In part one, I talked about why I’ve made the decision to keep including eating out as part of my budget. As an aside, I know that Trent at The Simple Dollar, and probably many others, have done comparisons of home-cooked, versus fast food meals. This post isn’t about which is better, healthier or cheaper; it’s about how to keep eating out as frugal a choice as possible.
Don’t order the menu! When we go to McDo, we can spend â‚¬25 easily on dinner. We reduce the price by not ordering a menu for the kids. Instead, they get a cheeseburger each, share an order of fries, get a nugget or two from the family’s box and drink water. Or, I’ll order water for myself (for free) and they can split an orange juice. Plus, there’s the added benefit of no Happy Meals: I no longer have to confiscate cheap plastic toys, or sneak them out of the house.
Eat at home: If I want Japanese food and we eat at home, then it’s much less expensive than going to the restaurant. We don’t buy sushi for the kids- instead they share a meat skewer and I make them miso soup, which they love. If we’re having Chinese food then I only order two or three meat dishes. I microwave a bag of frozen julienned vegetables and make a bunch of rice. On pizza nights we get one pizza and make a huge salad to go with it.
Plan it: For some reason, it’s easier for me to resist throwing in the towel and going to McDo in the middle of the week if I know that we’ll eat out on Saturday or Sunday night. Not that I am always able to resist, I’m only human, but it’s easier. I’m trying to start a tradition of Sunday pizza nights. If we order from the pizza truck behind our house, then a delicious, freshly made pizza* only costs â‚¬9. Served with a big salad, that’s enough for the four of us.
Go somewhere nicer: Some months, especially those with birthdays and anniversaries, we plan on going to a nicer restaurant. Sure, the Chinese buffet will put us back â‚¬50, but knowing and looking forward to going out somewhere nice helps us to avoid eating junk just because we didn’t feel like cooking.
Eating out is a really personal choice when it comes to budgeting, getting out of debt and being frugal. Each family has to make the decision for themselves. I know however, that for my family, having that occasional treat is very important. Maybe I’m justifying, but these techniques help me keep the cost down. I hope they can help you too.
*It’s taken me a while to get used to French pizzas, but now I quite like them. My current favorite has hamburger meat, onions, tomato sauce, cheese… and a raw egg cracked on top after the pizza has come out of the oven- the heat of the pizza only just barely cooks it through. Yummy.