Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Eating Our Biggest Meal Midday Helps Us Save Money

Earlier this month I wrote about why I love eating our main meal midday. I realized, however, that I didn't explain how it is saving us money. After all, aren't we eating the same kinds of main meals that we used to eat in the evenings? Yes, we are.

We rarely used to eat lunch out, and that is holding true now. Actually, I would say that we have now moved to not eating lunch out at all unless it is on a weekend and is part of a planned date or a social gathering (which we really try to avoid). This probably cuts 1-2 lunches out per month at an average of $40 per meal.

However, we did eat dinner out too often when it was our main meal. It wasn't uncommon for me to be really tired and to decide that I wanted to eat out rather than making dinner. We also ate most of our date night dinners out. I would say that we ate dinner out 8 times per month, and more often during pool season, easily 12 times per month. It was mostly cheap Mexican takeout at about $25 per meal, but that is still a lot of money. Date night dinners were often more than that even though it was just the two of us. I would say that we were easily spending $400 per month on dinners eaten out (in summer). Yikes!

Now that I cook our main meal at lunch there is far less likelihood that I will decided not to cook. There is also less pressure at dinner time and far lower expectations; it just needs to be healthy food that gets us fed. Leftovers are fine, sandwiches are fine, a muffin and fruit is fine. We don't all have to eat the same thing.

I've been working really hard to redefine what date night means; it doesn't have to mean going to a restaurant or bringing food in. I know that Papa enjoys eating out, but I asked him to be on board with me for this and he is trying. A meal out for date night was a special thing when the boys were younger and we might get six date nights per year; now that they are teens and have an activity they attend almost every Friday evening we have a default date night and we do not need to eat dinner out 50 times per year! Plus we have already had our big meal of the day and want to eat lighter at dinner anyway.

(I'll write about our frugal date nights in another post.)

I'm working on our other weakness, which is a beverage and baked goods breakfast at the local market while on our Saturday morning walk. It was a non-issue until they started offering vegan baked goods in their pastry case. As a defensive move, I've been baking cinnamon rolls, scones, and muffins, and plan to attempt bagels and English muffins in the coming months. Everything I bake is so much better than what they have to offer! And honestly, I need to set the example. I can only change myself, which means I can choose not to get a beverage and baked good when Papa wants one. Maybe that kills the spirit of camaraderie, but again, I can only control my own actions and my own spending.

So the big take away from this post is that a) it is best for me to cook when I have more energy and am far less likely to decide that a meal out sounds good, b) taking off the pressure/expectations at dinner time also makes us far less likely to decide that a meal out is a good idea, and c) making meals and baked goods that are better than anything we can get a restaurant makes us less likely to want to eat out. Because really, a meal out is rarely a good idea!

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