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How Often Do You Visit McDonald’s?!?!

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As a family of 6, we don’t dine out often – fast food or restaurants. Before we moved, we were dining out once per month at a restaurant. It was always scheduled on a Wednesday to avoid crowds, always something we looked forward to. I understand this isn’t common. Most families have two working parents and when Chris and I were both working, we definitely went out more…mostly due to lack of energy.

Lately, we’ve been swinging by fast food once per week. I hate the expense and I hate how unhealthy it is but when I’m working long days in the office and Chris is working on renovating the house while homeschooling, we just don’t have time to make a meal every day. We meal prep on Sunday’s but even then, it seems like we are consistently missing cooking at least once.

I was beating myself up about it a bit while budgeting this month. We spent over $200 on fast food which is WAY over our usual. I had to steal from other categories to cover the shortage. It got me curious to see what other folks are doing. Did you know that the average American eats out 5.9 times per week!?!? People in Texas spend $2,656 per year, on average, on dining out. Holy moly friends! How on earth can people afford that?!?

Here’s the thing, for a moment, I thought, “Sweet, I’m normal. I’ve got nothing to worry about.” WRONG! The average American also carries credit card debt, has car loans, has very little in savings, isn’t prepared for retirement, and isn’t prepared for an emergency.

Don’t be average. Don’t be normal. Be better.

We’ve probably got a couple more months of elevated spend and the reality is, that’s life. There needs to be flexibility. BUT, don’t let these blips be permanent. Don’t accept this as your new normal. Don’t be normal. Be better.


33 Comments

  • Reply Anon |

    I mean, you say yourself you usually have your life structured to avoid eating out and now you don’t so you are. If you were still a two income family and spent $2500 a year on eating out you’d still come out financially ahead. Which is fine – you don’t want to and that’s great. Life isn’t about maximizing money. But conversely, other folks have different priorities and values than you and that’s also not wrong. Their life isn’t about about maximizing money either.

    Personally I go to McDonalds basically never but I do like to try new restaurants and support local businesses and eat types of cuisines I can’t make at home. I’m happy to spend money on that.

    • Reply Beks |

      You are absolutely correct. That said, how many folks who eat out that much are debt free? My coworkers complain about student loans and credit card debt yet they go out to Whataburger regularly. It’s terrible on the pocketbook if it’s something you can’t afford.
      The other piece to this is the health ramifications. I tried to get a salad at McDonalds and they don’t sell them anymore. People don’t generally buy healthy foods at fast food.

      • Reply Hp |

        We eat out and am debt-free. We have been debt-free for over twenty years (exception of mortgage for 8 years). You would be aghast at our eating out bills. However, it fits in our parameters and we still save over 20% of our income after taxes/retirement/sinking funds for “future goals.” There is no one way to being debt-free, just as there is no one way to most of life’s decisions. If you are going to rely on anecdotal evidence, I’ll provide another n=1 on the other side. (Best guess is I am roughly your age with a few kids for demographic purposes).

        • Reply Beks |

          I absolutely agree with you. Once you are debt free, have an emergency fund, and are investing in retirement, God bless ya, enjoy the meals out! You earned it!
          The issue I have is that most folks carry debt, have low savings, and not enough in retirement. In those cases, yeah, I’m a bit ‘judgy’ on financial decisions.

  • Reply Lori |

    We recently had some changes in our house that have meant the adults aren’t as available for making meals. We instituted a meal calendar for the month. I have three kids of varying ages but the youngest is 11. All have to identify and make a meal once a week. They fill it out before the month starts so we have the groceries on hand.

    This has been a game changer for us. My kids are learning skills. We have admittedly had to help them lots to get started and are eating way more hot dogs and breakfast for dinner than I would like. But it has been a huge help. We have a dedicated leftover day, so that means my husband and I only need to get three dinners on the table a week and two of them can be on the weekend.

    • Reply Beks |

      Oh my goodness! This is the best idea ever!!! Our kids are a little on the young side for this but I bet we could ease them into the idea if we started now!

  • Reply cdsx |

    That 5.9 sounded really high to me initially, but I was immediately assuming a full dine-in experience, thinking about it more I suppose it’s more reasonable if you’re including grabbing lunch out at work or a coffee in the morning.

      • Reply csdx |

        Like I said depends on how it’s counted, but after consideration it’s not something I think of as ‘bonkers’. If once a week I buy a coffee, get lunch out, buy a snack, then that’s already 3 times ‘eating out’. Certainly as a parent with small children, eating out for dinner is a much bigger production, but in my younger days, a weekly hang out with friends or going on a date was pretty common. Even with all that, I had a dining out budget which didn’t feel bonkers. Honestly if you’re looking for the most bonkers things Americans throw money away at I’d wager it’s trucks and cars.

        Also after reading your other comments, I think you’re ascribing too much value to ‘homecooked’ meals. Even at the average of 6 meals out, that’s still at least 15 at home. Issues with obesity are more about diet as a whole than just the small fraction of meals eaten outside the house.

  • Reply Anon |

    I think one thing you’re not accounting for is that average does not equal median. You don’t know if folks with the median debt are eating out the “average” number of times or if outliers are skewing those numbers. Anyway, given that you are currently finding yourself in a tough situation where you don’t feel like you have a ton of choice but to eat out, maybe that could give you some compassion for folks who are in a similar situation but on a long-term basis.

    You might also consider trying local places in your new home rather than just doing fast food. Probably not much more if you choose the right places but FAR better.

    • Reply Beks |

      I would agree with you…but I can’t. Every day I pack my lunch and bring it to work. Every day I watch my coworkers buy lunch. These are the same folks who complain about the shackles of debt.

  • Reply Sandra |

    Beks, if you have a chance, check out 100 Days of Real Food on Facebook. The site is run by a woman from Charlotte. She talks about switching her family to more healthy food. Also, she tells about teaching her two daughters how to make one or more meals a week. She also has published several cookbooks. ‘Informative website well worth your time.

  • Reply Sadie |

    How about not looking down on people for making decisions different than you? The holier-than-thou attitude gets old. You’ve admitted to making spending mistakes of your own (overbuying from Amazon, etc.), so why shame others for the same thing?

    • Reply Beks |

      When folks repeatedly make unhealthy decisions financially and physically, yeah, I call them out. When the majority of the country is a financial mess and obese, yeah, I’m going to suggest we try to make better decisions. I’m unapologetic about that.

      • Reply Klm |

        What BMI do I have to have for you to not judge me for eating out sometimes? If I’m fat and rich is it ok?

        • Reply Beks |

          If you are eating out 6 times a week, it’s extremely unlikely to be healthy. Im not going to pretend that, on average, food not made at home is healthy. There’s a reason McDonald’s stopped selling salads. Hint: it’s because people are more interested in a Big Mac. I don’t care if you have a healthy BMI. Eating out 6 times a week isn’t good. If you feel judged by that, maybe you should ask yourself why. If you would like to claim that the average person that eats out 6 times a week makes good food choices, we both know that’s untrue.

          • Sara |

            The six times a week could be sandwiches and coffee. You are making a lot of assumptions and being incredibly judgmental, then being really defensive when people point that out to you. This is not a good look. I hope if you ever have a situation with health issues that cause you to gain weight or time stressors that make you eat out more people show you more grace then you are showing them.

          • Beks |

            No, I’m not making assumptions. There are far more fast food places filled with unhealthy food than sandwich shops. It’s because that’s predominantly what we eat. Let’s stop pretending there are lots of folks drinking skinny lattes and eating kale salads (despite the fact that kale salads are legit delicious).
            I said that in the short term, it’s totally fine but, on average, dining out 6 times a week is unhealthy financially and physically.

          • Klm |

            Let’s not pretend that you’re not a sanctimonious hypocrite. Your bad choices are all ok because they’re not as bad as other people’s. Let’s look down on people whose financial decisions affect you approximately 0% and then do a quick pivot to some fat shaming. Why don’t you ask yourself why you think it’s ok to judge other people?

          • Beks |

            Saying folks should eat healthy homemade food since it’s good for them physically and financially is a bad thing? We live in super weird times.

      • Reply Kerry |

        You can’t bootstraps yourself out of everything when the minimum wage is $7.25, when the right skills/credentials/place/time formula is a crapshoot, and the cost of education, healthcare and housing has risen astronomically.

      • Reply Sadie |

        So do you call out these unhealthy financial and physical decisions to your new coworkers’ faces, or do you just snark on them behind their backs on the internet? What they eat for lunch and what they do with their money is none of your business. The more comments you add, the more insufferable you sound.

        • Reply Beks |

          I’m so confused. Saying make good choices is offensive these days. I’ll remember that next time all of you jump on Hope. If you make good choices and encourage others to do the same, people jump on you. If you make bad choices people jump on you. There is no winning.

  • Reply Anon |

    It sounds like you live in particular types of places. I promise you, if you work in a downtown office building in a major city, you will see plenty of people buying salads five times a week for lunch and many more places with healthy options than places like McDonalds. Those all go into the statistics too. But at any rate, I suspect you know less about people’s lives than you think you do.

  • Reply Denise |

    I don’t understand the hate you are getting for this post. You state facts: Americans eat out too much and are in debt. Study after study shows that folks spend more money eating out than if they cook at home. Study after study also shows that as a rule restaurant meals are larger and less healthy than those we cook at home. So it goes without saying that anyone who wants to cut debt/expenses, keep calorie intake at a healthy level, or make healthy choices in food probably aren’t eating out six times a week.

    • Reply Nancy |

      Denise is correct. I’ve noticed when people get angry over being told facts about eating out or obesity, often they are obese and don’t want to cook themselves.

So, what do you think ?