Throughout my pregnancy and after I had my daughter in August 2021, our family has been eating out entirely too much. I’m talking about nearly every day a meal is eaten from a drive-thru or takeout. It’s insanity! I know it is, but it is also so difficult to not do, especially with us both working full-time and being FT stay-at-home parents. At the end of the day, the last thing either of us wants to do is cook.
Similarly, if we have busy work days, it might be easier to run through the drive-thru at lunch rather than cook something here or stop and make something (at least that’s what we’ve been telling ourselves). However, I decided to sit down and take a look at the numbers so that my husband and I could discuss them and come up with a plausible solution.
Hashing Out the Numbers
In all honesty, it’s a bit embarrassing to say how much we’ve been spending on eating out. Most of the time, a meal out is anywhere from $30 to $50 for our family of three. If we are having said meal delivered, tack on another $10-$15 in delivery fees and tips.
If we eat out for lunch and dinner (which has happened more than I’d like to admit), we are spending up to $120 per day on food alone. Most of the time, there is food in the house that we could be eating. We either don’t want it or are too exhausted to put together the meal after a long day.
There was one week when we spent $500 just eating out. I sat down with my husband to go over the numbers and he was floored. We are spending at least $1,000/month in just fast food, delivery, etc. If we put this towards our debt, savings, and other financial goals it would make a HUGE difference.
So, what are we doing to fix it?
Sticking to a Meal Plan
Another thing we’ve struggled with in the past is sticking to the meal plan. My hubby is a picky eater, while I am not picky at all. He won’t eat any vegetables outside of corn (if that even counts). When we are trying to eat healthier, most of the time he just has a piece of meat on his plate. That is frustrating for me, especially as the person who cooks in the family.
Additionally, his reaction when I tell him what’s for dinner drives me crazy sometimes – lol.
That being said, we need to stick to a meal plan to get past our eating out too much. We’ve been fairly successful with this this week, but we had to include a lot of easier meals that don’t require a lot of putting together – sandwiches, pasta dishes, and healthy “on the go” snacks.
Ideally, I would meal prep twice a week but neither of us are a huge fan of leftovers and that feels like you’re just eating leftovers for days on end. So, the answer for us (I think) will be to find easier meals for most of the week and plan a nicer meal to make on Friday or Saturday. We are limiting our eating out to a single meal per week – and hopefully down to no meals out in the near future.
This has been a serious struggle for us because eating out is almost always less work (for me, especially). What aspects of spending do you struggle with? Any tips for our family?
Amanda Blankenship is the Director of Social Media for District Media. In addition to her duties handling everything social media, she frequently writes for a handful of blogs and loves to share her own personal finance story with others. When she isn’t typing away at her desk, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, husband, and dog. During her free time, you’re likely to find her with her nose in a book, hiking, or playing RPG video games.
Obviously it’s a significant amount of money but if you’re paying nothing in childcare and both working full time, something has to give at some point. Going from every meal out to nothing seems a little extreme given the circumstances.
Thanks for your comment! That’s definitely how it feels (extreme). There are some days where we get off work and the very last thing we want to do is cook/clean. Most of the time, we just want to get more time in with our little one.
so my husband too, is the picky eater. 2 things we have done that have REALLY helped in this area is: First, me to him: fine, you’re going to be picky and snarky at all my meals, you do it all. you meal plan, you shop, you prep, you serve me; 3 meals per day + dessert + snacks. That lasted about 3 weeks (he’s stubborn) and we agreed to co-do everything, and, most importantly, the snarky comments stopped because he saw how much work it was. (we now trade out weeks that align with our schedules and then do everything for that week individually, but for the family….so like this week i’m in charge of all meals+extras since i have a lighter workload and next week he will do it all)
The second is calorie counting. We don’t diet or cut anything out, we just keep our calorie count at or right below the daily recommended. We do NOT count fruits or vegetables towards this calorie count. this has made us both up our veggies & fruits, since we don’t have to log them – the simple act that we don’t have to log it, makes us keep the veggies going, and we even omit a lot of ingredients (extra butter or olive oil or dressing) just because logging suuuuuuucks. lol maybe it would work for you guys too. good luck!
That is a good idea!! My husband offers to do the grocery shopping sometimes – but he does not shop around. Once, while living in Atlanta, he came home with a $25 pack of chicken breast. I was in awe at how he thought that was the normal price of chicken. He also won’t compare prices while there. He will just grab whatever he sees off the shelf. Our grocery bill doubled some of the weeks where I was too sick to get to the store. But I think having a few things on the menu every week that he can make would be a great idea – and possibly grocery delivery in our future.
I am counting calories and monitoring sodium and carb counts each meal due to some health issues. I’ve been trying to maintain some sort of healthy diet to see if my symptoms improve. Maybe having him do the same will help us be on the same page there too.
My husband is like this too Amanda. One thing that helps – I hate grocery shopping – is doing an online pickup. We have Shaws here and the app is great, you can shop sales and they target coupons to you. So I can do the order and either one of us pick it up, and we avoid the “I went to the store for two things and spent $60” issue.
Yes! I think I’m going to start doing that. I’ve had a lot of people suggest it and I think it’s time to give it a real try.
I came up with a four week long meal plan for dinners to continually rotate through, to take the thinking out of the process. That’s really helped. There’s six meals for each week, then Friday we either get takeout or delivery or heat up a frozen pizza, so I get one night off of cooking each week. It was hard to think of all the meals at first, but now I don’t have to think about it at all.
My husband’s a picky eater too, although not quite as much as yours, it sounds like. I want my kids to be less picky, so I often cook meals where my husband only eats the meat and carbs, but the kids and I eat the veggies. I also get looks from him with some of my choices, especially when I cook a vegetarian meal. You can only do so much around a picky eater, and you should get to eat more variety sometimes too.
I think I’ll try coming up with a larger four-week menu. Much of the problem is I try and figure it out on Monday or Wednesday before I head to the grocery store and draw a blank. So, this may actually help!!
I sneak pureed veggies into tomato sauce and salsa (two things he’ll actually eat). So, he doesn’t know that he’s getting some carrots in his tomato sauce or additional peppers in his salsa. My daughter, unfortunately, has started boycotting veggies as well, but I am hoping that’s just a phase since she’s only 1.5 years old.
I can totally see WFH and no childcare being main players here. DH and I both WFH and while we spend less on gas, our going out spend has increased significantly. So I think to tackle it you’re going to not just focus on the food issue but also the need to get out of the house. I’d start getting some freezer meals or freezer ready components for meals to help you eat at home more easily. But I’d also make up a list of free or cheap activities to get you outside of the house when your work day is complete. Things like a new park, bike ride, browse a plant store, whatever. But having a list posted on the fridge totally helps when you’re done with decisions for the day.
Definitely! Our WFH lifestyle has definitely played a huge factor in this. Having a list of go-to activities that don’t include spending money would absolutely be helpful. I’ll do that!!
My husband and I always eat out for one meal a week. For the last couple of years, it’s mostly been Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesdays. They have BOGO 1/2 price (or a true BOGO with the app). Our other favorite is Ruby Tuesday, not necessarily on Tuesdays, LOL. They have great coupons – the current weekly one is buy one entree, get one for $3.
We’re not in debt, but we’re still super frugal with our money. On the weekends, we try to discuss what we’re going to eat through the week. Salmon, steak, hamburger, chicken thighs, eggs and bacon are our go-to meals. Give your hubby some slack, meat is very nutrient dense and has everything he needs.
That’s a good idea too! We could possibly limit it to one meal a week and find coupons or similar deals. Thanks for your input.
And LOL – oh I know! He’s had me watch hours and hours of videos on the carnivore diet and how he’ll be just fine haha. He’s been like this his whole life and I love him as he is.
Start small! Instead of pizza out, make a frozen pizza at home. Grab an already seasoned, in the bag pork tenderloin, make some rice/potatoes and a steam fresh bag of corn. Hamburger, taco seasoning, shells, and your favorite taco toppings already prepped from the store.
Try out a grocery delivery service to make it easier (just watch the stores/prices as you’ll pay a premium.)
If you want motivation, transfer money you don’t spend to a savings account and watch it grow!
Thanks for this!! I think we are definitely going to give grocery delivery. We used it some at the very beginning of the pandemic in Atlanta, but haven’t used it much since we moved here outside of when I was bed ridden with morning sickness.
Starting small is a good idea too. I think we can make some small changes that could make a huge difference on paying off our debts and saving.
I suggest making a crockpot your best friend! There are a lot of great “one pot” recipes (and I don’t like most vegetables either). Dump everything in, cook all day. Hot meal at night. If you use the crock pot liners little to no clean up.
Thanks!! I use the crockpot every once in a while, but I’m thinking I need to break it out more often.
Meat does *NOT* have everything that your husband (and anyone else, for that matter) needs.
It contains virtually no fiber, and it doesn’t supply some of the important vitamins such as Vitamin C.
Just sayin’ . . .
Some quick and easy meal suggestions are tacos, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, frozen or “from scratch” pizzas, spaghetti with meat sauce, breakfast-for-dinner (eggs/bacon/toast/juice or fresh fruit, etc.) just to name a few.
Perhaps, it would help to think of it as a fun “game” or “challenge” to come up with still more quick and easy meals. No doubt, your local library has some cookbooks that might be helpful to you.
Thanks for your comment!! LOL – I scratch my head at how he’s so healthy. He’s literally never sick (he’s been legitimately sick twice in the seven years we’ve been together) and doesn’t have any health issues, so I don’t give him too much trouble about it.
One of the harder things about the “quick” meals is that I also have to keep an eye on my sodium intake and carb counts because I’m trying to control/monitor some health issues of my own. But I think we can think up some good ones. I also have a plethora of cookbooks that have been given to me over the years (I actually really love to cook, but some days are exhausting).
He may seem fine now, but colon cancer does catch up to you!
I should clarify that he does take vitamins and supplements to make up for what he’s not getting through food. He gets great reports from the doctor and is never sick – they always tell him to keep going with whatever he’s doing.
Fiber is not necessary.
Quoted from Nutrition With Judy:
Bloat from fiber is not normal. Common, yes, but not normal.
??The thought is that we need fibrous plant foods to feed our gut microbiome to have optimal health.
??Our gut microbiome contains bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microscopic living things that regulate many of our bodily functions: vitamin creation, immune system and brain modulation, metabolism and weight regulation.
?Not enough good microbes, or too many bad microbes, can lead to intestinal disorders (IBS, Leaky Gut, SIBO) but also most chronic illness.
?But is fiber ESSENTIAL for optimal health?
Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily fiber intake of 25g-35g.
??We think that fibrous plant foods fuel our intestines with short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFAs are a subset of fatty acids (acetate, propionate and butyrate) that are produced by the gut microbiome during the fermentation of fiber.
?Most claims of health benefits of fiber are based on epidemiological studies; controlled trials cannot definitively prove benefits.
??Since fiber is NOT digestible, it can cause a host of intestinal issues.Most people find eliminating fiber from their diet to be highly beneficial to their gut health.
?Fiber is one of the big backlashes against a meat-based diet. It’s ironic though because one of the most overarching benefits of eating meat-based is healing gut health issues.?
?Don’t we need fiber to poop?
Babies that are breast-fed don’t get any fiber and they eliminate multiple times a day!
??Gut health IS mandatory and critical for optimal health but fiber is not. If you “need” more bowel movements, you may need to eat or drink more… or use mg citrate temporarily.
Eating out is really convenient especially for people on the go though a bit heavy financially.
Definitely! We’ve been spending way too much on it.
A great resource for me was budget bytes. The recipes are easy and delicious. I would get frustrated with fancy cookbooks and blogs that cost more for ingredients than just ordering out. But budget bytes taught me how to cook and make appropriate substitutions!
I follow a typical format for dinner each week and make adjustments:
Sundays: Soups / Stews/ Chili ( I usually eat left overs for lunch for a few days)
Monday: Vegetarian Dish (usually a pad thai or something with lots of veggies)
Tuesday: Tacos / Quesadillas
Wednesday: Pasta (can include sausage & sauce, might be pesto)
Thursday: Meat & Veggies (pork chops are a family favorite for us!)
Friday: Frozen Pizza or Take out
Saturday: Probably Takeout 🙂
My husband usually eats lunch out (usually a sandwhich from the grocery store… fancy!) and I pack my lunch for work – since I don’t mind leftovers or really random collections of food it works for us.
I’ll have to check out budget bytes for some more ideas when we get bored of what we’ve come up with. I created a 6 week rotating meal plan last week after writing this (with one day per week eating out), but I’m sure we will want to add something new in here and there.
Make the freezer your friend. Cook double or triple batches of food and freeze the extra. Freeze things like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, shredded chicken, etc. Those are helpful to have on hand just to use as a base and save some prep. Also, because you’re trying to go from eating out frequently to very little, go ahead and buy convenience frozen foods, like frozen pizzas or Costco-type stuff. I cook almost exclusively from scratch, but on nights I’m just tired of it, I’m happy to have a Costco lasagna to pop in the oven.
I highly recommend the website/blog onehundreddollarsamonth for inspiration.
Her recipes are all winners and easy to follow. Plus, she does have a lot of crockpot recipes and ways to repurpose leftovers, which is another worthwhile skill to learn.
I’ll check that site out!! And I’ve started doing some frozen meal prep as well. I think adding in some frozen meals here and there that I can grab when I don’t feel like it would help too. Thanks.
One useful site is thefamilyfreezer.com –she has lots of things you have to pay for, but her blog also has recipes all the time that are free. I do recommend her freezer cooking cookbook bundle, though, it’s handy. The thing I think might work best for you from that is freezer skillet meals–it’s like the things you would buy frozen in the grocery store, then stir in a skillet for 20-30 minutes, but instead you make the bag yourself. A lot of times, freezer crockpot meals end up tasting washed out to me, but skillet meals will taste freshly made.