Terry Herr, CFP®, CLU
People often say that if you want to start saving money, stop eating out so much. With hectic schedules that can be much easier said than done. As we begin to return from our COVID world to "normal", it may seem like eating out a couple of times a week isn’t a big deal. Now that we can get out, we also feel good about ordering a little more and tipping a little higher. The truth is, it all adds up quickly. Luckily, there are still ways to indulge the foodie in you while still saving money. The average American household spends $3,000 a year eating out.1 With a statistic like that, seeking out ways to be cost-effective with your food is critical.
4 Ways to Be a Frugal Foodie
1. Make Your Coffee at Home
This may seem like a small step, but starting somewhere is better than starting nowhere. Every little bit helps, especially if you are getting coffee and breakfast 5x or more per week. The extra money you save by making your morning cup of joe at home can be put towards other things such as a special meal out on occasion. You’ll be surprised how much this small change can help you save so much. Pre-pandemic you may have been spending anywhere from $3 to $6 for your favorite coffee. That can add up to $780 to over $1,500 per year.
2. Meal Prep and Cook at Home More Often
During your time at home, you probably cooked more. Now 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. Continuing to cook 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 on the nights that you aren't cooking.
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. Supporting the local food establishments with larger orders and bigger tips may not be sustainable. 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
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. 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.