By: Revanche

Late nights increase eating out

May 11, 2010

Remember that 2 meals out per week thing? It’s becoming pretty challenging.

Those friends being in town didn’t help – we hit the quota, and would have gone over had it not been over a weekend. Twice on Sunday! I mean, really!  But it was dim sum, and then the longest afternoon of shopping/errands stretched into a late night sushi dinner, and who was I to argue?

Still, that blew the dining out budget for the entire week so I had to veto Cinco de Mayo.  Luckily, I had made a huge pot of homemade chicken soup which heated up wonderfully for Wednesday night dinner.  Leftovers sufficed for Thursday night but we had to defrost something that night lest Friday night become another night out.

Having friends over is nice, but between that and the wonky schedule when social obligations come up or when I get home really late from work, my money management’s suffering.  I’m starting to wonder if my arbitrary limit needs some evaluation.  Should I be targeting a dollar amount per week instead of occurrences?  Because I count Costco Dog Dinners as eating out – it’s prepared food.

If I were to be on a monthly dining out budget, I’d just have to be more prudent in a different way, and not limit the number of times I eat out so strictly. Is that better or will it just encourage me to feel like there’s more slack in the system? The grocery budget is already at a more than generous amount so I’m really wary of allowing more spending. 

How do you keep your eating out to a minimum?

18 Responses to “Late nights increase eating out”

  1. Carrie says:

    i never eat out by myself, only go out for food if someone else invites me so when i do eat out it’s always a social event and i’m flexible with how it fits in my budget. we could be shopping or seeing a movie instead so i let my food budget go up if it lowers my budget in other areas

  2. DD says:

    In the past this was a huge leak in my budget. I think I’ve gotten a lot better. When friends invite me out for drinks, I invite them over to my home instead. I usually supply wine that I have and they bring cheese, olives & crackers. I cook a pasta dish which is relatively cheap and voila’ girls night in :)! I haven’t done the cost analysis on it, but I know that I’m spending a lot less than eating out at a restaurant or having drinks at a lounge.

  3. Abigail says:

    Lately, we don’t. But you’re right about late night stuff. The later we stay up, the more often we either eat out at a late night place (okay, okay, really it’s just Tim going out and bringing it back) or make grocery store runs (ibid).

  4. You’re young and single–you should go out with friends. I think you’re being too strict with yourself.

  5. I try NOT to eat out by myself

    Unless it’s to meet friends or for something like that, then I don’t eat out.

    That being said.. occasionally when I spend a whole day downtown doing errands and stuff, then I will treat myself to a lunch or something.. but usually under $20

    I am just not a fan of eating out in general.

    I got sick of it because I eat out so much as a consultant (esp when I travel to other cities), and the idea of how much I am paying for a SIMPLE sandwich that isn’t fresh or doesn’t taste THAT great, is really annoying.

    Or when I shell out good money for crappy sushi or pho because I don’t have a choice.

    It’s totally shaped the way I see eating out & paying for food.

  6. I keep my restaurant budget in my food budget. That way I can decide – do I want to eat out ten nights that month and beans every other night, or just buy and prepare tasty, varied food? Mostly, I prefer what I make to what I can purchase on a regular basis on my budget. But I think that this is one of those things that has no set answer, just whatever works for you.

  7. I’ve just given up eating out altogether. It’s become too expensive but mostly it’s just plain bad for my health. I’m with Frugal Scholar though ~ eating out was fun when I was single so I think you should cut yourself a little slack because you never know who you might meet. I met my SO at a dinner club btw. Plus you seem to be very well organized financially so I wouldn’t be too quick to turn down dinner out if it isn’t too damaging to your budget. Just watch the calories, fat, sugar and sodium 😉

  8. I think as long as you’re being healthy (most of the time), there is nothing wrong with eating out a bit more when the circumstances arises. Especially when I am seeing friends.

    You could also pack some emergency frozen meals for those late nights. I also don’t mind making a gourmet instant noodles (where I add egg, veggies or whatever leftovers I have) on the odd night I don’t have food and I don’t want to eat out.

  9. I’m with Carrie and FB: I don’t eat out by myself. Just don’t enjoy it. But when you’re young and surrounded with friends, it’s hard to keep saying “no.” I’d agree with other old geezers looking back nostalgically on our lost salad days: budget more to eat out; order lots of salads.

    Several strategies:

    Cultivate a love of cooking among your pals. M’hijito’s friends are really into it, and because they all now can cook better than most anything you can find in an affordable restaurant, they all prefer to eat in.

    If you can find room in your place, get a small freezer. I think Costco is now selling one that’s apartment-sized, and they don’t cost all that much. It isn’t necessary to keep it in the kitchen, if it won’t fit there. Mine is in a back bedroom. You can cover the thing with a tablecloth and disguise it as a rather chunky table in the dining room or living room. These things are wonderful! You can freeze future meals by cooking more than you need and packaging up the extra amounts, or you can get various kinds of relatively nontoxic pre-prepared foods at Trader Joe’s, Costco, and myriad fine emporia in San Francisco, package those, and freeze them. The microwave or the conventional oven then becomes you restaurant chef. 🙂

    Pasta. Pasta is the single girl’s friend. Well, if she’s young and running up and down the hills of San Francisco.

    Ethnic food. Seek out ethnic food. As restaurant food goes, it’s relatively cheap.

    In the City, there’s (or there was) an incredible Indian food place that delivers. Good to eat, cheap, brought direct to your door. E-mail and I’ll get the name from M’hijito. BTW, he knows a Korean place to die for…you may already have found it, but we can check with him to see if it’s something to add to your list.

    In the Sunset district there’s a street full of wonderful Asian groceries and plastic-tablecloth restaurants. Most are SE Asian or Korean. At one of them, occasionally the matriarch of the family comes over from Vietnam and cooks. If you can hit that place when she’s in town, you will be transported to cheapskate’s heaven.

  10. We want to limit ourselves to no more than 2 times a week, but we sometimes slip. If we do hit 3 or even 4, we choose to either save the money by eating multiple super cheap meals at home for the rest of the week (like hot dogs or spaghetti) or we skip eating out at all the following week. So far, that has kept us from splurging too often.

  11. I limit dining out by budget amount. However, the only way we can make it work is by buying food items that don’t require a lot of work to pull together a meal.

    For example, I’ll get a Bertolli frozen pasta meal that just needs to be stirfried and pair it with a salad.

  12. We so rarely eat out because I love to cook. HOWEVER, I am home a heck of a lot more than you are.

    Maybe do research on meals you can prep in advance, or freeze, or make quickly?

  13. Sherry says:

    I’m looking @ life from the opposite end…my dh is retired & I work 2 days/week. Because there are just 2 of us, we eat out more than we eat at home. And yes, it can become a huge black hole for $$. Here’s how we keep out “eating out” cost down.
    1. We don’t drink alcohol (ever) so this decreases the cost of our bill.
    2. No appetizers or desserts. We may split a dessert on a special occasion.
    3. Often we will go out for lunch as our main meal; lunch portions are slightly smaller (better for the waistline) & the wallet. But same great food as dinner.

    I also equate my time to the $$ spent. I can work 1 hour & pay for 2 meals out. Also, with a super hectic schedule, is it easier to grab something to eat which will allow you to be more productive.

    And as far as the Costco hotday…pulllease!! It’s $1.19 for a dog/drink….ENJOY!!

  14. ashley says:

    I’ve also tried the “I’m only going to eat out X times a week” tactic, and I didn’t have much luck with it either. Lots of things in life are unexpected, so if a situation comes up like what you described, then you risk feeling deprived or annoyed that your chances are used up early and now you can’t join your friends out. Now I use just a set dollar amount, because then I can go out many times or just once, depending on who I’m with, what we want to do/eat, etc. It’s a similar idea, but (to me anyway) it leaves so much more room for flexibility.

  15. Squirrelers says:

    It’s a challenge, particularly when keeping away from home working, entertaining out of town guests, etc.

    I try to think about my health, first of all. Its generally better to eat at home than outside. Second, I think of what I could do with the extra cost of eating outside vs at home. When you take that difference and annualize it, it gets motivating to eat less outside and more at home!

  16. Red says:

    I’m keeping mine in check by banning it for the summer, lol. But I totally understand where you’re coming from. When I worked at the paper, I ate out usually twice a day because I was at work for 12-16 hours.

    The thing with limiting your eating out occurrences instead of giving yourself a set amount is that you can potentially spend more money. For instance, let’s say you have an occurrence limit of twice per week, and you use both of those times to visit an expensive restaurant. Well, then you’re spending more than you would if you only budgeted for two moderately expensive meals. Then again, if you over-budget, you could eat out more often than you would if you budgeted for occurrences instead. Tricky, tricky!

  17. I’m on the side of setting a dollar amount.

    Right now, I’m just beginning to set a budget, so the targeted amount is flexible, for exploration, rather than deprivation. Also, my boyfriend and I have $20 each for spending money.

    Later on, when we have a better idea of what our actual spending patterns are, rather than just guessing, then I will set it.

  18. Revanche says:

    @Carrie: No, I won’t eat out alone, either. When it was just me with the family, the closest to eating out I came was buying frozen foods from Trader Joe’s.

    @DD: I love inviting people over in lieu of going out!

    @Abigail: On my own, I pretty much just go for the ramen if it’s late night desperation but I can’t do that too often or I’ll get sick of it.

    @Frugal Scholar: But I’m not single. 😉 I guess the SO needs a moniker and to be included here more often, hm? (Haven’t before because I wasn’t sure if he minded being blogged about.)

    @FB: If it comes to being out and starving due to running errands, it’s a toss-up between forcing myself to go home and just grabbing a couple cheap take-out tacos to get me through.

    @The Lost Goat: That makes more sense to me, but my grocery budget has been rather astounding so I hesitate to include it. Perhaps later down the road…

    @MoM: I really reserve eating out (again when it’s just me) to specifically designated occasions like cheap sushi with Robin or seeing friends who are visiting. I don’t do it because I don’t want to cook, though.

    @aspiringminimalist: I was just wondering if it’s worth making my own frozen meals! I’ll give that a try.

    @Funny about Money: I will take ANY and all restaurant recommendations. I’m really lazy about going out solely to eat in the Bay Area because .. well, I’m lazy, but having a few good, cheap go to places would make me feel better about those times we DO get out.

    @Crystal: I definitely scrounge in the cupboard more creatively once I’ve “overspent.”

    @Bucksome: I’m still really working on getting the grocery bills down so that it’s not a shocker in combination with the eating out.

    @Rina: And you’re a WAY BETTER cook!! 🙂

    @Sherry: True, if the tradeoff is lost productivity versus spending a bit for a meal or snack, that’s not a problem so much as just being lazy about cooking in the evening after a long day. No lost productivity there.

    Except then again, lost time cooking and cleaning translates into less sleep which is so important for me, so perhaps it’s about the same thing.

    @ashley: That’s exactly why I tend to hoard my “allowance.” There’s probably a better way.

    @Squirrelers: I really think the biggest challenge is having people from out of town. My motivation doesn’t need work but it’s not fair to feed my guests the same diet that I eat all the time just because I’m too frugal to eat out.

    @Red: Ha! Talk about taking it to the extreme! 🙂

    @Canadian Rose: Maybe, like you, it just needs a little time to take shape.

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