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.
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!
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!
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?