Take-out Can Break Your Monthly Budget: 3 Tips to Cut Your Take-out Tab

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether cooking at home is really worth it given the stress of rushing home to cook, scrambling to the store to have the right ingredients and the opportunity cost of the time to prepare a meal when you could be helping with homework. From a financial perspective the answer is a resounding YES.

The average person spends about $232/month eating meals prepared outside the home and I would argue that if you live in a large city, it’s probably about $300 based on my experience with my clients. That’s one person, not a family of 4. Families can spend almost double that. The average meal eaten outside the home costs about $12.75/person and the average meal (dinner) made at home costs about $4.25/person.

You could and should be saving yourself about $8.50/meal/person by eating at home. Over the course of a month, that could be savings of $136-$544 ($544 if you eat 4 dinners/week not prepared at home).

It’s hard to deny that cooking is better for you financially (probably nutritionally, too, but that’s not my field, it’s my colleague Jessica Braider’s, MSW, Health Coach). But, it’s just too hard, hectic, and annoying to cook, right. You just hate it, your kids don’t eat anything interesting, and your spouse won’t help clean up. I get it, sometimes you want take-out.

Here are 3 tips for financially optimizing your take-out:

  1. Take-out lunch not dinner for convenience – one dinner per week outside the home at most.
  2. For dinner, don’t buy drinks, sides or desserts out. You can probably put together a salad, vegetable, pasta side dish or dessert pretty easily even if you pick up your main dish outside your house.
  3. As a condition for getting take-out, make your family promise to eat the leftovers Take-out usually provides huge quantities, if you throw it out, it’s a total waste of money. Pick take-out that provides enough for two meals (yup, Chinese!)

For more ideas on how to keep your grocery and food budget down each month, track and manage your household finances better, meal plan and make delicious and nutritious 30 minute meals, sign up for Lori Atwood and Jessica Braider’s 30 minutes/$30: How to Spend Less and Eat Better in Less time WEBINAR on Oct.8th.