How Many Nights A Week Do You Eat Out?

As my family finished off meatloaf sandwiches last night for dinner I told them I was proud of us for not eating out. Besides, is there anything better than leftover meatloaf between two pieces of good bread and a cold glass of tea? I digress.

sulphurmountainrestaurant
Sulphur Mountain Restaurant courtesy of ahisgett

A couple years ago we ate out every Friday night, and then again on Saturday nights. We also grabbed something out a couple times during the week. We still enjoy the occasional meal out as a break from coming, but now we attempt to make it more of a treat than a routine. For instance, if the kids have a school function and we know we’ll be out anyway, we’ll plan a dinner out to celebrate something (we recently did this to celebrate paying off our family vehicle).

Of course, just because you eat out it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to do it. When we do eat out, or pick something up to bring home, we like to split meals, skip drinks (order water only), pass on dessert, order a lunch portion for dinner, etc. There are plenty of strategies for surviving a meal out at a restaurant.

These days we’ve scaled back to an average of one meal out per week as a family. Recently, we splurged for a nice steak dinner at a local steakhouse. After dinner I used the opportunity for a teachable lesson for the kids. I told them that our small steak, baked potato and salad cost over $10.00 per adult. That same meal could have easily cost less than $5.00 at home, with Dad grilling steaks on the grill, Mom making her famous loaded baked potatoes, and my kids helping with salads.

Sometimes Mom, Dad, and even the kids, just need a break. So enjoy the occasional meal out. Set aside some of your budget to pay cash for the meal – using plastic guarantees heartburn later on.  Remember to budget enough for a good tip for excellent service (we’re frugal, but we aren’t cheapskates!).

How often does your family eat out? Have you scaled back because of the economy, or simply because you are trying to spend less money?

Comments

  1. Our family used to eat out a couple times a week for convenience. For budget and health reasons we try not to eat out as much. We used to spend about $1000 a month on food. It was insane! We have a family of 2 adults and 3 kids, sometimes 3 other kids visiting. Still, it’s no excuse, it had to stop.

  2. If you don’t count the meals my husband eats out while traveling for work (and thus reimbursed) we eat out less than once per month. Occasionally we go to a favorite restaurant for their once-per-week happy hour with fabulous free appetizers to reward ourselves for accomplishing some particularly large project on our list. We get a very satisfying and cheap meal that way. It’s a restaurant that buys from local farms, so we like to support them.

    With all the garden produce that typically comes in over the summer, we can hardly spare a meal when we’re not here to consume what we’ve grown.

  3. We spend about 100-150 on average a month eating out. I don’t know how many times we go, but we don’t usually do anything more fancy than Panera Bread, since sit down meals with two young boys lose some of the appeal.

  4. Hey if it’s a nice evening, I’ll eat outside on my deck. Does that count? I don’t eat out at restaurants often.

  5. We eat out about 2 (sometimes 3) nights a week. We never do anything special, usually just burgers or sandwiches but since my wife and I both work it’s worth the money to save some time in the kitchen both cooking and cleaning. Our meals are usually no more than $30-35 for 3 of us.

  6. My husband and I probably eat out less than once a month, and 9 times out of 10, it’s for sushi. That’s hard to make at home! Once in a while, we’ll do takeout. That’s about once every 2-3 months. We’d rather eat at home and prepare our own food.

  7. we eat out about once a month. we’re vegan/vegetarian, and i find that the food we make at home is generally better and more interesting than anything we can get in our small city.

    the one time per month that we do eat out, we get sushi, because I can’t be bothered to make it and it really is best outsourced. We kind of go “all out” on that one evening, and we order wine and whatever we like. It usually comes to about $60 with tip (my husband eats a lot! he usually gets 3 rolls plus an enree and some appetizers. hard to keep those vegans fed! ) , which is like eating in a cheaper restaurant several times during the month, so it works out.

  8. We eat out 2-4 times a month, and honestly, I’d cut back on a lot of other things before I cut those times out completely because I LOVE going out to eat with my family. I like the good food, the fact that someone else serves refills and cleans the dishes and the fact that it’s a special time when we just focus on being together. We live in the boonies, so we’re not tempted to do it more often than that, thankfully!

  9. My husband and I eat out about once a week, if that. We budget $80 per month for eating out so we try to keep each meal under $20 including tips. That usually means we do lunch a couple times and dinner once or twice a month.

  10. We scaled back our nights going out, not due so much to budget cutbacks (though that was considered, too), but more in order to improve our overall health. When we do go out, if it’s for ourselves we go for sushi because we love it and won’t cook it ourselves. When we take the kids, we usually go to one restaurant, at which we are known, and which regularly provides us with coupons and discounts for being part of their regulars club. Since the kids like it, we can keep our costs down this way. We keep a small monthly budget for these visits. We’ve found we really like the meals we’re getting at home now, and it’s definitely improving my waistline, as well as insuring better nutrition for the kids!

  11. I’m with Steve (#3). When the nice weather is here we fire up the grill and do burgers & dogs, chicken, whatever. Then a little fire in the pit to make smores for dessert.

    Really though, less than once a month, although a couple times a month or so we will go to the grocery store & buy some raw pizza dough and make our own with whatever we want on top. It’s yummy!

  12. Oh boy!! I’m in trouble on this one!! My husband is retired & I am still working..so you can see where this is headed!

    We (as a couple) eat out at least 3 times/week (minimum) & my husband eats out in addition to the 3X with his mother or by himself.

    This is probably our biggest financial drain but we cut back on our “food budget” to accomodate for the meals out. I know it’s more costly to eat out, and we promise each month to do better.

    We are debt free (except a mortgage) & find eating our fits our lifestyle. I work up to 16 hours a day & have church obligations. Most times, we arrive at the restaurant in separate cars, have dinner & then leave, going on to more responsibilites. Sometimes it is a matter of necessity but most often it is laziness!!

    I will tell you that when we eat out, we actually “talk” (if my husband’s back is to the TV in the restaurant!!)…so I also see it as a “relationship builder”. If I have something important to discuss w/ my husband & want his undivided time & attention, we go out to eat!! LOL….

  13. Oh, forgot to post…our “food budget” for purchasing groceries is about $400/month & we spend about the same in eating out each month, so our total food bill for 2-3 (as we pay for my husband’s mother at least 2xweek) is $800. We rarely eat at fast food restaurants, preferring local restaurants with fresh, locally grown food. Can’t tell you the last time I had a french fries or a burger.

  14. We eat out at a favorite restaurant about once a month, and do fast food about twice a month. With 2 out of 3 vegans in our family, we also find that the food we make at home is better than what we find in most restaurants. Our meal of choice is also usually sushi (fancy veggie rolls & fishy creations…everybody’s happy!).

  15. The economy has definitely affected our habit of eating out, but the reasons for stopping dinners out had as much to do with health reasons as money. I simply don’t think that restaurant food is as good for you as anything you can make at home.

    Having said that, we very rarely eat dinner out now (maybe every 30-60 days), but will still do inexpensive lunch out here and there (usually 1-2 times a week).

    I especially like getting gift cards to restaurants because I can go without feeling too guilty, and usually walk out with a very small bill.

  16. I eat out 3 times a week. This sounds excessive but I work at an italian place where I get meals for $1.

    If I do eat out at other places its always a cheap hole in the wall ethnic place or mum n pop diner, those chain restaurants are way too expensive for my college student budget. Besides, its much more fun to just make the food at home with my roommate and some friends.

  17. I have a side hustle of finding textbooks in the trash and selling them on amazon.com. Helping the environment and turning a profit. I use this as my eating out fund. I probably eat at a “nicer” ($20-$30ish) restaurant once every month or two, and fast food (chipotle, etc) once per week.

  18. We used to eat out all the time, but we started a new budget system a couple months ago, and realized there was no money for eating out, when we would rather save. So, we eat once once a pay period. We usually go out to pizza (because pizza is fun to make at home, but even better to go out and eat it!) or to our local Chinese Buffet, where husband can eat anything he wants, and I can eat Sushi.

  19. I eat out probably three or four times a month. I budget for it though — I don’t think I would enjoy eating out very much if I could only drink water and not order a glass of wine, had to split meals to afford it, etc. If I am going to go out, I like to make it worth it. If not, I am perfectly content with just cooking at home for myself.

  20. If I didn’t now better, I’d think RainyDaySaver is my wife — a perfect description of our dining out routine.

    I can’t see eating out more than once a month.

  21. How many times a week? How about how many times a month? The kids get McDonald’s about once a month, but other than that, we eat at home. If we’re lucky, we get to eat my Mom’s cooking once in a while! Does eating at her house count as going out?

  22. Our NYC apartment is small and starting in the spring, very warm. Too warm, too small for comfortable entertaining.

    Often, the only way to see friends (in town) is to have a meal out with them. Same thing when we got to visit out of the city. Most folks want to go out, get away from cooking (summer is an exception, when it seems everyone wants to dazzle with their mega-outdoor grills).

    We have tons of great restaurants to choose from and we never, ever, on those few occasions (now) when we eat out, go to chains (one exception: Every now and then someone has a hankering for a fab Belgian waffle and we go to Le Pan Quotidien up the street).

    We’re constantly amazed that a few of our visitors would rather go to a chain! Why come to NYC to go to Red Lobster??????

    It would be a lot of fun to keep up with the latest restaurants, but it’s not in the cards.

    Luckily, we worked for many years in positions that required a lot of business entertaining so we’ve had some fabulous meals that we didn’t have to pay for,

    We’re also lucky in that we have friends who don’t have to go the latest “in” place (read: Trendy and Expensive!) when dining with us, and are happy to be in our company AND enjoy some good food.

    The city is a huge temptation and if we could afford it, we’d probably eat out at least once a week. Even if you’re careful, that is easily $30 and up, if not a lot more (Add in wine, whether by the glass or bottle or drinks and it goes up real fast).

    In the meantime, we’ve stepped up our cooking skills and we’re never bored by what we make at home. That’s one way to get around the “we miss X kind of food.” We learn to cook it!

  23. Well, that’s a hard one to answer. We don’t eat out all that much. But we do order in. Due to health problems, there are days when we’re not able to make it to a grocery store. Or simply can’t stomach another PBJ or whatever. So I’ve budgeted for us ordering in (or eating out) about once a week. I mean, I’d love to put that $100 a month toward debt, but realism is probably a better investment. (Though we’ve definitely been able to cut down by stocking up on various “easy” meals like hot dogs, frozen pizza, sandwich makings, etc.)

  24. once a week. i have 5 kids and we simply can’t afford it. my kids love to eat out but i have to limit it. also, i know it’s way healthier to eat at home and when i say eat at home – i cook, not just heat up. i make my own spaghetti sauce, soups, bread, homemade everything. i feed 6 of us for about 200/mo. and that’s without coupons.

  25. We like to eat out, and our work often takes us away from home. We stretch our dollars by buying an Entertainment book (www.entertainment.com) for our region and use 2 for 1 coupons at a variety of restaurants. The selection changes a certain amount from year to year, but there is a considerable range of choices, and it gets us out to try different restaurants. The book pays for itself in the first 2-3 uses, and after that, it saves us a bundle!

    We’ve also purchased them in advance when we’re going on holidays for various regions in the US and Canada, and it’s helped us to manage our holiday budgets.

    We like the fact that the purchase of the book benefits a local charity, and they can make a great gift idea, too!

  26. I agree – getting out of the house for dinner is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a price worth paying sometimes for a change in routine, as long as it doesn’t get out of control.

  27. For the spring & summer we’ve been having “pizza night out” every Friday – just my boyfriend & I. It’s a great end to the week for us and something we look forward to. Since my son’s are in high school and college they are always out on Friday night and it’s a nice break from cooking.

    This will end for the fall & winter, as my younger son will have varsity football & soccer games from late August through February every Friday night & I never miss a game.

    We sometimes eat out on Saturday if the boys are gone. Usually Sunday is a family dinner and we cook at home or eat leftovers most weeknights.

    Family dinners out are usually reserved for special occasions. It’s can get really expensive for 4 adults to eat out.

    We have cut back from eating out 3 times each weekend…

  28. I’m with DDFD. I’ve noticed on the rare occassions we do eat out or have take out it is just not very good. I think we’ve gotten accustomed to eating at home so much, food outside our own kitchen is usually disappointing!

  29. My husband and I do eat out both as a couple and as a family with our kids. However, whenever we go out to eat we tend to say things like “I can’t believe this meal costs $12.00 when we could make it for $2.00 at home” or “How can they charge $4.00 for a coke when a can costs less than .25 cents!” It tends to take the fun out of the experience when say things like that :-)

  30. Lots of good comments here. We are a family of 4. We eat out about 3 times/month; 2 of them would most likely be fast food and 1 sit down restaurant. In addition to that, I eat lunch out on Friday’s with my co-workers and husband eats out as his schedule requires (he’s in law enforcement and isn’t always able to get home but it’s never known in advance – the nature of the beast). Other than those 3 dinners out we eat all our dinners at home. I love to cook and I think eating real food is important so I don’t mind being in the kitchen. Plus, having us around the dinner table provides opportunities for discussions with our teenagers.

  31. We enjoy cooking at home and having family meals around the table as well. In our case, it’s my boyfriend who loves to cook, and he’s very good at it.

    It’s easier to get my sons together at the same time for a meal at home than for a meal out, since they’re frequently heading in different directions (ages 18 & 22). We also have them invite friends & girlfriends over to eat with us, which everyone enjoys.

    When we do eat out we go for things that we don’t make at home. Some meals I would never order out, as what we cook at home is so good that it would be a disappointment.

  32. We used to eat out a lot more. Panda Express on the night the cleaning lady came (sorry, it is one those things we choose to pay for since we both work a lot of hours), Something from the Farmer’s Market Vendor on a free Thursday night, Friday night date night, Saturday morning breakfast and sometimes Saturday night as well. It is just the two of us but it still adds up!

    We have cut back a lot because we want to be more frugal and we want to eat more healthfully. It is difficult to know how the calories are adding up when you aren’t in control of the ingredients. So, eating out once a week, I don’t worry so much about the calories. It is really hard thought, when we have both been working a long day and don’t feel like cooking and then having to wash the dishes!

  33. My bf and I eat out probably twice a week. The thing that I am noticing, and maybe it’s just me, is that when I cook at home for both of us, compared to when he and I go out to eat, I really don’t think that these days we save a whole lot of money because sometimes groceries can be just as expensive. It usually depends on what we’re eating, but the other night I made chicken piccata, and by the time I got all the (chicken, lemon, capers, greens for salad, basil) plus a bottle of wine it ended up being close to $50.00, it’s chicken picatta not fois groies. But to go out to eat at an italian restaurant and get the same thing is maybe $50-60 for both of us. If I was spending $70-80 on dinner going out to eat, versus spending say $25 for both of us to eat at home, then I would be a lot more willing to cut out my weekly eating out habit. But I really don’t see a significant amount of money being saved, unless I’m cooking for 4-5 people. Yes there are some savings, but the savings generated doesn’t always justify the effort driven to prepare the food and clean up afterward.

    Sometimes eating at ethnic restaurants, which we do a lot of, saves us some money. Going out for some vietmanese pho plus spring rolls and tea is probably $30 for both of us. I think that’s pretty good. For me to make that at home, again it would probably come out close to being the same, with maybe one or two servings left over.

    If I really wanted to save money on food, I’d eat ramen noodles every night of the week for a month. Then the sodium increase would probably cause a heart condition that would send me hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

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