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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: cabeasle on December 30, 2014, 08:07:11 AM

Title: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: cabeasle on December 30, 2014, 08:07:11 AM
How do you guys keep your weekly fun money spending so low?  I've looked at so many budgets on these forums, and I'm always surprised at how little most claim to spend on entertainment. 

I'm pretty solid on each part of my budget otherwise.  I have a low cost phone plan, a paid off car, I'm careful with picking up anything that might possibly lead to a monthly expense, etc.  Likewise, I really don't buy things anymore (aside from an occassional book if the library/friends don't have what I'm looking for).

Even so, I find I am spending tons of money on a weekly basis.  Some of this goes to unexpected expenses (medical, car, etc), but the rest goes to eating/drinking out.  This is a place I have a lot of difficulty trimming up.  If I spend too much time in the apartment, I start to feel crazy.  If I have to cook every day/night, I start to get frustrated at the mess in the kitchen and the burden of being tied to the food that is in the fridge.  So, my girlfriend and I end up going out at least once a week, just to be in a different environment and to benefit from someone else's culinary creativity.  I also really like grabbing a beer out somewhere (even though drinking at home is cheaper) just because it is nice to be in a convivial atmosphere and not the same apartment all the time.

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you convince yourself to limit restaurant spending, or do you? 
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: DeltaBond on December 30, 2014, 08:13:17 AM
I can relate to this one, definitely!  I grew up eating out a lot, and then I lived with a 5 star French chef for a while, then a half-Korean who cooks amazingly well in a lot of different types of food.  My husband and I do eat out from time to time, but we don't do so for entertainment - if you're just not wanting to cook, you don't need to spend 'entertainment money' on the meal.

Also, make your home comfortable, and when you cook, do it well and cook enough for leftovers.  I'm talking, try and mimick what the chefs are doing.  It can be loads of fun and feel like a real accomplishment when you have created your OWN version of your favorite meal out. 

For a need for the change of scenery - we go for drives, and go to the park.  Much cheaper than hitting the bars and restaurants.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Future Lazy on December 30, 2014, 08:19:12 AM
Budgeting goes as follows:

Paycheck - Bills - $50 = Savings

That $50 I leave myself is usually 'entertainment' money, which almost always means food. It would be incredibly easy for me to go out for steak and margaritas 5-7 times a month, if I had a huge income and wasn't engaged with frugality, because I fucking love steak and margaritas. Leaving myself $50 only means I can do that once in a while, instead of a dozen times a month. Or I can go to somewhere much cheaper 2-3 times per paycheck. Or I can order fancy pizza 1-2 times per paycheck.

Basically, it works for me the same as any other bill. Set an amount and stick to it.

But I also don't get stir crazy, like you describe. I'll stay in for the night, every night, quite happily. :)
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: TerriM on December 30, 2014, 08:24:37 AM
We have allocated ourselves allowances, and all eating out (except a birthday dinner for each member of the family), entertainment, latte's, and purchases we don't want to have to justify comes from the allowance.  We probably would get face-punched at the amount we've allocated, but it works well for us, because it's used so broadly (for example, if I want to buy shelving for the garage to store my "stuff", if I do it out of my allowance, then I don't have to get into a fight with my husband about the stuff--my money, my shelves to purchase).

We set this up, though, initially to make sure the eating out stayed under control.  We use separate bank accounts with debit cards for the money, not an item on a balance sheet.  That way you're really out of money when you're out of money.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: oldfierm on December 30, 2014, 08:43:26 AM
Yup, I can totally relate.  If there's one thing about this forum that makes me feel inadequate, it's the restaurant spending. 

It used to be straight up horrible when we lived in DC.  My wife worked in a restaurant and her shift usually ended just as I was walking home from work (right past her restaurant).  One drink with a few other restaurant friends led to a night on the town, with dinner out and tons of drinks - three times a week.  It's amazing we saved any money at all.  We would easily spend $700-1000 just on bars and restaurants in a month.   

Now that the town I live in isn't as "nice" we don't spend quite as much.  I'm just not as tempted to go eat out if it's Ruby Tuesdays, and the drinks here are like $3 less per drink.  We still go out for dinner at least once a week, though, and probably spend $200-$400 on restaurants per month.  Usually $400, if I'm being honest.   

The conclusion I'm starting to come to is that I just need to put all of our extra money in savings/extra mortgage principal payments where we can't touch it.  That leaves us with so little extra money I think, "we can't go out, we can't afford it!"  Unfortunately, this method makes me feel stressed out and poor, but so far it's the only thing that's been effective. 

Because of the stress, I vacillate between thinking I should just go totally anti-mustache and "live my life" and berating myself for feeling that way.  Le sigh...at least I'm saving money in the process.     
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: thedayisbrave on December 30, 2014, 08:55:47 AM
Restaurants/dining out is one of my largest spending categories as well.  I usually go over budget regularly. 

What I've found that is going out for breakfast is usually a lot cheaper - grabbing a bagel or a pastry instead of full on meals.  That way I feel like I've eaten out but in a way that is better for my bottom line.  I used to be really bad about buying coffee out too, but I switched from buying Starbucks ground coffee to Gevalia.  I enjoy the taste so much more, and even when I am tempted to go out "for the atmosphere," I ask myself: "Do I REALLY feel like having a coffee out right now, which may or may not be good (I'm a coffee snob), when I KNOW I can make the perfect cup of coffee for myself at home?"

Being a young'un, friends are always asking me to meet up for dinner/drinks.  I don't like turning people down because I gain tremendous value from socializing (not just personal value, but business  value as well... I consider it networking).  What I would do is eat at home - something simple but filling, like a few slices of pizza or some pasta - and when going out, order a Coke and an app.  I found that I could do that multiple times a week safely within my budget, meaning I didn't have to turn down ANY invites.  You just have to be prepared to answer questions about why you're not eating if they come up - I usually just explain I had a lot of leftover food at home so I ate that but still wanted to hang out. 

Sometimes I splurge on sushi, but that usually means I'm paying for it the rest of the month.  So I just keep an eye on prices and try to do what makes the most sense.  Often, just asking myself/thinking twice about my choices really helps.  It takes some deep digging, but if I know I don't feel extremely hungry, what's the point of ordering two different rolls for variety when I know just one will be filling enough?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: ambimammular on December 30, 2014, 09:04:13 AM
Would it help to have a few easy go-to meals to fall back on? (Ours is pesto on anything) or previously prepared stuff waiting in the freezer. Also, I second the idea of mastering a favorite dish. I like our peanut thai noodles above any I've had in a restaurant.

Sounds like clean up is part of the problem, do you used a dishwasher? Something out of the freezer wouldn't mess up any preparation bowls etc. Plus the guilt of knowing you've got a perfectly good lasagna waiting in the house might help you walk away from the restaurant. Try making your kitchen as convenient as possible, adding prep space, keeping keys and mail off the counter, clean up as you go so it's not so overwhelming at the end.

As for ambiance, put some music on. Wear an apron if it helps you feel festive. Keep a chair in the kitchen so guests can visit while you prepare, or better yet join in the cooking.

Also if you're buying the beer yourself you could upgrade the quality of you've got. That makes your choice to go home to the good stuff more attractive than the overpriced swill on tap.

Change your route, so you don't pass by tempting restaurants.
Really, eating out is a habit. Make it an inconvenient, less attractive one.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: DoubleDown on December 30, 2014, 09:05:05 AM
Going out to eat once a week doesn't sound crazy excessive to me, unless you're in a debt emergency. Like everything, you have to make smart choices when you eat out or go drinking. Having a beer (or MAYBE two) at the bar with your buds once a week hopefully won't break the bank. But having 5-6 will definitely kill your finances along with your health and making you feel miserable. Buying rounds for everyone? Definitely a bad ideas unless it's shared equally over time or you're already wealthy.

Same with eating out. You can eat a really nice restaurant meal for $10-20 per person if you don't buy expensive drinks/wine/coffee/dessert/etc. with it. Or you can blow $50+ per person easily by not being conscientious or eating at expensive, trendy restaurants.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: WGH on December 30, 2014, 09:43:46 AM
Easy solution have a couple of toddlers it will stop you from wanting to eat in public. :)

This is actually what cured us of this problem, when you're a young couple you're accustomed to dating which most of the time means eating out or going out. With kids at home you tend to go out to eat less and to bars rarely if ever.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 30, 2014, 09:56:09 AM
Takes less time, effort, and money to just do it yourself than it does to drive somewhere, wait around, order, wait around, spend money, drive home. Half the time the food doesn't even taste as good as what we would have cooked, and 100% of the time it is less healthy (my bowels can vouch for this. Eating out less, now when I eat out it can get, umm, ugly.) Win/win/win.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: FarmerPete on December 30, 2014, 10:03:44 AM
What food item do you like the most?  Whatever it is, find out how much you could make it for vs going out.  Most restaurants charge 3x their food costs.  If you can buy a steak for $7, it's going to be > $20 at the restaurant.  Why give them the money when it just takes a few minutes on the grill to cook?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Eric on December 30, 2014, 10:11:20 AM
Takes less time, effort, and money to just do it yourself than it does to drive somewhere, wait around, order, wait around, spend money, drive home. Half the time the food doesn't even taste as good as what we would have cooked, and 100% of the time it is less healthy (my bowels can vouch for this. Eating out less, now when I eat out it can get, umm, ugly.) Win/win/win.

Totally agree.  The more you cook, the better you get.  Once I started getting disappointed in the majority of my restaurant meals, I knew it was time to pull the plug and just cook at home all the time.  There are a million great recipe sites out there (www.budgetbytes.com for example) that you can use for inspiration.

As far as the dirty dishes, you just have to learn to clean up as you go.  There's always 5 minutes where you can quick wash a dish or two that you used in prep.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: DeltaBond on December 30, 2014, 10:15:37 AM
I want to add to my earlier post that it might seem like cooking at home is expensive when you first buy the seasonings you need to make the foods you're craving, but don't let that phase you.  Try and view it as a hobby, if you can.

Also, I don't always use them, but when I see disposable plates and silverware for sale, I get those and use them. 
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Zikoris on December 30, 2014, 10:17:21 AM
I hear you on cleanup. Try experimenting with low-mess dishes like one-pot meals, slow cooker, etc. Does your girlfriend live with you? I found that once my boyfriend moved in with me and we started splitting duties (I cook, he cleans up) I was WAY more inclined to cook.

Having a weekly meal plan helps us a lot as well.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: TerriM on December 30, 2014, 10:17:58 AM
Easy solution have a couple of toddlers it will stop you from wanting to eat in public. :)

This is actually what cured us of this problem, when you're a young couple you're accustomed to dating which most of the time means eating out or going out. With kids at home you tend to go out to eat less and to bars rarely if ever.

:)

Actually, I find a lot of the eating out now is because the kids want it, and I want variety in one of my kid's diet.  He seems to have a special fondness for eating well when out and eating pretty much carbs and raw veggies when home.  But we also go out  sometimes because I'm out after soccer/playdates/etc. and realize it's dinnertime and I haven't made anything.  Just means I need better planning of my day.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Louisville on December 30, 2014, 10:18:45 AM
Are you really spending too much on bars/restaurants? Maybe it's not reallly a problem. You seem to think so, though, so I'll assume it's true.

The answer here is the same as breaking any other habit. Man the fuck up and do it.

Don't like dirty kitchen after cooking? Clean it up. Getting stir crazy in the house? Leave, but don't go to a bar - walk, run, bike, play tennis, whatever.

Force yourself, using good old adult willpower, to stop the bad habit. After a few weeks, new habits will take hold. Watch out for backsliding.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: TerriM on December 30, 2014, 10:21:22 AM
Dishwasher is a must.  Also, having dishwashable pots, pans, plates etc.  I replaced our teflon pots with stainless steel pots simply for health reasons and then realized I could just toss stuff in the dishwasher.  If it didn't come clean *then* I'd go ahead and clean it.

I think you can get pretty far freezing parts of your favorite meals.  For example, if you really like grilled chicken with a sauce, experiment with making 2x and freezing half.  See if it tastes just as good reheated.  Or see if grilling the chicken but making the sauce fresh tastes just as good.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: TheGadfly on December 30, 2014, 11:13:24 AM
I routinely go over-budget on dining-out and living in a city with a lot of nice restaurants within walking distance does not help.  Most of the time, my wife and I eat out simply because we're tired and don't feel like spending 3-hours cooking and cleaning.

Aside from developing a stronger resolve to resist eating out, a good way to lower restaurant costs is to simply buy frozen or prepared meals at the grocery store.  I used to completely avoid frozen foods (pizza, burritos, fried fish) because they are generally more expensive than making the same meals from scratch (not to mention how unhealthy they are).  Still, it's much better to spend $10 to $15 on a decent frozen pizza than spend $25 to $30 on delivery. 
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Eric on December 30, 2014, 11:21:58 AM
Also, I don't always use them, but when I see disposable plates and silverware for sale, I get those and use them.

No.  Just no.  You're wasting money to create excess trash so that you can be lazy.  Suck it up and wash some dishes buttercup.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: NinetyFour on December 30, 2014, 11:53:19 AM
+1000
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Imustacheyouaquestion on December 30, 2014, 11:57:36 AM
You just need a few tweaks. Invite friends over for food and beers at your place to break up the monotony, and then rotate to hanging out at different people's homes. This is so much cheaper than the bar scene and you're still benefiting from other's "culinary creativity." Bonus: learning to cook for dinner parties makes you a better and more creative cook as well.

Cooking and cleaning every day is a huge drag. My SO and I spend a few hours cooking up large meals on Sundays, then eat leftovers from the fridge for lunch/dinner the rest of the week. We basically just fill the dishwasher with tupperware from lunch and plates from dinner a few times during the work week. Dinner out is still entertainment for us, but we do it much less frequently (fancy splurge for a special occasion instead of grabbing so-so burgers from the neighborhood bar). 

"The burden of being tied to the food in the fridge" is a ridiculous first world problem and deserves a straight face punch.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: ShortInSeattle on December 30, 2014, 12:02:40 PM
Hi there.

I know it depends on your goals, but once a week doesn't sound terrible to me.

We're eating out less, and the following things helped:

1) Figure out why you are eating out. For us it was 5% social and 95% convenience/laziness.  We decided that having a meal out with friends was a good use of our money, but constant take-out because we are lazy is not.

2) Try to address the reason why you eat out. We are tired and lazy after work so we stocked up on easy-to-make meals. Stir Fry (from a frozen veggie mix) is our standard weeknight meal. I keep a cache of frozen burritos in the freezer for lunches. We're gradually branching out into more recipes, but at the start, we needed something convenient.  I've also made a big batch of food on Sunday and then not cooked for 3-4 days, that worked too.

3) Get a crock pot. We throw together a stew once or twice a week, and it's awesome. Like I said, we're lazy.

We used to avoid cooking because it "took forever" but with practice it doesn't need to take much longer than walking or driving to a restaurant and reading the menu. We used the "cooking is slow and hard" excuse for years - but it ended up not being true.

Hope this helps.

SIS

Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Spondulix on December 30, 2014, 12:16:14 PM
Great thread. I have the same problem - even with a dishwasher - and starting to realize it's because there's too much in the kitchen. It's nice to have a set of 4 bowls for cooking, except they all will get used, no room in the sink to wash, no room to let them dry, no room in the dishwasher. Try doing a kitchen purge.

The other aspect is just time, and it's worth figuring out what your free time is worth (vs what you're doing with your time). I could spend an extra 5 hours cooking and save myself $50 eating out that week, but spending $10/hr for a meal is a lot less than what I'd pay for a gardener, maid, accountant, or handyman - if those are the things I'm spending my time doing instead. If there's time to plan (whether it's crockpot cooking or buying sandwich supplies) I will, but there's not always that convenience.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Spondulix on December 30, 2014, 12:19:44 PM
Regarding getting out of the apartment - how about asking friends if you bring food to their place sometime (or vice versa). I had a friend do this for me last night and it was awesome! I came home from work and dinner was ready (he cooked at home and brought it over). He had the mess from cooking at his place, and we had plates, silverware etc, so half the work to clean.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: RelaxedGal on December 30, 2014, 01:03:33 PM
If I spend too much time in the apartment, I start to feel crazy.  If I have to cook every day/night, I start to get frustrated at the mess in the kitchen and the burden of being tied to the food that is in the fridge.  So, my girlfriend and I end up going out at least once a week, just to be in a different environment and to benefit from someone else's culinary creativity.  I also really like grabbing a beer out somewhere (even though drinking at home is cheaper) just because it is nice to be in a convivial atmosphere and not the same apartment all the time.

I telecommuted for a while, and AMEN on the stir-crazy.  We never dined out so much as in that 6 month stint!

It looks like you need 3 things:

Or, like others have said above, if it's a priority for you just budget for it and move on.  It sounds like you're move of an extrovert for me, given that you enjoy the "convivial atmosphere" of the bar.  Maybe you just plan for that, maybe you find a Trivia Night put on at your local Community Center, maybe you join a mountain biking group, maybe you invite buddies over to watch the football game on Sunday.

Figure out what really makes you happy.  That's the heart of Mustachianism, from what I can tell.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Jesus Christ on December 30, 2014, 01:04:42 PM
I only go to restaurants to stay social with friends and family. I never suggest it and frown to myself whenever I hear we are eating out. I always order from the left hand side of the menu. You know the hot dogs and cheese  quesadilla.

I am also not ashamed to drink in public instead of going to the bars. Those soft insulated lunch boxes make great six pack coolers. And If I am forced to go to the bars, I will sneak in the plastic flask to add flavor to my coke-cola.

For extreme environments like sporting events and concerts: google “freedom flask” It will pay for itself after the first use.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Spondulix on December 30, 2014, 02:01:29 PM
I only go to restaurants to stay social with friends and family. I never suggest it and frown to myself whenever I hear we are eating out. I always order from the left hand side of the menu. You know the hot dogs and cheese  quesadilla.

I am also not ashamed to drink in public instead of going to the bars. Those soft insulated lunch boxes make great six pack coolers. And If I am forced to go to the bars, I will sneak in the plastic flask to add flavor to my coke-cola.

For extreme environments like sporting events and concerts: google “freedom flask” It will pay for itself after the first use.
I'm probably not the first to say this, but when I saw your name I went, "huh, so Jesus likes hot dogs, cheese quesadillas, and sneaks in flasks to the bars" while picturing the white robe and beard. Epic.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Jags4186 on December 30, 2014, 03:12:13 PM
Restaurants are super hard to budget for.  My FI and I budget $150 a month and that generally covers 2 meals out.  We never go out to eat at like a Chevy's or Ruby Tuesdays...try to go some place decent and get something we wouldn't make at home.  I also have a separate $50/mo alcohol budget.  We've really cut back on how much we drink...that usually will cover a 12 pack 1 step above Budweiser, 2 bottles of wine, and 2-4 drinks at a bar which is pretty good all things considering.

Our social circle really relies on eating out and drinking.  The toughest thing to do is "split the bill".  We generally always try to show up first and start our own separate tab now.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: catccc on December 30, 2014, 03:21:03 PM
I feel like we eat out pretty infrequently, and it's been decreasing over the last couple years, but it is still an area that we really should improve upon.  A few times a month I get suckered into lunches with work colleagues.  I enjoy this time out of the office with them, but sometimes it can be $20 for a lunch.  Everyone seems to be okay with an even split, so I order up to par, because I don't want to feel slighted.

Not much to say on how to help it.  Pantry cooking rather than meal planning works better for us.  Even when there seems to be no food in the house, we can usually whip up a decent soup.

Once a week doesn't sound too crazy.  Maybe try to select a less expensive restaurant?

also on cleaning up, I love dishes that go in the oven (quiche, lasagna...)  Because while they bake I can clean up all the prep stuff.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: MoneyCat on December 30, 2014, 03:25:47 PM
I've taken to cooking a bunch of stuff on weekends and freezing meals to have during the week when I am way too tired to cook.  I also freeze some homemade pizza dough for when I'm really tired, because pizza is just about the easiest meal in the world to make (other than noodles).  Honestly, I don't really feel the need to go out very much.  It's a pain to go to the restaurant and wait for a table, then wait for drinks, then wait to order, then wait for the meal, then eat the meal, then wait for the check, then pay the check, then go all the way home.  Why not sit around at home watching Netflix in sweats with a better-tasting homemade meal and an 85 cent beer?  Or if you wait social interaction, invite friends over for a homemade meal and watch Netflix or sports in HD for free via OTA antenna?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: brooklynmoney on December 30, 2014, 09:15:13 PM
This is my Achilles heel too. Someone posted a story about spending $11k in food delivery a year. I also apend thousands on delivery and eating out. I try to make up for it in other areas like clothing and not paying for a phone. I also try to always go for the least expensive option so it's better to go out for drinks than a full dinner and as someone else's said brunch out is cheaper than dinner.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Exhale on December 30, 2014, 09:45:01 PM
What I've found that is going out for breakfast is usually a lot cheaper - grabbing a bagel or a pastry instead of full on meals.  That way I feel like I've eaten out but in a way that is better for my bottom line. 

+1

Also, happy hours can be a less expensive option.

Finally, when I eat out, I opt for a local place (versus chains) - that way I'm happy that my money is supporting my community.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Roland of Gilead on December 30, 2014, 09:54:20 PM
Sigh.   Restaurant spending.

We ate at Art of the Table last week.  $421.33 plus $85 tip (It was already so much I figured what the hell and rounded up the tip to an even $85 instead of 20%).

$506.33 for three people and I didn't even have the wine flight (don't really like the taste of alcohol).

It was very very good though.  First time I have had foie gras (don't get your panties in a wad, this was some sustainable duck from a local farm that probably even had a name).

Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Frankies Girl on December 30, 2014, 10:01:20 PM
I love eating out, but I also love cooking. In the interest of saving us some calories (and money) we're making an effort to reduce our eating out for the coming year and here's a few things that work for us.

Clean as you go. Don't make a huge pile of dirty dishes at the end, as you finish a cooking stage, wash up. It takes almost no extra time since you're washing an item or two at a time, and there isn't a big mess at the end of the time.

Cook together. One person chops while another watches the pan (or washes a dish). Chat, put some music on, and have a glass of wine or a beer and use the cooking time to bond and spend time together.

Eating out - don't order drinks - drink water. Alcohol, soda, etc. are HUGE money sinks in a bar or restaurant; if you want to drink, drink at home (or don't order full meals if you want to go have a few drinks out). If you're eating a full meal, skip the appetizer or dessert. Split an entree.

Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: garth on December 30, 2014, 10:11:13 PM
If you think your cooking as up to par and that you can replicate the "going out" experience, then why bother spending the money? If you feel otherwise, and if you value going out, then keep doing it.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: redbirdfan on December 31, 2014, 02:48:25 AM
Don't beat yourself up for eating out.  If it fits within your budget and everything else is generally under control, then you're still doing great.  Try to break the habit of going out to eat when you don't really have a taste for anything in particular.  Slowly but surely you'll be able to treat yourself when you really crave something (I have a Chipotle meltdown about once every three months) but you'll be able to keep it together when going out to eat is just codespeak for I don't feel like cooking right now.  If you're going to grab a bite to eat, make sure it's something you actually want and try to make it as satisfying but as cheap as possible.  Breakfast is generally cheaper than dinner, lots of restaurants have rush hour and late night happy hour discounts on food and drinks, and if you do order a real meal, try to get take out instead of dining in (no tip and you don't run the risk of ordering additional food and drinks).  If you're feeling stir crazy in your apartment, try to force yourself to eat a handful of almonds/peanut butter and jelly sandwich/whatever's handy in the fridge before you go out (you'll figure out your go-to snacks and foods).  That way you can go out to be social but stick to the appetizers instead of the main courses.   As previously suggested you can also try to have routine post-work potlucks with friends and rotate houses/apartments.  That's usually cheaper than everyone going out.  Bottom line is that eating out isn't the end of the world.  Just make sure it's something you actually want to do instead of a knee jerk reaction.  It gets easier.     
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: mm1970 on December 31, 2014, 08:46:58 AM
How do you guys keep your weekly fun money spending so low?  I've looked at so many budgets on these forums, and I'm always surprised at how little most claim to spend on entertainment. 

I'm pretty solid on each part of my budget otherwise.  I have a low cost phone plan, a paid off car, I'm careful with picking up anything that might possibly lead to a monthly expense, etc.  Likewise, I really don't buy things anymore (aside from an occassional book if the library/friends don't have what I'm looking for).

Even so, I find I am spending tons of money on a weekly basis.  Some of this goes to unexpected expenses (medical, car, etc), but the rest goes to eating/drinking out.  This is a place I have a lot of difficulty trimming up.  If I spend too much time in the apartment, I start to feel crazy.  If I have to cook every day/night, I start to get frustrated at the mess in the kitchen and the burden of being tied to the food that is in the fridge.  So, my girlfriend and I end up going out at least once a week, just to be in a different environment and to benefit from someone else's culinary creativity.  I also really like grabbing a beer out somewhere (even though drinking at home is cheaper) just because it is nice to be in a convivial atmosphere and not the same apartment all the time.

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you convince yourself to limit restaurant spending, or do you?
It's easy for me because I have kids, and eating out with a toddler is a PITA.

But prior to that, I did it by simply setting a budget.  I think our original budget years ago was $100 a month.  Or $50?  Enough for a couple of lunches and a dinner.

You can go "out" without spending money - find cheaper places to be - museums, coffee shops, parks, etc. 
You can benefit from others' culinary creativity without eating out.  (Think grocery stores, or learn to cook different things on your own).
You can get used to eating the same old boring food.

Culinary variety is delicious but it invites overeating and overspending (in my experience).  Eating the same thing over and over is great for weight control.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: mm1970 on December 31, 2014, 08:50:02 AM
Easy solution have a couple of toddlers it will stop you from wanting to eat in public. :)

This is actually what cured us of this problem, when you're a young couple you're accustomed to dating which most of the time means eating out or going out. With kids at home you tend to go out to eat less and to bars rarely if ever.

ha ha ha ha!

I said the same thing.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 08:55:56 AM
I think we need some facepunches here.

Restaurants are not a source of food. They are for the most part (especially fast food) a source of unhealthy decadence. Treat them as such and only occasionally visit. You should never have to visit a restaurant just because you didn't have a plan for eating that particular meal.

One somewhat-repeated tenant of the blog we all read here.

Also, I've found that fancy restaurants do not taste better than mid-tier ones, they are merely fancier. They're rarely bad - something I can't say for mid-tier restaurants - but if you pick wisely that shouldn't be a problem. Take my area - Vast (fancy restaurant in the tallest building in town) vs Cattlemen's. Vast - $100+ / person. Fancy presentation. Servers are incredibly unobtrusive (so fancy I don't even know how to ask for something, your water just gets magically filled without ever seeing them.) Cattlemen's - $20 or so / person. Food will taste better than Vast and come faster too.

Personally, the 1 time every few months I go to a restaurant, it won't be Vast. That said, having been to both those places this year (office party, paid for by company) the best steaks I've had this year were served at Christmas dinner at my in-laws. They are rural farmers who raise cattle themselves, so probably the cheapest steak dinner I had this year too. Yummy.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: benjenn on December 31, 2014, 09:06:36 AM
Hey, Skunkfunk! Happy to have someone else from OKC on the forum!  :)
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 09:07:57 AM
Hey, Skunkfunk! Happy to have someone else from OKC on the forum!  :)

Quite a few from Oklahoma around here! The half-dozen of us could just about use our own sub-forum.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: benjenn on December 31, 2014, 09:13:22 AM
I haven't been on the forum long and yours was the first post I've seen that specifically mentioned Oklahoma City.  I agree with you on Vast... love to go there when the company is paying for it (more for the view than anything) but have so many better restaurants than that around here.  We've cut our restaurant expenditures by about 75% in the last few months and don't really miss it.  I think it's been one of the easiest things to cut actually.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 09:22:59 AM
I haven't been on the forum long and yours was the first post I've seen that specifically mentioned Oklahoma City.  I agree with you on Vast... love to go there when the company is paying for it (more for the view than anything) but have so many better restaurants than that around here.  We've cut our restaurant expenditures by about 75% in the last few months and don't really miss it.  I think it's been one of the easiest things to cut actually.

I've certainly been surprised by some of the restaurants I've tried around here. "A Family Affair," a buffet in the disreputable part of town, was fantastic! $10/person. Only been once, a couple of months ago, but will go again someday.

One thing about Vast is the parking. No way I was paying $5 to park in the Devon tower parking! I wound up jogging the half mile from the Goodyear on Walker in my suit and tie. Blech. No way 5 minutes of my time is worth $5, but for that hassle factor, definitely not the kind of thing I'll do every day. Easy thing to cut, indeed.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: benjenn on December 31, 2014, 10:16:20 AM
We live downtown so getting to any of the restaurants is pretty easy and we never have to pay for parking!  Of course that's only when the weather is agreeable.  Another way to cut down... if we can't walk, we don't go.  :)
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 10:19:28 AM
We live downtown so getting to any of the restaurants is pretty easy and we never have to pay for parking!  Of course that's only when the weather is agreeable.  Another way to cut down... if we can't walk, we don't go.  :)

Awesome! I feel like I'm the only guy around this town that bikes or walks to work - or anywhere else for that matter! Seriously, those drivers are out to kill me and everyone else, it makes them pretty mad when I take a lane. House is ~5 miles from downtown, Forest Park. Pregnant wife and fancy clothes preclude biking to Vast, though.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Baboo on December 31, 2014, 10:35:00 AM
What are your thoughts on this?  How do you convince yourself to limit restaurant spending, or do you?

Quite honestly, we don't feel badly at all for eating at a restaurant once a week.  Not at all.  We both work full-time jobs, have 3 kiddos, and simply love, love our Friday night outing.  We do, however, try to balance the cost from week to week.  We have no qualms paying $100 one week for delicious food, drinks, and ambiance.  Then, the following week, we choose something more modest, say the $20 - $30 range.  I love grocery shopping and find the whole stock-up/frugal shop thing fun and challenging.  But, it's that extremely effective strategy that allows us the flexibility to dine out.  Kudos to those who can eat at home every night.  Different strokes, but for me and my dh (who is a chef and truly welcomes a day off cooking), eating out is never a regret. 
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Roland of Gilead on December 31, 2014, 12:17:11 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

At the afore mentioned Art of the Table, we had 11 dishes, each with at least 7 non spice ingredients.

That would be nearly 80 items you had to buy to make one meal, even if you had all of the spices.

Too much work to make at home even if you have the chef skill.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: brooklynmoney on December 31, 2014, 12:39:59 PM
I think we need some facepunches here.

Restaurants are not a source of food. They are for the most part (especially fast food) a source of unhealthy decadence. Treat them as such and only occasionally visit. You should never have to visit a restaurant just because you didn't have a plan for eating that particular meal.

One somewhat-repeated tenant of the blog we all read here.

Also, I've found that fancy restaurants do not taste better than mid-tier ones, they are merely fancier. They're rarely bad - something I can't say for mid-tier restaurants - but if you pick wisely that shouldn't be a problem. Take my area - Vast (fancy restaurant in the tallest building in town) vs Cattlemen's. Vast - $100+ / person. Fancy presentation. Servers are incredibly unobtrusive (so fancy I don't even know how to ask for something, your water just gets magically filled without ever seeing them.) Cattlemen's - $20 or so / person. Food will taste better than Vast and come faster too.

Personally, the 1 time every few months I go to a restaurant, it won't be Vast. That said, having been to both those places this year (office party, paid for by company) the best steaks I've had this year were served at Christmas dinner at my in-laws. They are rural farmers who raise cattle themselves, so probably the cheapest steak dinner I had this year too. Yummy.

omg I went to OKC for biz once  and ate at Cattlemans it was amazing! This is the problem I love restaurants that have character and good food  from Cattlemans to Per Se I just do. I know that was not the point of your post but I had to give Cattlemans a shout out.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: garth on December 31, 2014, 01:32:50 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 01:45:53 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.

Forgive me if fancy jumbo shrimp in some sort of sweet-potato based saucey-thing I couldn't begin to whip up doesn't tickle my fancy about the same amount as grilled mushrooms and other random vegetables for an appetizer. Difficult doesn't mean better.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Eric on December 31, 2014, 03:03:23 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.

I live in Silicon Valley, so you should assume that I'm a fucking excellent cook, not that I have bad taste.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Roland of Gilead on December 31, 2014, 03:12:40 PM
Forgive me if fancy jumbo shrimp in some sort of sweet-potato based saucey-thing I couldn't begin to whip up doesn't tickle my fancy about the same amount as grilled mushrooms and other random vegetables for an appetizer. Difficult doesn't mean better.

I used to think that way until I ate the food cooked by a Michelin star chef.  It isn't just a fancy arrangement of food...they actually know how to combine ingredients and cook to perfection.

I wouldn't expect a fine chef to know how to solder a 144 pin TQFP correctly, so why should anyone expect an untrained person to produce food on the level of top chefs?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: aj_yooper on December 31, 2014, 03:18:10 PM
We are foodies and get cabin fever so I feel your pain.  Pick cool spots to go to and don't drink, but totally enjoy the meal. 
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: garth on December 31, 2014, 04:28:46 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.

I live in Silicon Valley, so you should assume that I'm a fucking excellent cook, not that I have bad taste.

Oui chef.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 04:38:23 PM
Forgive me if fancy jumbo shrimp in some sort of sweet-potato based saucey-thing I couldn't begin to whip up doesn't tickle my fancy about the same amount as grilled mushrooms and other random vegetables for an appetizer. Difficult doesn't mean better.

I used to think that way until I ate the food cooked by a Michelin star chef.  It isn't just a fancy arrangement of food...they actually know how to combine ingredients and cook to perfection.

I wouldn't expect a fine chef to know how to solder a 144 pin TQFP correctly, so why should anyone expect an untrained person to produce food on the level of top chefs?

I'm typing this from Grand House. Am I still allowed in here?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: mm1970 on December 31, 2014, 04:40:38 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.
Well there's food, and there's FOOD.  I guess you could call me a "foodie" of some sort.  I love food, watching about it on TV, reading about it, etc.  I learned to cook in my 30's on my own, took some classes, learned to master a lot of basic dishes and a few fancy dishes.

Of course with small children and a full time job, my cooking these days is mostly uninspired and more the "Chili's" set.  But in years past, I got pretty good at experimenting.

The thing with cooking something yourself is that you get to make it EXACTLY how you like it.  It may take 2, or 3, or 4 tries to get the sauce right, or the spice level right, or to stop overcooking the damn salmon, but after that - you've got it.

That doesn't mean you should never eat out.  There are some nice restaurants in my town with local ingredients that make really really awesome food that I would never attempt on my own (mostly because I'm too busy and too frugal to risk wasting that much money on 3 or 4 or 5 tries of it).  One of them costs us - well, it depends.  We got out of there for $100 one night by not drinking and not having dessert, but it was closer to $250 the first time.  Delicious, but it's a kind of place we've been twice, and they've been in business 10 years.

How often do you need to blow $100+ for dinner for two people?

The challenge for me (of course) is ethnic food.  I love Indian, Thai, etc. etc., and the restaurants are often better.  But there are a few recipes that I've tried and love (usually from a friend who is Indian, for example).
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Ricky on December 31, 2014, 04:51:49 PM
I'm addicted to Chipotle and I literally need rehab. The bad part is that it is over 45 min to the closest one for me so I don't go often, but I honestly probably won't move anywhere unless its maximum 2-3 miles from a Chipotle. To be fair, it's about the only place I care about eating at since I semi-trust the food quality and it's very filling food that will last a few meals.

Other than that, I eat cheapish fast food nearly every day at work. Something like Subway or the local chinese place. We don't have a proper break room and what we do have is disgusting and right next to a bathroom and I'm OCD as it is, so I have no other choice than to eat out.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: skunkfunk on December 31, 2014, 04:57:21 PM
I'm addicted to Chipotle and I literally need rehab. The bad part is that it is over 45 min to the closest one for me so I don't go often, but I honestly probably won't move anywhere unless its maximum 2-3 miles from a Chipotle. To be fair, it's about the only place I care about eating at since I semi-trust the food quality and it's very filling food that will last a few meals.

Other than that, I eat cheapish fast food nearly every day at work. Something like Subway or the local chinese place. We don't have a proper break room and what we do have is disgusting and right next to a bathroom and I'm OCD as it is, so I have no other choice than to eat out.

Lunchbox in car. Eat there? What do you do for a living?
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Roland of Gilead on December 31, 2014, 05:01:47 PM
Forgive me if fancy jumbo shrimp in some sort of sweet-potato based saucey-thing I couldn't begin to whip up doesn't tickle my fancy about the same amount as grilled mushrooms and other random vegetables for an appetizer. Difficult doesn't mean better.

I used to think that way until I ate the food cooked by a Michelin star chef.  It isn't just a fancy arrangement of food...they actually know how to combine ingredients and cook to perfection.

I wouldn't expect a fine chef to know how to solder a 144 pin TQFP correctly, so why should anyone expect an untrained person to produce food on the level of top chefs?

I'm typing this from Grand House. Am I still allowed in here?

That isn't the point.  I eat at places like Grand House that cost around $15 to $30 per person occasionally.   I also cook most meals at home.   Going to a high end restaurant once in awhile is just to sample something completely different.

I wouldn't facepunch somebody who wanted to travel to Asia or Europe to sample the history and culture just because they could get a cheaper representation at the local library or on a TV travel show.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Spondulix on December 31, 2014, 05:19:55 PM
Some things you just can't replicate with ease at home.

When I see someone claim that he can cook better food at home, I assume either that he eats exclusively at Chili's or that he lives in a flyover area where "fine dining" means steakhouse.
I completely disagree. As someone mentioned before, a lot of foods take spices and tools that may not be worth keeping in the kitchen all the time if you're just going to make it once in a blue moon. For example, restaurant quality sushi takes mirin, sushi rice, a sushi roller, etc. Unless you cook Japanese a lot, it just takes up room to keep these in your kitchen. Same could be said of Indian - you can make a decent curry with only a handful of spices, but if you want to make a real good, authentic curry you need about 8 spices (a number which you won't use for hardly anything but Indian).

Same could be said of baking, even. I've got so many cookie cutters it's ridiculous, but only make cookies about once a year. When storage is a premium, it might be smarter to only keep around the tools and cooking ingredients that you really can use regularly. Alton Brown says don't ever buy a one-purpose tool, cause it costs money, takes up space, and rarely gets used.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: Johnez on December 31, 2014, 05:41:59 PM
I can't imagine too much wasted money if you're only going out once a week. If it's high end and spendy, I suggest checking out some hole in the wall places. Where to find them depends on your locale, but I'd suggest yelp and any local small time newspaper. Ours (OC Weekly) has recommended some fantastic joints. Fish taco plates and beer for two comes out to $20 at my favorite restaurant.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: cabeasle on December 31, 2014, 06:28:02 PM
I'm just chiming in to say thanks for all the great replies.  I figured I would respond to some of them directly, but by the time I rechecked the post, there were over 60! 

Glad to know I am not the only one struggling with this, though.  I definitely get the fact that this is a great problem to have.  I mean, I'm worried about over-indulging on fancy food as a detriment to retiring earlier.  First world problem to the extreme.  Sometimes it's nice just to vent the frustration though, and make sure I'm not just struggling with something that everyone else figured out long ago. 

Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: JuSp02 on December 31, 2014, 06:52:21 PM
Also, make your home comfortable...

I second this.

You can try and recreate a restaurant environment when you start feeling bored. Break out some candles and buy some fancy napkins (this is a double-win because you'll also be minimizing paper napkins and saving the environment at the same time). Put on some background music and dim the lights. You could even change the music to fit what you've cooked. (Mexican music for taco night!)

Try going to the grocery store on your way home if you feel tied down to the food in your fridge. There is no reason you can't have coq au vin tomorrow night if that's what you're craving. It's still cheaper, and healthier!, than going to a restaurant.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: alsoknownasDean on December 31, 2014, 07:07:52 PM
I struggle with this, and I'm not even going to fancy places much, but even going to the local chicken shop, a parma at a pub or getting Subway at lunch costs plenty over time. Then there's the long-term Nando's addiction I'm not completely over, although Nando's themselves are helping me kick it with their prices (when a chicken burger, chips and drink costs the best part of $20).

I'm going to allow myself a pass to buy dinner tomorrow night though, tomorrow's going to be hot and I have no aircon, so I'd rather not heat my apartment up further by cooking.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: kathrynd on January 01, 2015, 03:17:15 AM
Set your budget up, so you only have access to $$$ amount of money.
Whether it be groceries or restaurants.
When it's gone, it's gone.

If you run out of food a few times, and don't have much to eat, you will budget better the next time.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: myrax on January 01, 2015, 08:09:43 AM
When I started buying spices and staples at international grocery stores, the fun of learning how to cook new dishes helped me cut back on restaurants. And you can buy a dozen spices for the same price as one bowl of curry.

Finding delicious, near instant foods helped stop me from going to a restaurant when I was too tired to cook or clean. My freezer is alway stocked with frozen potstickers from the Asian grocery store. I serve it with stir fried broccoli (frozen) or cabbage. The cost per meal is under $2, which is acceptable for the convenience. Another quick meal is baba ganoush made from the roasted eggplant in a jar. I serve it with pita from the market near my house and a salad. Finally, when I am making food that freezes well (lentil stew, some curries), I make extra to freeze for dinner when I am rushed.

I like to make salads and vegetable side dishes that I can serve several days in a row to streamline dinner prep. Salads made with kale or cabbage can last several days, refrigerator pickles last for weeks, and lots of sautéed or roasted vegetables can be reheated quickly in a pan. This lets me put together an awesome meal quickly.
Title: Re: Restaurant spending - I just can't seem to cut it
Post by: startswithhome on January 01, 2015, 08:35:13 AM
Find other ways to socialize. Host potlucks (little to no additional cost), find out when art galleries have free/cheap nights. Start a meetup for an interest you have. My husband started one for game masters and it was awesome, we met at a local coffee shop and each bought a drink to "pay" for their space. So much creativity and energy for $2-$5 (depending on the drink).