Why I don’t Eat Out

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Embarrassing though it is to admit, eating out had gotten out of control for my family.  Completely.  We were spending every spare cent of our already meager budget on eating out.  All of our allotted spending money went to the cause, and we would “borrow” from other areas in our budget to support our eating out habit.  Eating out is one of those things that I think people tend to underestimate unless they are very intentional about it.  We were eating out several times each week.  For Lent, I decided to take drastic measures and give up eating out. I didn’t eat out for 6.5 weeks of Lent, and this was just the boost we needed to curb our eating out habits for good.  You might wonder why  I don’t want to eat out. Here are the biggest reasons:

Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home.  An average meal out for our family of 4 costs about $20 (an average of fast food, at least $10/meal and sit-down meals, at least $30/meal).  An average meal home for our family of 4 costs less than $5.  As I said before, we were overspending.  Other areas of our budget were suffering to fund our constant eating out.  Just because we liked it, we “deserved” a treat…but the occasional treat became several times a week for us.

Eating at home is healthier than eating out.  Even if you eat similar things, meals almost always have more calories at restaurants.  At home, you have more control.  Eating out increases temptations that I have eliminated at home.  Because of this, a meal out for me consists of about 1200-1500 calories (my entire daily allotment!), while an average meal at home is more like 300-400 calories.

I want to be a better mom. Stay with me, here.  I’m not saying anyone is a bad mom for eating out several times a week.  But for me and my family this went against our family values.  Our kids were eating unhealthy foods, which we don’t want.  Rather than being the mom I want to be who manages my home well, I was resorting to eating out all the time to avoid the discipline of planning.  Rather than spending our money on things for our children, we were wasting money on eating out and that is a hard thing for me to admit or face about myself, but it’s the truth.  Finally, I realized that more and more my children were learning that eating out for many meals each week was the “norm.”  (after writing this article, I found a great post about creating our children’s “normal”) I wanted eating at home around our kitchen table to be their norm.  Not eating fast food.

So, there you have it.  Since Easter, Chad and I have eaten out a handful of times for dates, and they took me out to Cracker Barrel for Mother’s Day, using a gift card we already had.  Yes, eating out is fun, I get it.  But, I have to say that I really like the new norm that we have created where we eat the majority of our meals at home, or take a picnic to the park if we’re out at mealtime.


    • Crystal says

      Yes, Robyn, it is outrageous and something that God has been convicting me of more and more. After Lent, my husband and I went out to Logan’s Roadhouse with no coupons or anything and spent $35 on dinner. We sponsor a child through world vision for $30/month. I couldn’t help but think of the quote “Live simply so that others may simply live.” With the $35 that we spent on dinner, we could have helped a family LIVE. God really used this to give me some perspective. Thanks for your comment.

  1. says

    eating out 2-3 times a week would not be abnormal for us right now. i love your mindset on this…it really is more than just frugality…it’s family time and their health a good “norm”. it also teaches children not just good food choices, but also how to prep and to plan mealtime! good for you and thank you for sharing. i need to get my fast food lovin’ butt in gear!! thanks for the push!

    • Crystal says

      Thanks, Kara! That post was full of stuff that was already on my heart…saved me from having to write it down myself! lol Blessings to you and your family!

  2. says

    Totally agree with you on this- we have always been on a tight budget- so we could not afford to eat out- but I have been convicted since my husband got a recent job promotion and we had a little more wiggle room in the budget, I really started getting lazy and not planning like you mentioned. So I have been intentional lately to sit down every weekend and plan out all the meals for the week and make a list- I feel so much better when I do it- and I know my husband appreciates it- and I agree- eating out is not as healthy as preparing meals at home.

    • Crystal says

      Rachel, I completely understand…if you see my previous post, you’ll see that we have NO wiggle room for our budget, but literally every spare dime was going toward eating out, partly just because we enjoyed it…but I’m so glad that God helped us get a handle on it :) Blessings to you and your family and thanks for your comment!

  3. says

    Wow! We must be related or something. :) I preach this to all of my friends! I am going to have to save this one because it’s exactly what my family does. We would rather take a nice vacation than eat out – we are camping out for Memorial Day with the money we have saved from eating out. :)

  4. says

    I love that you are honest with your reason for eating out–because you didn’t discipline yourself to plan. I think that is a very honest answer, and one that is the true reason for most who eat out quite often (along with lacking the disciline to cook even when one doesn’t “feel” like cooking).

    We don’t go out to eat. If I don’t feel like cooking, we can eat leftovers. If there are no leftovers, then I have to cook. If I don’t plan or delay starting dinner on time, we eat late. That doesn’t work well for anyone, but it happens (especially now that I have a nursing baby again–starting on time is much harder! If I am more disciplined, I start dinner almost right after lunch, when the baby is napping, so that despite the interruptions, I will have dinner on the table at a reasonable time.

    • Crystal says

      Yes, that’s definitely one of the reasons :) Although to be even more honest, sometimes it was just because we like it…and when I was struggling with food issues, I really craved that fried, fatty food. Thankfully, the fast during Lent (and God!) really helped me get past that. But, you are so right that it all comes down to discipline. Blessings to you and your family!

  5. says

    Good post. We used to eat out fairly often (couple times a week) and ate ourselves right into massive debt! Now we are S.L.O.W.L.Y paying off our debt and we do not EVER eat out! We do on special occassions go out for dessert- frozen yogurt or cupcakes- which gives us the “feeling” of going out with the $$ of it. BTW- I read your “Debt Discouragement” article and totally agree! We live on pastor’s salaries so getting out of debt is not quick or easy.

  6. says

    I totally agree! Way to go with the not eating out at ALL though for awhile. That IS hard. My family doesn’t eat out much either (basically, unless we have a gift card) mostly for the above reasons. I’d love to have you link this up to Titus 2 Tuesday tomorrow on Cornerstone Confessions.

    Hopping over from The Better Mom.


  7. says

    I agree whole-heartedly about creating a new normal for our kids. Society’s normal is not God’s normal, and that’s part of training our children. Amazing that you gave up eating for Lent!

    We don’t eat out often – maybe twice a month? And we usually go to Chipotle or a local family restaurant. By eating at home, we’ve trained our bodies to desire home-food, not fast food, and when we have to eat out several meals consecutively, our bodies suffer. It’s like a circle – eating at home causes us to eat better, and when we eat better, we like to eat at home!

    • Crystal says

      Tiffany, I completely agree that once you’ve trained yourself, that becomes your preference :) THanks for your kind, encouraging comments.

  8. says

    Ugh, this is so true! We’re currently eating out more than we should, it just seems to be such a hard habit to break! I am determined to break it though, for our health and budget! Thanks for sharing!

  9. says

    Yes, eating out really messes up the budget. Plus, you get tired of eating out all the time. I’d rather save it for special times.

    Good post!

  10. says

    Crystal, You hit the nail on the head! This is what we found out about 18 years ago when our children were young! We stopped eating at restaurants and began to sit around our own table, and it really blessed our family! I am wondering if you would consider linking up your post and others (I like so much what I see) on Wednesdays at my ‘EOA’ link-up. It would be content I would feel good about sharing with our readers. Thanks for thinking about it :)

    • Crystal says

      Jacqueline, Thank you so much for your kind words and the invitation! I just linked this post at your link-up, and added it to the list of link-ups to visit each week. So glad I found your site, too as I found it to be a great encouragement.

  11. Jill says

    Good for you! This is a weakness of mine, as well since my fiance and I both LOVE eating out. Another reason is that you can’t control what kinds of preservatives, artificials, fats, etc. that are used. At home, you control what goes in the pot.

    Our one rule is that we avoid chain places and eat at locally owned restaurants (easy in our urban city of Milwaukee). This way, we’re helping small business owners and they, in turn, are far more likely to use local, fresh ingredients. It’s a small consolation, at least.

  12. says

    Good for you Crystal! It’s amazing how easy it is to overspend when you’re eating out.

    I love the idea too of creating your child’s norm. It’s so easy to get conditioned to think “I deserve this” or “I really need this break”, etc.

    Thanks for linking up at Thrifty Thursday!

  13. Anonymous says

    I used to get 6 meals from one chicken for our family of four. So, when we spent money unwisely, I would say, “you know how many chickens I could have bought with the money we just spent eating out?!” We hardly ever eat out any more.

    • Crystal says

      lol…YES! I have this same thought, especially if the food isn’t good anyway! Our monthly grocery budget is $200, so if we spend $40 on a meal out, that’s almost a week’s worth of groceries! A sobering thought for sure.

  14. says

    This is an excellent article. It’s what I have thought but have had trouble putting into action. I’m printing this to share with my husband tonight. Thank you!!!

  15. Kristen says

    Another idea is whenever we absolutely are dying to go out, we’ll only go to one of the places I have a stockpile of coupons to – for example, IHOP (we’re suckers for breakfast for dinner) gives out buy 1 get 1 free meals, or restaurant.com when you can get a $25 gift certificate for $4 on certain days, etc. Those are the only places we can choose from. Or, we eat at home and go out for dessert, getting the same feeling of “going out” and feeling like we’re on a date, with only a portion of the cost. Just a few ideas… :-)

    • Crystal says

      Thanks for the ideas, Kristen! I love the idea of restaurant.com, but I live in a very rural area and the nearest restaurants are 55 miles away :( Otherwise, I would be all over that!

  16. says

    Visiting from frugal friday. I agree with every word you said. As i read in another book, eating out should be for our family’s special occasions, not as a substitute for my lack of shopping, planning, or cooking.

  17. says

    When you dine out, you aren’t just buying food. You are paying for service. You don’t have to cook, clean up or wipe down the tables. You can just eat, and leave. This is why many people dine out. They may not have time to do all this work. Eating out is more than just buying food, you are also paying for convenience, if that makes any sense. I don’t eat out a lot, but if I’m too busy or on the go, I think it’s fully justified to pay extra for restaurant food.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Yes, I do understand and agree that is why a lot of people dine out. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

Thank you for joining in the discussion!