How Much Money You Are Wasting By Eating Out?

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Eating out is perhaps one of the most frequent missteps that sabotage your efforts to stay within a budget.  This is especially troublesome if you have a big family or if your budget requires a lot of discipline.  Cheating on your budget usually happens either because you have a craving for something, or because it’s just too darn convenient to roll through the drive-thru window at your favorite fast food joint.  But, how much are those cravings costing you?  How much damage is your desire for a quick dinner solution doing to your budget?  The purpose of this article is to help you answer the question. how much money are you wasting by eating out.

Let’s Do The Math

One way to get motivated to eat at home is to figure out just how much eating out costs you per month and over the course of a year. I recently did this and it was sad to see that last year, we wasted over $6000 by eating out.  The reason I say wasted, is because I barely remember any of those meals.  They are in the past.  Gone.  Just like the money I spent on them.

Fortunately, we use a debit card for almost every grocery store and restaurant purchase, so we had a reliable record of our spending.

If you use your debit card and/or credit card to purchase most or all of your meals, it will be easy to analyze your restaurant purchases for the past month or two.  If you would like to see how much money your wasting on eating out, go ahead and pull up your bank statement on your computer and lets get started.

Step 1: Calculate Your Total Food Expense

If you can, choose the three most recent months and add up every time you used your debit card to purchase food, whether it was at a grocery store, fast food restaurant, or full service restaurant. Do that for each month.  You will have three totals.  Divide that number by three and you should have a pretty accurate average of how much you spend each month on food.

When I did this our average monthly food expenditure was about $1720. Holy Smokes!

Step 2: Calculate Your Expense For Just Groceries

Note: This part of calculating your eating expenses will take a month to collect.  You will also need to be very disciplined and not eat out for a month. Follow these steps.

  1. Make a menu for everything that you will eat.  Include breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, everything.
  2. Go Shopping.  It doesn’t matter how often you shop, just make sure that you only get your food at the grocery store. Don’t cheat by buying those meals to go in the deli section.  They count as eating out.
  3. At the end of the month, add up the receipts of all of your visits to the grocery store. This will give you your total food expense for the month.

When I calculated this for our family, we spent about $1166 on average per month.

Step 3: Find Out How Much Money You Are Wasting By Eating Out

  1. Take the figure that you calculated in Step 1.
  2. Subtract from it your grocery expenses in Step 2.
  3. The difference between the two is the amount of money you might be wasting each month eating out.

In our case, we discovered that on average, we were wasting about $554 per month because we were eating out so often.  That means we could save up $6648 over the course of the year just by eating at home.



Just think what you could do with $6600 (or whatever your total turns out to be). Pay off a nagging debt, take a terrific family vacation, a new used car!  Or maybe be one step closer to you or your spouse being able to stay at home.  In some upcoming blog posts I’m going to look at some other ways we are trimming the fat from our budget, like cutting the cable, shaving dollars off of our internet service, and milking our own cow!  Okay, just kidding about the cow, though we do go through a lot of milk.

Do you have any tips for sticking to your grocery budget and staying out of restaurants?  Please share! I can hear the “Golden Arches” calling me right now! I’d better go start dinner!!!

PS. Click here for the sister article.





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4 years ago

We have a meal plan, I only go to the grocery store once a week and I prepare all of our meals in advance on Sunday afternoons. I love to cook and the family is all resting, so it’s win win for me. I also have one meal a week that is RICE AND BEANS. That’s it. We eat that on our busiest night of the week. It’s super easy to heat up in the microwave and talk about cheap. We also have one night scheduled to eat out, because the reality is, we DO like to eat out and… Read more »

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