Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dining Out Less

One of my goals for 2012 is to reduce the amount of restaurant food I eat. On the surface, this seems like a financial goal. While that is one reason, and a nice side effect, this goal is more about eating healthy than it is about saving money. We always eat healthier when we eat at home because we know where the food came from and how much salt, sugar, etc went into it. But it goes even deeper than that. My theme for this year is to be mindful of the choices I make. For this specific goal that means that I want dinner (or lunch) out to be a treat and not the norm whenever we feel is slightly more convenient. I want to make those times count.

I'm budgeting for this in dollars as well as frequency, because spending my money wisely is always a goal of mine. Initially I was not going to count the snacks and sweets, only restaurant meals, but the random snacks are probably the splurges I need to control the most. When we eat a meal at a restaurant, it is often out of perceived convenience, to socialize, or to celebrate something. But walking across the street from work to buy a smoothie or a cookie is not really a convenience issue, is due to poor planning or more often because I am craving sugar. So I amended my goal to include both in the $80 monthly gap, with $20 of that being in sweets/snacks. I'm still shooting for only eating 8 meals per month at restaurants, which still seems high to me since I always pack a lunch to work; I would prefer if we only went to a restaurant once a week or on special occasions. For now, I am not going to set a limit on the snacks/sweets outings and see how I do with the $20 cap.

I thought it would be interesting to analyze the reasons I go out to eat. In January, we ate 8 of our meals at restaurants, not include random snacks/sweets purchases. Here's the breakdown:
  • social: 4 
  • just because: 2 (we had a groupon) 
  • celebration: 1 (lunch after marathon #3) 
  • convenience: 1 (after flying home from vacation) 
I'm pleased that only once it was due to convenience. Socializing and celebrating are obviously big reasons why many people go to a restaurant, and we are no different. Ever since I lost the weight and started eating healthy, I've been trying to redefine the equation that celebration = food, but it's so ingrained in our culture that it's a bad habit to break. I'm not saying we need to break the habit entirely, just be mindful of it. I want to start focusing on sharing experiences with friend instead of food. I want to get our place in shape so we can start hosting game nights again, do that iron chef party we keep plotting, and start a dinner club where we take turns hosting a monthly potluck to try new recipes and not miss out on the social aspect of dinning out. Let's see where this little adventure leads :)

Further Reading: The Chain Restaurant Is The Worst Deal in America & 4 Easy Ways to Stop Eating Out

1 comment:

Elisabeth Greenwood said...

This is a good idea! We eat out pretty rarely- one every 2-3 weeks, and neither of us are fans of fast food so it's easy to avoid. I do tend to buy lunch pretty regularly, however- the salad bar isn't too bad, but it hard to resist getting a soda and cookie and I really don't need that. With the new crock pot I'm experimenting with more foods at home and I'm trying to get back into the habit of bringing lunch more often- I made Aloo Matar for lunch today and thought of you!

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