It’s Food Week on the Financial Blogs!

A lot of the financial blogs are talking about food this week so here is my take. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting food porn pictures.

The average American eats out 4.2 times a week, which, frankly, is a lot. Costs can add up quickly if you eat lunch at a restaurant or sandwich shop everyday, plus go out for dinner with your family a couple of times a week. Add in a Starbucks each morning, and suddenly a significant amount of your take home pay is going towards restaurant food.

Often this food is unhealthy (even if you think you are eating healthy) so it is very tough for people watching their weight or sodium intake to maintain a good diet if they eat out so much. There is a simple answer, and this is to cook at home where you can control the ingredients, portion size, and cost.

Typically we spend around $400 a month on groceries for our family of four. We don’t eat out more than once a week, and never stop at coffee bars despite their abundance in Portland. Our restaurant spend is typically under $200 a month.  By going out infrequently, a trip to a restaurant becomes a treat for the family, even if it’s just a trip to the sandwich shop.

Cooking is also fun, particularly now that we have more time to prepare. We both very much enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, we are also teaching our children how to cook, as we both strongly believe that cooking is a life skill that all kids should know. I am constantly astonished at how few people are diverse in their cooking skill and prefer to eat out all the time. Cooking doesn’t have to be fancy either, anyone can bake a chicken breast and serve it with mashed potato and frozen peas & corn.

Since retiring we have adapted our shopping habits; we shopped weekly and bought things that were brought home, forgotten about in the fridge, and ultimately got thrown away. Once we retired and had the time we shop daily, only buying what we need for the day. This does mean we have to be flexible about dinner plans as often we will hit the discount meat bin and buy something with a 50% off sticker. There is nothing wrong with this meat, we just need to make sure that it is either eaten or frozen that day. Buying $2 ground beef, and making meatballs is very satisfying.

Some don’t have time to cook in which case cooking in bulk is key. Instead of making a pound of spaghetti sauce, make 5 pounds and freeze the rest in portions. For this purpose a chest freezer is a must.

In summary, have a budget and stick to out, cut out down on eating out, learn to cook (taking a night class is lots of fun and a great way to meet people!) and teach your kids to cook!

How much do you spend on eating out? I bet it’s more than you think.

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Lana HicksRhona Recent comment authors
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Hi Steve, no posts lately on your blog so wondered how things were in Portland? I have just read your blog really for the first time and I have to admit I have lived my life pretty much like you and Tuffy have (except no kids). Agree with everything you have said. I always took my lunch to work, never even now buy drinks out like coffee or sodas. Just the once a week happy hour with the neighbors at the local bar. We usually eat out once or twice a week at most, but as portions are way too… Read more »

Lana Hicks
Lana Hicks

You are right about the health content of restaurant food! I now have hypertension (so need low sodium), and am losing weight (which for me means following a moderately low-carb diet) so I can avoid or delay the heart disease and diabetes that would probably come next. Eating low-carb is easy enough these days, with more restaurants providing options for that, but when you start looking at sodium contents of food items, it is eye-opening! I have been very strict about cooking at home for quite a while, so last night for our anniversary, we ate at a restaurant. I… Read more »