One of the most common new year's resolutions I hear from my friends and family is that they want to spend less money going out to eat. The average American spends about $3,000 a year eating out and I know plenty of people who spend much more than that. This is especially true if you include the increasing use of food delivery services. With most healthcare professionals facing hectic schedules, its easy to see why they would fall into the trap of going out to eat more often than they should. If you just worked a few 12 hour shifts in a row and you finally have a day off, it's understandable that you don't feel like grocery shopping and cooking dinner. My wife and I were susceptible to this habit all too frequently before we really started tracking just how much eating out was costing us. The fact the we enjoy the occasional glass of wine while we are eating out at restaurants doesn't help. Luckily, there are still ways to indulge the foodie in you while still saving money.
4 Ways to Be a Frugal Foodie
1. Make Your Coffee at Home
No, I am not one of those financial advisers who believes that giving up your daily coffee at Starbucks will help you retire years earlier. But I do believe if you are getting coffee and breakfast 5 or more times per week that money can really add up and could be put to better use elsewhere. The extra money you save by making your morning cup of joe at home can be put towards other things that bring you more happiness such as a special meal out on occasion. Living in Forida, I have no desire for hot coffee so I started making my own cold brew at home a few years ago. Not only does it save me a ton of time since I'm not having to wait in line at the local coffee shop drive-thru, one batch costs me about $5 and lasts the entire week. The cherry on top is that I think it tastes as good as if not better than anything I would pay for at a coffee shop.
2. Meal Prep and Cook at Home More Often
Once you have the basic necessities for cooking at home such as olive oil, flour, spices, etc. your grocery bill won’t be high as high when you meal prep. Prepping ahead saves you time at the grocery store (and also helps prevent arguing with your significant other in the grocery aisles because you can't agree on what to buy for dinner). Cooking at home will save you money, but this doesn’t mean you can never eat out again. Instead, tell yourself that you will meal prep and cook at home five to six nights a week and treat yourself to a dinner out with friends or family on the nights that you aren't cooking. Once you start cooking at home more often you may also find that when you try making a new recipe that comes out great, you get a higher sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from the meal because you made it yourself, as opposed to ordering it at a restaurant.
3. Give Up The Extras
Just because you go out to dinner doesn’t mean you have to order multiple drinks, a lavish desert, and numerous appetizers. In other words, you can still eat out but just make some more frugal choices when you order. If you stick to one main entree, you can keep your eating out spending more under control and still enjoy the experience of eating out.
4. Look at The Restaurant Prices in Advance
This tip is crucial to saving money when eating out. If you are someone who has to eat out from time to time but you don’t want to break the bank, make sure to check out the menu ahead of time to make the best choices on what to order once you arrive. This can also help you decide what restaurants to frequent. Maybe you look at the menu ahead of time and realize that the entree prices are a bit out of your budget. That gives you the chance to make a financially smart decision and choose to eat at a restaurant where the entrees are more reasonably priced.
Proclaiming that you’ll never eat out again to save money is slightly unrealistic. The good news is, you don’t have to give up eating out entirely to save major cash. Most Americans eat commercially prepared meals about four times a week. If you make just two of these meals at home instead, you save $936 – almost $1,000 a year!2
The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.