Eating Out vs. Eating In

By Nathan Dungan | Article from SHARESAVESPEND.COM  15 SEPTEMBER 2015

Did you know the average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week and more than 30% of children eat fast food on any given day?

Americans are eating out more than ever. Why? It’s about fun and socializing. It’s a chance to relax. Sometimes we simply haven’t thought ahead and there’s nothing in the fridge.

Nina, a working mom, does most of the grocery shopping for her family of four. They each take turns cooking. You can imagine how it goes. Finding to time to shop can be tough. Cooking at home can feel like a lot of work. The family found themselves eating out more and more—until they added up how much they spent on restaurants, fast food, and grabbing snacks on the go.

Tired of seeing their food budget go up and up, Nina’s family came up with a great solution. Once they decided to eat more often at home, they scheduled times to shop for groceries together. Instead of assigning cooking duties to one person, anyone at home helps cook. And everyone helps clean up. Nina and her family have made eating at home easier and more enjoyable, and everyone gains extra time to connect.

Eating out is often the easy solution. But it can become an expensive habit. “I’ve got nothing at home” or “I don’t feel like cooking” quickly turns into a meal costing $15 to $20 or more per person. That doesn’t take long to add up.

Here are some straightforward steps to take control of food spending:

  • Be planful. Why and when do you eat out? We all have our reasons. None of them are wrong. But many aren’t worth putting a hole in your budget.
  • Track your spending. Gain an awareness of what you spend dining out vs. buying groceries by recording your expenses for two to four weeks. Include grabbing a coffee, tea, drinks, and snacks as eating out. Calculate what you could have saved by dining at home.
  • Consider options. How could you make it easier to eat at home? Can you cook things to eat for two or three meals or for lunches? Are prepared meals you purchase a better value than eating out?
  • Set goals. Start small by deciding to eat at home—or bring a lunch to work—another two or three times a week. Search online for five interesting recipes to try at home. Share your commitment with a friend and get them onboard.
  • Limit waste. As you track where you spend your food dollars, consider too how much food you might waste. Half of all households toss food each week, with an average home throwing out $900 of food per year.

Remember: Eating in is another way to practice deferred gratification. The potential savings will yield numerous other ways to direct your money.

“Reprinted with permission from Share Save Spend®. “
Nathan Dungan is the founder and president of Share Save Spend®. For over 20 years, he has interacted with thousands of families to help them align their values with their money decisions. For more information about Nathan, visit