-a-z-e-d that we could do so. And ironically, we eat a lot healthier because of it. You didn’t mention grocery shopping sales and couponing, which I now do like a fiend, but it gets to be a rush in and of itself — watching a $120 grocery bill spin down to $55! I will say this, though, that after months of NO splurging, we felt sorry for ourselves. I highly recommend signing up for restaurant.com emails. Quite often, they’ll sell $25 gift cards for just $2. I pounce on those so we can still have the OCCASIONAL night out without breaking the bank. Good article — thanks for sharing.

  • It’s so easy to just swipe your debit card when your out and want to grab something quick and easy, but this is a deadly habit! When I look at my bank statement and my jaw drops, I almost always figure out that I have spent way more then I had thought on food and drinks outside of my home. It does take a little more effort to plan out meals and prepare them during the week, but it is certainly THE best way to cut down on spending. I love to make trips to Costco or Sam’s with a definite list in my hand of what I am going to buy. Knowing what you want, how much, and what you’re going to do with it in the near future is an easy planning process that will save you tons! Premeditating future meals will make the difference between “I don’t feel like it, let’s just order something”, and “already got it covered!”

    and you’re right, women love a man who knows their way around the kitchen! 🙂

  • My hubby is a whiz in the kitchen and that may be a part of why I married him. Totally sexy!
    He has been unemployed as well, and we have discussed the option of when he does find a job, to see if we can live simply and make it with him working part-time. When we both worked full time our lives were so hectic and we constantly ate out. Our savings on food alone might make up for the income difference of working 30 hours a week vs. 40. And the family time is the best!

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