Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Less Project: Strategies For Lowering Your Eating-Out Costs

In the past year, we have drastically cut down our eating-out expenses. Now that Andrew is in school and I am at home, we are having to be even more careful with this expense. Currently, we only allow enough money in our "dining out" budget category for 1-2 dates per month, or 1 nice date and several quick stops at cheaper restaurants.

Strategies For Lowering Your Eating-Out Costs:

Decide how much you want to spend monthly on eating out and stick to it. We've found that the only way for us to accomplish this is to take out the amount we want to spend in cash and put it in our "dining out" envelope (this is a Dave Ramsey recommendation). We do not use cash envelopes for all of our expenses, but for this category, we have found it to be a must. Otherwise, it is difficult to track what we are spending throughout the month, and inevitably we go over budget. Bottom line: decide on your eating out budget and stand firm.

Have a weekly meal plan and grocery shop accordingly. It seems like so many things come back to this. But if you have a plan for dinner, you're less likely to eat out. If you happen to be new to menu planning, Life As Mom has a Meal-Planning-For-Wimps post!

Pack lunches. Duh, you knew that was coming. But I can't write a post about spending less on eating out without talking about packing lunches. ;) Since my hubby is gone every day at lunch time, he takes a packed lunch 3 days a week and comes home for lunch 2 days a week (since we have the wonderful advantage of living close by).

When you leave the house, pack a snack, regardless of how long you think you will be gone. I always underestimate how soon I will get hungry (esp. since I'm nursing a baby!), and doesn't it seem like kids are always hungry?

In that vein, routinely keep healthy foods on hand that can easily be packed as snacks. I am trying to make a habit of baking/cooking "snack like" food so that our food-on-the-run doesn't involve lots of unhealthy/super-processed stuff. For us, our snacks are mainly breads, fruits, crackers, and granola. 

Keep restaurant coupons in the car, especially the ones for free food! This way, if you DO get stuck running errands, you might be able to cut the cost.

When my hubby and I go out on a date, we regularly split a meal. Most places give you so much food, and we leave stuffed after splitting an entree and adding an extra salad. However, don't forget to still tip your waiter or waitress well!

And now, when you do sit down to have a lunch or dinner out, enjoy it, knowing you're sticking to a plan, being a good steward of your money, and for the moment, not dirtying any dishes! How wonderful.

Any tips that you would add?

If you missed the other installations in this series, check out:
Introducing: The Less Project
Less Money: Together on the Path of Less (guest post by Roots of Simplicity)
Less Time: Top Ten Ways I Want To Support My Hubby

P.S. Don't forget to join me tomorrow for Try New Adventures Thursday

This post is linked to WFMW, Penny Pinching Party, & Wallet-Friendly Wednesday.



  1. The most fun we've had with dining out for cheap was by doing mystery shops. We recently had a $55 steak dinner for free, and quite often find fast-food shops that we can schedule during errand time. You do have to factor in the time it takes when you get home to input the information, but for us, it's so worth it!

  2. Wow!! I haven't looked into that in awhile, so I might have to check it out.

  3. Great post! I will be including this in my round up post on Saturday! Thanks for the tips on an area that my family really needs to work on!

  4. I've been wanting to come up with more 'quick grab N go' snacks/lunches too! That's why I eat so poorly, everything that is convenient is mostly junk food filled w/ sugar! Great post!

  5. Great tips! I keep a folder in our house with all our coupons and then when we want to go out, I look through them for something that looks good. I also keep Sunbay coupons in my car like you said. Any day that I forget my lunch, I don't feel as guilty about having to buy food. I also keep snacks and drinks in a drawer at work so I'm not tempted to buy food.

  6. I definitely agree with the meal planning. Ever since I started doing it we rarely get take out. That saves so much money without even trying.


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