My Year of Eats

Veggie Fine Dining

I like to think of myself as someone who cooks and eats at home almost all the time. We have breakfast at home, we bring packed lunches to work, and we always know what we’re having for dinner. Meal planning, weekly grocery shopping, and alternating who cooks each day are the norm. Yet, on top of an annual grocery budget of $6200 for just two adults, we eat meals away from home a LOT!

For the first time, I took a deeper look at where our dining out dollars went this year. I did this in retrospect – not to keep the spending down throughout the year – but it will inform my 2019 budget.

Rom and I set aside $200 a month for entertainment. If not spent by the end of a month, it carries over. We use it for big-ticket events like festivals, concerts, plays and movies. When fewer events strike our fancy, we pay for restaurant meals from the account. The only caveat is that the entertainment fund is for the two of us only – not to be used to buy coffee on work days or other individual stuff.

Lunch Salad

I do pride myself on bringing lunch to work. I have huge salads 4 days a week! This year I changed jobs and I’m surrounded by cafes and lunch spots. I had 12 lunches out at an average of $12 each. Half the time I went out with colleagues and half the time on my own. Funnily enough, what I crave most are the salads made by a “nice” restaurant in my building – they have homemade dressings and flashy ingredients, and they’re so much better than anything I can make!

Rom and I usually decide in advance whether to include a meal out if we have shopping or errands to do on the weekend, rather than dashing out at 11 a.m. and suddenly realizing we need lunch. (Yeah, not spontaneous!) So, six times this year we had food court lunches at the mall. On purpose.

Whenever we go to a concert or an evening event, I usually pick Rom up from his workplace and then we go out for dinner before the show. We live in the suburbs, so we don’t have enough time to go home first (the alternative would be to bring a picnic or packed lunch, in good weather, anyway). So, we added a restaurant meal to 10 different events, mostly music, but also a fundraiser, an author reading and a library lecture!

We always go out for meals on five of our own special occasions each year – Valentines Day, our birthdays, our wedding anniversary, and to commemorate the day Rom moved to Canada. However, we do play loose with the exact dates, especially in February – we don’t like crammed restaurants and rushed service on the 14th!

Ikea Lunch!

On top of all that, we went out for 19 meals this year for no reason – 17 of which were lunches, because we both like to stretch the budget by having lunch instead of dinner.

Next comes entertaining. We had family or friends over for dinner three times this year which is typical for us, and we were invited out three times as well. My extended family got together 6 times for birthdays and holidays, and I had 2 lunches with my mom and sister. This year it has been a special joy to go out regularly with my blogger friend PK and her brother “Joe”; we have meals or coffee together once a month or so.

For the record, my limit is one glass of wine with a nice dinner out unless I am sharing a bottle with Joe 😉, no alcohol at lunch (or breakfast, with the exception of the occasional brunch mimosa), but Rom and I usually order coffees and desserts with dinner so the servers won’t hate us (i.e. for having a leisurely dinner with attentive service but no liquor sales to bring the bill up).

I bought food twice for my brother when he was doing carpentry and other odd jobs for me. I bought take-out for my parents 3 times. Rom and I had one take-out pizza this year from a celebrated local place that we found just OK. And we bought $2 meal-sized samosas on two occasions – the best deal ever!

Ethiopian Meal

We had meals at 55 different restaurants, of which 12 were chains (7 Canadian) and 43 were independent locals. I feel like we are keeping the economy afloat!

But the place we go most often is…my parents’ house, because dinner is served every Sunday at 5:00 and we kids are always invited. There is a revolving cast of us around the table every weekend.

– I think we had Sunday dinner there 33 times this year –

So, now you know that I rarely eat at home, or so it appears 😊 I couldn’t resist a little calculation, as follows:

117 meals out

1095 meals in a year (3 meals a day x 365 days)

= 10.68% of meals outside the home

Eek, I just realized that works out to 2.25 meals per week outside the house – I never would have guessed!

I haven’t counted restaurant meals we had while travelling on vacation – that’s a whole other story (at least there is a corresponding decrease in the grocery budget).


How often do you eat meals away from home?

How does that compare with other people in your circle of friends, family and co-workers?

Do you invite people over or do you meet up to have meals out?

Do you stick to a budget for restaurant meals?


  1. We have a weekly cash budget for dining out; unspent money goes, to the penny, in a little glass jar. At the end of the year, we split the money in the glass jar and use it to buy Christmas gifts for each other. 🙂

    Meals at restaurants that are part of a larger “going out” experience (concerts, theater, etc.) are funded out of our annual entertainment budget. Dining out while/during traveling/vacations is budgeted as part of travel expenses (likewise, pet boarding).

    I eat at home or bring food with me to work on a fairly regular basis. I don’t particularly _like_ to cook though, so in all honesty, I usually stretch the weekly dining-out budget to the limit! 🙂

  2. Wonderful structure! When we eat out together, also just coffee, the cost goes into the shared food expenses bucket as it replaces home food, just as lunch-boxes and costs for guests does. Then when we are guests, it evens out as a saving. For day-trips we mostly bring food so we can eat when and where we’re hungry and avoid mediocre museum or train station cafés. Longer trips have their own budgets and cost keeping. Eating out alone is on ones own money. The home-cooking of the man has made us very picky so we chose restaurants to serve something we’ve never eaten before or something we can’t cook ourselves.

    • We also choose restaurant meals that we can’t or don’t make at home. We rarely bring food when we go out – mainly because 7 months of the year are so cold, we don’t want to eat in the car, and I have never seen anyone eating their own meals in a theatre lobby! But if we had trains, that would work!

  3. Interesting! We sort of do the opposite and try to go out to have a drink and dinner to break up the eating at home. For our birthdays we each cook the other a specially requested meal. We also both have lunches out – me with friends or at club meetings and DH after playing pickle ball. I think some of the difference is retirement vs working. I am also tracking family meals that we pay for and food expenses when traveling separately from just us eating out whether alone or together.

    • Rom has his own routines – he goes through phases of buying baked goods or yogurt parfaits every day at work, or buying lunch every Friday. He suggests going out for meals more often than I do, but I am quick to agree…

  4. Tina Lemna

    I loved seeing what you eat throughout the year. We tend to eat one lunch a week out and eat the rest of our meals at home. We did more traveling than usual this year so I’m sure that number is way off.

    • One lunch a week sounds like a perfect schedule to me. I wonder if I could do that? It would turn into a Saturday commitment, though, because that’s the only day we’re both free!

  5. H P

    We have a dining out budget, and all dining out goes into it, with the exception of travel meals. Those go into our travel budget. We spent $669/pp this year on eating out. It’s more than I’d expect. I did pay for an expensive brunch to pay my parents back for something. It was our lowest eating out in the five years I’ve been tracking, but I’m hoping to get it even lower in 2019!

  6. Jenniferanne

    I guess your very generous parents can’t save much money on their weekly food budget.

  7. Fiona

    Very interesting to read the tracking! I’m intrigued to read the figure of ’55 restaurants’…great to support the economy, try different cuisines & meet different people. I feel like this is similar to us except we do buy lunch at work more often, when we get disorganised! Do you have UBER Eats there? It seems to have changed the landscape of eating here.

    • Local laws don’t allow Uber (rides) yet, but we seem to have Uber Eats! I don’t know anyone who has used it yet, but it was going full tilt when we were in Toronto last time – several of the restaurants where we ate were getting orders ready for their Uber Eats clients.

  8. Wow! I love how you keep track of things. I shared your records of eating out with The Man. He is most impressed with the amount of times you ate at your parents. I think he’d like this tradition – if our boys ever moved out.

    I have no idea how many times we ate out. We did discover a new Indian restaurant and went there about four times in two months towards the end of the year for various events with different people.

    • Mm, Indian food. We have only two Indian restaurants. Disadvantage of living in a small city. My parents love making Sunday dinner. They cook a big meal whether they have any guests or not. They will use it for leftovers or freeze meals. Rom and I are there most weeks, with a rotating cast of my brother and sister and their families. We check in during the afternoon so Mom knows how many places to set. But if we just showed up, the meal would be stretched a little further. Not like a dinner party where you fuss over every detail. They love having visitors and encourage us to bring friends, visitors to town, etc. If you came to Nova Scotia, they would want to meet you! They really like the idea of their home being the hub of the extended family.

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