Restaurant Dining: Fighting the Urge to Splurge

Restaurant Dining - picture of family eating at outdoor restaurant

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Now that I work from home, I have a little more time to prepare healthy meals.  I’ve even been known to bust out a new recipe on Pinterest on occasion, or try a new creation of my own.  On days like those, I feel particularly accomplished- like I’m Wonder Woman- and like I can do it all.

But it isn’t always that way, especially when I’m really busy.  There are days that I literally work online from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. without realizing how late it is.  And on those days, I panic.  Sometimes I even make Worst Mom Ever meals like packets of oatmeal with a banana on top (last week), boxed mac-n-cheese (the week before), and Red Baron pizza (I can’t believe my kids will eat that).  Other days, I get super stressed when I realize that we are running low on groceries and have to fight off the temptation to take everyone out to eat.  And it works…most the time.tofu


Fighting the Urge to Splurge

I have to be honest.  We’re having a much more difficult time eating at home since we moved to a new area at the beginning of the year.  Why?  Because there are much better food options here.  For example, we live near one of the main retail drags where you can find all the basic stuff like Qdoba, Chick-Fil-A, O’Charley’s, Chilli’s, Wendy’s, Subway, and more.  In addition, just five minutes down the road is my favorite restaurant of all time- Asian Grill– where they let you substitute tofu in any entrée.  Hell, I even had a fancy Ethiopian dinner with my brother the other night.  It was absolutely yummy and they have all sorts of vegetarian options, but it wasn’t cheap!

Look at me, going on and on about food when this post is supposed to be about fighting the urge to splurge I can’t help it!  There’s just something so luxurious about letting someone else cook your family’s meal and do the dishes, am I right?  On the other hand, we are doing pretty good about staying on track with our food spending goals, despite the fact that there are now so many delicious options in our area.  Here’s how we’ve been silencing our inner-fatties:

We are sticking to our budget

We still have the same food budget as we always have, and that means that there isn’t much room for dining out.  Fortunately, we’ve made our budget stretch by having cheaper meals several days a week.  That way, we can afford to go out for a nice meal a couple of times a month.

We are watching our waistlines

It’s getting nice out, folks.  Know what that means?  It’s almost bathing suit season and I would prefer not to look awful.  I started watching my waistline about a month ago (about the time that I quit drinking diet coke) and I’ve already lost 3 or 4 pounds.  The fact that we’re trying not to overeat makes it easier to resist the temptation to go out.

We are prioritizing

If I were creating my dream world, I would never cook.  I would go out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and eat delicious delicacies from all over the world.

I would also be 500 pounds and broke. 

It’s all about priorities, folks, and unfortunately dining out just isn’t that much of a priority.  Whenever I spend $50 on a dinner out, I can’t help but think that that same $50 could have paid for several days of groceries!

Maybe one day I’ll learn to cook all of my favorite meals.  In the meantime, we’ll just keep focusing on staying within our food budget and only dining out a couple of times a month.  I know, I know.  I’ve got first world problems.  On the other hand, overindulgence is rarely a good thing, do you agree?

Do you have problems fighting the urge to splurge on dinners out?  How do you talk yourself off of the ledge?

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  1. Oooh yeah. For sure. But food is so expensive here, especially eating out, that it’s pretty easy to say no most of the time.

  2. Usually I do treat my family once a week after going to church. I’ve been trying to watch the foods that I prepare, more vegetables and fruits and less on meat.

  3. My wife and I fight that feeling all the time. I guess the only thing that keeps us from going is reminding us the cost and where that money would be coming from.

    1. Yep, pretty much. Going out to eat is a pretty big waste if you think about it.

  4. I think it’s quite normal to have frugality fatigue. You just get tired of being good and economical all the time. There’s nothing wrong with splurging every so often, especially if you are on budget! The Asian Grill sounds awesome, save for the tofu part.. ;0)

    1. The Asian Grill really is good. It’s basically Asian fusion cuisine, with influences from a bunch of different kinds of food.

  5. We go out to eat a couple days a week on average and I don’t think it has to be a budget killer. We hardly ever go to sit-down restaurants except for special events/occasions so that helps keep the costs down. With a busy schedule it definitely is very tempting to go out to eat more often.

    1. Wait until you have four people to buy for. It becomes a lot more expensive!!!

  6. Nothing burns me more than getting a bill for a meal at a restaurant knowing I could have made the same thing for less…and it would have tasted better. For example, we were leaving the mall on Friday night when we stopped into Applebees because we hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I had chicken breast and shrimp, my wife had chicken strips, and my daughter just had French fries. The bill came to over $30….nothing on that bill I couldn’t have made at home for 1/4th the price. I DO enjoy going to restaurants that serve food that I don’t normally, or don’t know how to make at home. Unfortunately, those are also the REALLY spendy ones.

    1. Oh, I can totally relate. I think that’s why I like ethnic restaurants so much- I actually can’t cook the food. But I could make anything at Applebees!

  7. We fight the urge to go out for dinner during the week by having some prepared meals in the freezer. We make big batches of spaghetti sauce, lasagna and soups and then freeze them for future meals. These freeze well and don’t take too much time to prepare. For the most part we stay rational enough to grab one of these out of the freeze instead of going out… but do we slip up once in a while 😉

    1. That definitely helps! It helps when I have some ingredients for quick meals handy.

      I think everyone slips once in a while!

  8. True story we love eating out. That is our go to date night! But we definitely need to cut down a little bit. Eating out adds up fast. Especially when you throw in a few glasses of wine!

  9. I could literally eat breakfast, lunch and dinner out, and love it all. I love fast food, ethnic food, “fancy” food. I love food. The boyfriend, not so much. He’s getting more on board with trying different ethnic foods, so we eat out once or twice a month now. Usually at the smaller, family owned places that are less expensive. It’s good for the budget, and better for my waistline, so I can’t complain too much.

    1. I could eat out for every meal too. Ugh! I think I was filthy rich in another life.

  10. We deal with the same thing ourselves. We didn’t use to before I quit my job now, but now that we’re both working from home it can be a real challenge at times. That’s especially the case when we’ve both worked all day and it’s 5:00 and have no clue what we’re going to make. That said, nothing is worse than going to a restaurant with three little ones and being THAT family that makes you think the circus is in town because of how obnoxious the kids are. So, we generally try and reserve the most of our eating out for date nights where we can go to an ethnic restaurant we like.

  11. I love to eat out I think for the same reason I love hotels. Someone waits on you and clean up after you. My perfect world would not include cooking or housekeeping. We don’t have that many options in our town for fast food, so that helps. We really don’t eat it except Subway sometimes. There are some good sit down restaurants, but I am really committed to my healthy eating plan at least until my next cholesterol screening. If it sucks, I’m eating whatever I want!

  12. This was something that was really hard for me at first when I hit my financial rock bottom, because I was constantly going out with volleyball friends and for me it was all about being social. But once it became a habit, it was a lot easier to say no and make it a once in awhile treat. Like you were talking about with calories and that sort of thing, I’m much more health conscious as well, and it’s just so much easier to be that way when you know what is going into the food you are cooking. I’d say a big reason it’s easy to say no is vanity. ha ha! Whatever works right? 🙂

    1. Exactly. For us, it’s about being cheap and vane. I’m not ashamed.

  13. LOL, you and I have the same dream world, Holly. 🙂 Not eating out used to be much harder for me than it is now, but I definitely still have my days. When you’re used to doing all of the cooking, it’s nice to be treated to a dinner out on occasion.

    1. Ugh, I hear ya. I cook every single meal at this house!

  14. It is so hard to resist! Especially when you’re starving and can’t think of anything quick and easy to cook. We budget for dining out, which includes ordering pizza. Sometimes we over-do it when life gets busy. We’ll be eating much healthier in the summer- lots of salads!

    1. I get Little Caesars $5 cheese pizzas for the kids a few times a month and it’s usually worth it.

  15. Hubby and I go out once a week for dinner and most of the time we have a great coupon to use. To save on our eating out, we never get appetizers or dessert. Ok, on that once a year occasion when we go to The Cheesecake Factory, we have to get dessert there. What’s the point of going otherwise? But for routine meals out we also just get water instead of soda and never ever do we get liquor. We have an eating out amount built into our budget and rarely spend the entire allowance.

    1. Drinks, even soda, can add up quick. Sometimes they are as much as $2.50 each! WTH?

  16. I totally hear you. We now have the opposite issue, that we moved from an area with tons of awesome food options to a chain restaurant haven, so that means going out to eat is not very much fun these days. But I am still not a fan of cooking so we do still go out once in a while to my fav Indian restaurant (which is pretty much the only good ethnic food to be found in our current town!) I hadn’t previously thought about the fact that fewer options make it easier, but you are so right.

  17. We eat out way too much. It’s a constant goal to stop eating out but it’s hard since we don’t cook. We’re so tired from working long hours to deal with buying groceries and cooking. We’re over budget on food all the time 🙁 Need to work on this.

  18. I totally get it.. we try to make meals at home Sunday through Thursday with whatever we grocery shopped for.. and then Friday’s are a treat.. though the treat is not eating out it is usually take out sushi from our local grocery store (that is actually really great!) for about $30 bucks.. I figure that $30 is a pretty cheap Friday night especially if we cooked our own meals during the week.

    1. It helps to get takeout vs. eating out. You don’t have to leave a tip!

  19. Although we go out twice a week, it is part of our budget. I allocated $250 per month for dining out.This includes dinners out with friends and going to the movies. Dining out does not need to be a splurge.

    1. $250 per month for dining out? That is half of my food budget!!! Haha!

  20. Dinners out aren’t a big problem for us because we live in an area that just doesn’t have any good options. That being said, we are planning on moving to a place that has much better options, so that urge could be very strong!

  21. I can one-up the cooking thing. This week I taught my 7 year old how to make boxed macaroni and cheese (with tuna and peas) so now that’s going to be his job, not mine.

  22. We cut back on eating out last year. We now do take out and keep it at $20/week. This still gives us the option of restaurant meals but we are saving about $220/month because we do it less often and we don’t dine in at the restaurant.

  23. Yankeegal says:

    Both DH and I eat vegan, so that helps squish the eating out bug a bit as most restaurants around us may offer a vegetarian but not vegan option. We can always order salad, veggies, the all too popular veggie burger, but I am very picky and know I can do better at home. Although while on vacation last summer, I found a fantastic all vegan restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine.

    1. You should try Ethiopian! I had no idea that they had so many vegan options. It was delicious and appeared to be healthy.

  24. I like to cook but some nights after a full day at work – I want someone else to cook and clean for me too! We live in an area with lots of good restaurants within a few minutes of our home, which is both a blessing and a curse. We do eat out a few times a month but we try to keep it more of a treat. I’m not sure if I would love to eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, but I wouldn’t mind a personal chef who would prepare delicious and healthy meals and then clean up for me!

  25. We usually try to resist by only dining out with friends/family (or if we eat just the two of us, we go to happy hour). I don’t know if you also work during weekends, but I do most of my chopping/ marinating/ Crock Pot cooking then so I only need about 30 minutes or so to cook during weekdays? But, we also don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know.

  26. Eating out is definitely a “splurge” and like most “fun” in our lives now, we just make sure we plan for it. I have really gotten into pinterest, though, and have been really psyched about a number of the new meals that I have created that we almost want them more than eating out.

  27. When I think about what the cost of our take out could buy at the grocery store it helps reel me back in, but it can be hard to resist on those busy stressful days!

  28. LOVE LOVE LOVE going out to eat! If it was an Olympic sport, I would already have multiple gold medals! LoL! When we first got married, my husband and I lived it up so much that we were spending $1,200 per month just on food costs alone (yep, for 2 people!)
    Then we woke up from La-La-Land and started buckling down. We have a strict 1 dinner out per week – which is a significant reduction from where we were! But I also enjoy cooking – so it actually works out for us. When I get home around 7pm from work, I usually have dinner ready before 8pm. That’s about the best I can do! LoL!!

  29. I eat out quite a bit, but it’s usually fast food. Applebee’s or red Lobster if I splurge.

    Eating less is better, something I have to learn…

  30. Dining out has always been a weak spot of mine. But if you think that you’re not only paying for food when you go out but for the salaries of all the workers and the upkeep of the store itself, plus tipping which is annoying in itself, it makes staying at home much easier.

  31. I love dining out but ya whenever we got our for dinner I think about how many meals that money could have given us from the grocery store.

  32. Eating out is our budget bug-a-boo. We can fight just about any consumer temptation, except for the easy meal out at the end of a stressful day. For whatever reason, the budget doesn’t hold a lot of power for us in this regard. If we overspend, we just steal from some other category…

  33. When I’m tempted to order in I always check pinterest first. It gives me the inspiration to cook and eat in. I also enjoy pouring myself a glass of wine and putting on pandora when I’m in the kitchen.

  34. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living says:

    I’ll be honest, getting a beer or splitting a pitcher with friends out is the budget buster with me. I went to an “upscale” burger joint last night with my husband and brother and because they had pitchers of micro brew beer for $20, I had to buy one! my brother even bought a second. But booze is not only bad for the wallet, it’s bad for the waistline too, so I do try to limit my intake, regardless of the cheap prices!

  35. I think one of the biggest thing that makes me stick to my budget and ensure that I’m not going overboard with the restaurant spending is keeping my goals in mind. I don’t love to cook and I love restaurant/fast food, but knowing what I am working toward financially and fitness/health wise is very helpful!

  36. When I moved out and in w/ my roommate in Decenber, I was eating out way too much. I had been traveling a lot and felt that in couldn’t be bothered but I’ve been doing so much better since around March. This month I am especially kicking ass! It’s hard to plan meals and buy groceries for a gluten free diet but I’ve been trying to do it for $200 a month!

  37. Vegetarian lifestyle is the healthiest and least expensive way of life, especially when cooked at your own house.

    Good wishes

  38. We hate eating out as well but with two young kids it feels so good to get out of the house. We typically go out to eat on the weekend as a family. It’s a nice getaway and a breath of fresh air especially since the weather is getting a lot better. We try to make it as cheap as possible by using coupons or capitalizing on specials in the area.

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