Take-Out Addiction: A Frugal Battleground

Boy, do I love my Chinese food!  Hardly a week goes by where we don’t get Chinese takeout.  We’ve been in that habit for over a year, and for a long time, it was our only “splurge” meal, so I didn’t feel too guilty about it.

However, as with most things, we begin to give ourselves a little too much leeway over time and get comfortable with the ease of grabbing a quick takeout meal rather than cooking at home.  A couple of weeks ago, I printed off the last four months’ bank statements to further examine how much money we were spending on takeout and food.

If you’ll recall, my extreme-frugality goal was $100 per month in groceries and then the 1 Chinese meal per week, which would amount to about $60 total over the month.  What I found, though, was that we were averaging about $250 in takeout each month and $300 in groceries (including toiletries).  We’d been spending three times our budgeted amount in groceries ALONE!  And almost $200 more in takeout than we’d intended!

Why do we fall into this “takeout trap?”  Why do we overspend so much on food?  Well, laziness is the most honest answer, but there are others:

  • when I come home from work, I’m too exhausted to cook anything
  • we don’t plan our grocery purchases well, so when it’s time to get something together, “nothing sounds good”
  • we’ll make multiple trips to the grocery store during the week “just to pick up a few things” that ends up amounting to another week’s groceries

It’s funny…I always complained about not being able to buy organic and local food, but after looking at how much money we were just pissing away in mindless purchases and eating out, I don’t really have any grounds for that, do I?  We could literally double our grocery budget and still have plenty of money for other things!

Thus, the plan was hatched….we’re increasing our grocery budget to $50 per week (double our original amount), and we’re going to do our best to limit our takeout to about $60 per month (the amount of four events of Chinese takeout).  I’ve got to be honest, this seems a little daunting to someone who’s used to being lazy, but I also decided that planning our meals in advance would really help cut down on that problem, too. 

I sat down on Saturday and decided what I’d cook this week and I’ll make enough for leftovers to eat as lunch the next day.  Here’s what’s on the dockett:

  • Sunday (Yesterday):  Falafel and salad (success!!)
  • Monday:  Veggie fajitas
  • Tuesday:  Tofu/veggie stir-fry
  • Wednesday:  Clean out the Fridge/scrounging night
  • Thursday:  Calzones (homemade dough and fillings!)
  • Friday:  Japanese vegetable/tofu/rice noodle soup
  • Saturday:  I forgot
  • Sunday:  BRINNER!

I know, I forgot Saturday, but I do actually have all of this written down at home.  I made a list of things that we could get at Aldi and things that we’d have to get somewhere else (Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s).  Saturday morning, we hit up TJ’s to get the tofu, rice noodles, and some good mozarella cheese for the calzones.  Yesterday, we went to Aldi, and Joey’s hitting up the Wally World today.  So far (without Wally added in), we’re at about $30 bucks for the week.  Not bad!!  And part of that was probably two weeks’ worth of meat replacement, etc from TJ’s!

If you’re struggling with your budget, I encourage you to take a hard look at your bank statement; you may very well end up shocked and appalled at where you’re wasting money (like I was).  Eating out/Takeout is such an easy trap to fall into; however, a little forethought and planning can make cooking at home a breeze!

I’ll update again after the Wal-Mart tally comes in:).

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2 thoughts on “Take-Out Addiction: A Frugal Battleground

  1. It is helpful to plan a menu. Then when you go to the store, you know what to pick up. The key is to stick to the list and plan meals that include ingredients you might already have. At least you are budgeting. I need to work on that. I love Chinese food too/ 😉

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