Controlling a Budget; Restaurants

My family unit (at this point in time) is myself, my wife, and my 16 month old daughter. In the past year we have budgeted sporatically, but as of late have gotten back on the wagon. The biggest area of controllable spending for us was restaurants. This past month, with some extra travel expendatures and large utility bills, we needed to tighten down as much as possible. Below are a few ways we stayed out of the Restaurants:

1. Will Power

Obviously, the biggest difficulty in choosing not to eat out is the choice. We’ve found that the times we’re tempted the most is when we’re tired, near restaurants where it’s convenient, or it’s getting late and we aren’t about to be home to take care of dinner. Especially with a child, the thought of getting home and feeding the little one, then getting her bathed and in bed can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes it takes a little extra umph on the will power side of things.

2. Cash Budget

Having envelopes devoted specifically to food helps keep you from overspending. It also provides a visual representation of how much money you have left, and with some simple calculations, how many more times you can eat out. It reminds you that your finances are limited.

It also helps balance the rest of your budget, because it keeps you from spending the money that’s intended for gas or housing.

3. Planning Meals out in advance

My wife is a stay at home mom, she does a great job of planning our meals. She offers these tips for planning ahead:

  1. Make a Calendar of what you will eat throughout the week/month.
    • It’s easier to stay on your cash budget for groceries because you know what you will need.
    • It takes away the work of deciding what to cook. You essentially spend one day planning all the meals instead of every day thinking about what you’re going to make.
    • It’s easier to prepare the meal because at 8am you know what you’re going to make for dinner.
  2. Take Inventory of what you need to purchase before you go grocery shopping
    • This enables you to have everything you need to make the meal before the day starts, eliminating the hassle of having to run to the store to get something, or not having what you need and adding to the frustration of cooking at home.
  3. Find meals that you can make extra and heat up later
    • We make Black bean and corn burritos that are easy to heat up and make later, use paper plates to further eliminate the hassle of dish washing.
    • Spaghetti is another good one for reheating (it’s also pretty cheap and easy to make).
  4. Finish preparing the meal at dinner time (or at least have it started)
    • The main reason for this is that you’ve already committed to dinner at home if you’re most of the way into it. It removes the temptation to take the easy route and order pizza.


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