According to an Indiana Business Review article, individuals in the United States between the ages of 25-54 spend an average of $2833.00 each year on eating out (this is according to 2004 data). While the number is not surprising, it did get me thinking about personal finance and daily eating habits.
Given the current economy, many personal finance blogs and magazines are offering advice on money saving products, deals, coupons, investment strategies, etc., but I’ve yet to see a piece on the importance of NOT eating out often. Consistently dining out is full of hazards including:
- Eating out is a colossal waste of money (most food and beverage items have a huge markup).
- Eating out is not healthy (you don’t have direct control over ingredients nor the amount of fat, salt, etc. used in the cooking process; note there’s no implication that fat and salt is bad for you, but I’m suggesting the person eating the food should have direct control over all ingredients).
- Eating out, often, leads to a reduction in the quality of ingredients used/consumed (unless, of course, you’re eating at a three star Michelin restaurant each night; that fact is that most American who eat out aren’t dining at Daniel).
- Eating out is a waste of time (think about the process: figuring out where to go, figuring out how to get there, waiting for your food, leaving a tip/paying, getting back to your home/apartment, etc.).
- Eating out is lazy (going to a restaurant other than for a special event breeds the type of behavior that is all about immediate satisfaction).
- Eating out can rob you of personal time with family and/or spouse (think about the teamwork needed to prepare a nice meal – it’s the kind of behavior that makes families and couples bond).
- Eating out does not allow one to build leftovers into his/herweekly food planning process (read: do not buy lunch at work!).
Many people make statements like, “I don’t know how to cook” or that “cooking is hard” in response to eating out often, but cooking quality meals is NOT hard (see my getting started to cooking at home guide here) and after you’ve been doing it for a while you can get really efficient at putting together healthy and great tasting meals (including food for lunch at work the next day). Some folks will make the argument that eating out is also about the subjective experience of being waited on, experiencing new foods and flavors, and a break from cooking at home and I can certainly understand this argument.
Easy recipes adopted for cooking at home:
1. Italian Chicken Soup
2. Risotto Milanese
3. Pesto Tuna
4. Pasta with garlic, olive oil, and parsley
5. Lavash Pizza
6. Easy Whole Roasted Chicken
7. Rosemary Chicken
8. Pizza Calabrese
9. Eggplant Parmigiana
10. Scallops with Pan Simmered Tomatoes
11. Roasted Peppers
12. Pork Chops with Pan Roasted Mushrooms and Chicory Greens
13. Classic Salad Dressing
14. Baked Flounder with Fennel Salad
15. Couscous with Feta and Tomatoes
16. Lamb and Beef Kufta Kebab
17. Braised Short Ribs in Red Wine
18. Lentil Soup
19, Onion and Potato Fritatta
20. Oven Roasted Vegetables