Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Word about Out-to-Eats

I contribute 75% of our food spending woes to eating out. Years ago we could grab a quick bite out-to-eat at a restaurant for $15 or less. We'd walk away satisfied and more than pleased that someone else did all the prep and clean-up. Even as small children started entering the picture it was not that difficult to keep the spending to a minimum when out. Slice of pizza. Grilled cheese. Chicken strips. Sure go ahead, gorge yourself on that bread basket, it's free!

Everything changed when our son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Sushi became the new pizza - quick, convenient and delicious. The prepared foods aisle at Whole Foods replaced sub sandwiches - small containers filled with chicken salad and quinoa. We said a swift goodbye to kids meals at the Mexican restaurant - and a hearty hello to the full entree portion of fajitas. Overnight our food spending more than doubled.

For years now we've continued to partake in the ol' American pastime of going out to eat - with friends, after a long day at work, in between games on a busy Saturday, when I feel lazy, craving something fried, or just don't want to look at another dirty dish in my kitchen sink. In my book, there is always an occasion to eat out!

Every month when I take time to reflect on where all the money has gone, I get a very clear response from my debit card report. Restaurants. Always the culprit. Every time.

Nonetheless, I am continually surprised and appalled by the numbers. Anywhere from 30% - 50% of money spent on food in the month is in the form of out-to-eats. The shocking part of all of this is that the weekly grocery bill is never affected at all by this frivolous reveling in modern convenience.

My mama once heard on a radio show, "when trying to get out of debt (or not enter into it), the only time you should step foot in a restaurant is if you're working there." The only foreseeable way to make this $150/week food budget work is to heed this advice. We're a few weeks into the challenge and so far so good. If I spend less than $150 at the grocery store this week there may be room for the $11 fajitas at our favorite Mexican restaurant!

But first, one more important item of business before I sign-off -- A definition of what's included in my $150 weekly food budget:

All food from the grocery store.
All food from restaurants.
All alcohol from the liquor store.

Now that's what I'm talking about. A true challenge.

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