(Guest Post by Edward Antrobus…who got riled up at all of us who said we “couldn’t do it” to last week’s No Restaurants in November challenge ;))
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the average American family spends over $2600 per year dining. That number doesn’t include tips or the cost of travel, which puts the number closer to $3000.
When looking at just singles and younger couples, that number jumps to nearly $3000 PER PERSON. So if you are under 30, chances are you are shelling out close to $60 a week eating out every two and a half days. If you are single, you are probably spending over $100 each week getting dinner out almost every night.
On the surface, this probably sounds like like a good deal, most people are spending $20 or less a meal when we all know it’s really easy to go way over that number. (a recent trip to Olive Garden to celebrate a promotion cost us almost $70!) But the chicken alfredo that I had, I could have made myself for under $5. So every meal you eat at home could be saving you $15. By cutting just two meals out a week, you are saving over $1500! What could you do with an extra $1500? Contribute to your retirement accounts? A nice vacation? Pay off a credit card?
The two most common excuses for dining out instead of cooking for yourself are “I don’t know how to cook” and “it takes too long.” If you’ve ever said one of these things, you are wrong.
For the first issue, yes, you know how to cook, even if you don’t realize it. I have yet to meet a person who has never made boxed mac & cheese, ramen noodle soup, or cooked a hot dog. Each one of these is a food I’ve seen prepared by a person who claimed they couldn’t cook while they were doing it! The response there is, “Well, you’re cooking right now.” Of course you know how to cook; if you can read a recipe, you are halfway there.
The second issue is poppycock as well. Enter “30 minute meals” in Google and there are 885,000 results. Don’t have 30 minutes? It will take you longer to drive to the restaurant, get a table, order, and receive your meal. 15 minute meals has 591,000 results. So there are almost a million and a half meals that take less time than dinging out.
How to fix this
So here’s what you do. Pick you meal at least a day in advance. This will give you time to thaw out any frozen ingredients or stop at the store on your way home to pick up something you’re missing. If it’s a slow cooker meal, put it all together in the morning, otherwise, make sure perishable items are ready in the refrigerator and non-perishable items are waiting on the counter. When you get home, do your prep work and cook your meal based on the recipe you found or change it to suit your needs. Cook extra so you have leftovers for a quick meal later in the week or to take to work for lunch!
And all you single guys, get yourself a lady and cook for her. Not only will you save a ton of cash from not eating out all the time, but you’ll look like the most romantic dude ever!
Edward Antrobus is a twenty-something blogger, amateur cook, online-college founder, cookbook writer, and full time job seeker. He claims that if he “had a nickel for every time I’ve heard my mother say, ‘If you can read, you can cook,’ I would have been in J. Money’s millionaire club by age 10.” He writes about cooking at If You Can Read, You Can Cook – check it out.
(Veggie Face by katerha)
PS: Some of my favorite tools:
|Personal Capital (FREE) -- If you’re looking for a robust financial tracker, Personal Capital is the way to go! They’re like Mint, but on steroids and have much better tools for investment and net worth tracking. // Full review|
|Digit (FREE) -- A super easy (and automated) way to save. Every day Digit analyzes your income and expenses and will push money aside for you any time it sees extra sitting there. I've saved over $4,000 myself using them so far! // Full review|
|Acorns -- Having trouble finding money to invest? Check out Acorns – they round up all your transactions to the nearest $1.00 and drops the difference into an investment portfolio for you. Easy way to start investing! // Full review|