Stop Eating Your Money

How much money do you budget each month towards eating away from home? Maybe I should first ask whether you are even following a budget or spending plan but the truth is that people are spending more and more on eating out.

This morning I read an article in the Chicago Tribune that discussed the stereotype that women are expected to cook well and whether that really holds true.

The part of the article that I found the most interesting, as well as somewhat alarming, were the statistics that were provided at the end of the article. As an example of the numbers provided by the NPD Group, National Restaurant Association and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

:: In 1960, 21% of overall food dollars were spent on meals away from home.
:: In 2005, 44% of overall food dollars were spent on meals away from home.
:: In 2006, 24.1% of restaurant meals were ordered from the car.
:: In 1985, 23.6% of home-cooked meals included dessert.
:: In 2006, 14.6% of home-cooked meals included dessert.

Looking at these numbers, you can see that we are spending more money on meals away from home and it is rather alarming that nearly 1/4 of those meals were ordered from the car. It is interesting to note that less home-cooked meals include a dessert than 20 years ago. However, I am curious if that means more people go out for a dessert after a home-cooked meal or that people are just eating less dessert.

Personally speaking, we allocate $100 per month to dining out. While that may be too low for some people or too high for other people, we have found it to work well for us. Looking back at our expenses, I have to say that a good deal of our dining out is meals on the go as we run from one son’s baseball game to another son’s hip-hop practice.

If you do not currently follow a budget, try to track how much you spend on meals away from home. Often times people think that they do not have enough money to save or invest, yet they spend hundreds of dollars per month on eating out. Not too long ago I recall seeing a show on television where a family was spending over $1000 per month on eating out and they were struggling with debt.

When you think of eating out as essentially eating your money, it may put a new perspective on your desire to stop for a meal away from home rather than driving home and spending time to cook a meal. Challenge yourself to eliminate one restaurant visit this month and put that $10-20 (or whatever amount) directly into your savings account.

Stop eating your money!

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5 Responses

  1. speakupusa says:

    Interesting statistics regarding desserts. My thought is that the decline in dessert eating can be directly linked to the number of families eating a dinner together around the dining room or kitchen table. I’d bet that if there were statistics dating back to the 1950’s, you’d see an even higher percentage of desserts. Mom & dad both working, kids involved in almost every extracurricular activity imaginable, and “fast food” all lead to less time eating & talking together. However, to your point, if you don’t track how much you’re spending on meals (or anything for that matter), you will never know where or how much of your money is leaving your wallet unnecessarily.

    • mnc says:

      That is a very valid point as I am sure that the number of families eating a regular meal together has decreased over the years. During the work week, we usually have at most 3 meals together as a family due to my work schedule.

      Tracking regular spending can really open one’s eyes to where their money is going each month. People often think they cannot afford to save/invest yet they are spending hundreds of dollars each month on Starbucks or the office vending machine or whatever. I highly recommend expense tracking to the penny for at least a month to see your habits and what they really cost you.

  2. Ed Lau says:

    It’s so much cheaper and healthier (well, depending on what you cook) to make your own meals. Ever since I started cooking more last month, I’ve noticed I’ve got quite a few more dollars in my wallet too.

    • mnc says:

      Ed, you’re absolutely correct that cooking and eating at home can be a big benefit to your health and finances. As you mention, that really depends on what you eat and cook at home but generally speaking the meals are healthier when prepared at home.

      I need to try and cook more myself as right now my wife does all of the cooking. I’m sure that would allow us to reduce our allocation to eating out if we both share the cooking duties.

  1. June 7, 2007

    […] friend over at My new Choice is talking about how much you spend eating out. He says to Stop Eating Your money! How much money do you budget each month towards eating away from home? Maybe I should first ask […]

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