Prior to 2009, we had no idea how much we were spending on prepared food until I sat down and added it up. I was shocked.
From January to December of 2008, we spent over $4,800 on fast food, pizza and dining out at local restaurants and that’s only the transactions I was able to go back and track using our credit card statements and the check book register. I have no idea how much more than that was spent when we paid with cash.
I know that is a lot, but to put it in perspective, we had all seven kids at home. A trip to Taco Bell could run us $40, and if we went to Applebee’s, the bill was over a $100 before gratuity.
At that time we were doing our part to support the credit card industry, and we really didn’t think much about spending that kind of money because it really wasn’t like spending real cash.
I am really good at justifying things, however, in ten years that is almost $50,000. That is a crazy amount of money to spend on something that your body digests and discards in 24 hours.
I could say we were doing our part to keep the economy moving, but the truth is we did it because it was convenient. We did it because we forgot to pull something out of the freezer.
That one always gets me. I have never missed a meal, no really I haven’t. So how did two of us forget to thaw something for dinner? How did we forget that in ten hours we were going to be hungry?
Planning your meals
You can stop eating or only eat every other day, but I don’t recommend it. However, I do recommend you create a monthly meal plan. Don’t worry it only takes about 30 minutes a month to do.
We create our monthly meal plan 30 days before the month begins. So by January 1st my wife has already written the meal plan for February.
This allows me a full month to shop and buy the things when they are on sale or when I have a coupon.
The absolute best way to save the most is to create a stock pile of basic food items when they are on sale. You can use these inexpensive meals to fill in some of the days on your meal plan. The more of your plan you can create from your pantry or freezer the more you will save.
I know people that stop at the store everyday on their way home from work to pick up something for dinner. Although this is better than eating out, it is the most expensive way to eat at home.
If you are that type of person, you are spending way too much time and money at the supermarket; you might want to get a hobby!
The problem with shopping daily is that you are forced to pay the full retail price for just about everything you buy, plus you are probably shopping hungry, which studies have shown is a bad idea.
I know what you are saying, but Tom… I shop daily and I only buy what is on sale! Maybe you do, but I’m sure you occasionally pick up items that are not on sale because you probably get tired of eating canned ravioli’s, Wheat Thins and frozen pizzas.
I also know that sometimes you don’t feel like going to the grocery store, so you just grab a carry out from a favorite restaurant.
Once your meal plan is done, hang it on the refrigerator and glance at the meal plan each morning. Pull out whatever it is you need from the freezer and let it thaw or start the crock pot.
Reducing the amount of money you spend eating out really is that simple.
If all of this is too much for you, I get it. Start out small by creating a weekly meal plan. That alone will reduce the number of times you eat out and the amount of money you spend on prepared foods.
How much are you spending eating out? Leave a comment below or head over to Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation.