How to Make $27K by Eating out Less

Jen SmithPersonal Finance13 Comments

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

When I think about places where money goes to die it’s not into fixer upper houses or trips across the globe, it’s everyday stuff. Stuff that in the moment I think I need then a few hours later I wonder why it was such a big deal.

There’s nothing wrong about these purchases, it’s just that over time they add up. And this year, we’ve crossed the line. Americans now spend more at bars and restaurants than on groceries. A few billion dollars more.  And millennials spend more than any other generation.

Millennials (ages 20-34) are now America’s largest generation making up 25% of the population. We are the generation who loves spending time with friends, our choices are driven by purpose, and we love trying new things. What better combines all that than dinner with friends at the new non-chain restaurant downtown? (That also locally sources its produce.)

We are the generation who loves spending time with friends, our choices are driven by purpose, and we love trying new things. What better combines all that than dinner with friends at the new non-chain restaurant downtown? (That also locally sources its produce.) And we’ll do it 3-4 times per week.

Millennials spend an average of $174 per month on eating out vs $153 for non-millennials. And 87% will splurge on a meal even if money is tight. Sound familiar?

Eating out has become part of our culture. We place it above buying new electronics, clothes, and cosmetics regardless of income. We identify it as an experience more than a means to nutritionally sustain ourselves.

So how do we keep the things that are special about this trend while becoming more financially responsible adults?


Set a Reasonable Food Budget

Don’t swear off restaurants and up your grocery budget to compensate. Average grocery prices have actually fallen .5% since last year while restaurant prices rose 2.7% (versus the overall inflation rate increase of 1.4%.)

Don’t set yourself up for that feeling of failure when you go over budget in the first two weeks.

As of 2010, of the food that Americans buy, 43% of it is out-of-home compared to 26% in 1970. So try to set your dining out budget to 25-30% of your total food budget. Remember that this is the easiest item to adjust to meet your short-term financial goals.

Also Read: Our October 2016 Budget

Do the Math

Let me lay some knowledge down on ya. What if instead of spending $174 per month on eating out you only spent $74? And you invest that extra $100 a month for the next 10 years at 8% interest. That 12,000 you would’ve spent ordering the second drink or adding the appetizer will be about $18,300.

That’s you rewarding yourself with $6300 for trimming down nothing but your dining out budget.

And just one more calculation, say you leave it in there for 10 more years and don’t add anything else to it (because this is the decade you decide to treat yo self.) You would now have $39,500.

By eating out less for a few years you can make over $27,000.

Oh and PSA: If you’re not investing yet, maybe you should be. Find a nice financial advisor or check out Motif if you’re interested in online investing. #CompoundInterest

Go a Week Without Dining Out

See if you can go one week without buying lunch out, ordering takeout at the end of the day, or eating out with friends on the weekend. I know it’s hard. I don’t get a lunch break at work but I get off early and my hangry brain used to go out for lunch multiple times a week.

Don’t punish yourself for being smart with your money.

Plan it on weeks you know you have obligations on the weekend that will keep you from going out. Don’t plan it on the weekend of your friend’s dirty thirty. Or if you can’t find a weekend that’s right, try 4 or 5 days during the week.

Try a Meal Delivery Service

Last year we found a Groupon for HelloFresh that made 2 boxes of 3 meals each for two people only $69. That’s more than our grocery budget for one week now but if you’re someone who eats out a lot because you like the diversity of cuisine and you’re a little terrified of the kitchen, This would be a great option to try.

For $69 you get a total of 12 meals, which comes out to $5.75 per meal. (Cheaper than a burrito at you-know-where) And while this offer is only good for first-time customers, Groupon offers deals for other companies that send ingredients for a DIY job or fully cooked meals ready for your microwave.

Plan For the Week

I actually really enjoy sitting down on Sundays and planning my weekly menu and grocery list. When I started doing this it transformed the way we eat. I plan meals with a lot of prep on nights we’re staying in, quick and easy meals on nights we have to go out, or leftovers if I’m working.

Do I follow this menu perfectly every week? Nope. Things come up and we go with the flow. But if I don’t cook something this week it’s first on the list next week. And having a menu allows me to have a list for grocery shopping which is a must if you’re an over-spender at the grocery store.

If you don’t have the time to plan I highly suggest a service like Platejoy that does it for you. You choose your type of diet, nix any foods you don’t like, and voila, a menu and grocery list is there for you every week.

Platejoy even has you take a personality quiz to find out what type of meals to put on your menu. I love that it takes inventory of your grocery lists to give you “smart menus” that use what you already have in your pantry. For less than $2 a week it pretty much pays for itself.

Meal Prep

Home cooked meals cost up to 60% less than dining out.  So once you’ve planned and bought your ingredients, make it easy for yourself to grab and go. Need some inspiration? Search #MealPrep or #MealPrepSunday on Instagram to see how the rest of the world is doing it.

House Party!

Plan more house parties. Your money loves ‘em. Cooking a meal together is a fun activity and if you’re honest with your friends about what you’re doing, they’ll be more than willing to eat at home. They’re likely in the same financial boat as you (or lack of boat.)

Last but not least I found a few cooking channels on YouTube to help you with ideas and techniques for cooking:

Laura in the Kitchen
Hilah Cooking
Byron Talbott
The Simple Cooking Channel

Anything you love for saving money when eating out?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Using these links helps put more $ in my Treat Yo Self fund. Cheers!

How to make $27,000 by Just Eating out Less

13 Comments on “How to Make $27K by Eating out Less”

  1. This is definitely the biggest weakness in the FP household. It’s so easy to fall into the, lets go out and grab something to eat trap.

    We’ve gone with some meal delivery services as well from time to time. If you think about it as, each meal is a meal you won’t go out to eat on the weekends, then the service makes total sense. And with the promo codes, it’s easy to snag a discount week pretty regularly.

    1. Oh in our house too. I’m not above spending a little extra eating at home because I’d spend even more at a restaurant.

  2. This was such a fantastic post – we eat out waayyyyy too much. We had actually already agreed to scale back before I even read your post (we just got engaged and are house-hunting, so now we have a wedding to plan on top of that! lol) — and you make just great points for just sticking to it.

    On a side note – did you like HelloFresh??? I feel like we end up going out to eat because we have so many unique and awesome places in Boulder that offer nicer things than we can whip up at home quickly. I may want to try one of these out if you recommend it!

    -Clarissa @ The View From Here

    1. Congrats Clarissa! My husband said I should take my own advice on eating out. lol.

      We loved HelloFresh. The meals were easy to make and nothing I would’ve made on my own. If you want to try it you can use this link to make your first box $34 (instead of $35 on Groupon)

      Let me know if you like it!

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