Swh**could You Not Eat Out for a Year?

Updated on April 17, 2017
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
29 answers

I am toying with the idea of trying a "not eating out for a year" plan. Mostly to save money, but partially to see if we could actually make a life change like this. I think that if we put the money that we normally spend eating out in a savings account, we would have enough to take a vacation or buy something nice for ourselves. I am totally on board with this - my husband not so much :)

I figured that we would have to still eat out when we travel by plane (normally if we travel by car, I try to pack meals for the road to save money). I was also thinking of keeping our Tuesday pizza night - it is $12 for a X-Large pizza from Papa Murphys to bake at home and I really can't cook a meal for much less than that.

Right now, we do the Tuesday pizza night, on either Wed or Thurs we do burger night (there are two places somewhat near by - one has $4 burgers and the other has $6 burgers so we alternate between the two, but the bill still comes to like $30 - $35 with drinks and tip and tax), and then we usually do a date night, probably 3 times a month, and that runs us about $60 - $75. We also eat out on Sundays - usually lunch, but sometimes breakfast. That runs us anywhere from $25 - $55 depending on where we eat. If I total all that up for the month, leaving the pizza night out, I could be saving nearly $500/mo, not including the occasional extra eat outs per month because we are on the road for a dr. appt. and decide to stop to eat or go out for a special occasion or whatever. $500 x 12 = $6000!!!! (I realize that wouldn't be the total savings because I would have to buy food for those meals to eat at home, but still!)

I do pack lunches daily for kids and hubby - so we don't buy school lunches or lunches for work (I work from my home so I just eat here for lunch each day).

Could you do it? If you have done it, do you have tips to stay on track? Is there anything that others have done that made a huge cost savings in your home or budget? We have turned off our cable (that saved us about $1000 year), I alternate doing a touch up color at home in between salon colors (that saved us about $400 year), I stopped buying coffee at the local coffee shop during my afternoon mail run (that saved us about $500 year). We are also asking our adult children to go on their own cell phone plans starting this year and we figure that will save us $1500 year as well.

Thanks - I am interested in hearing what others think!

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So What Happened?

I talked to my husband last night and we are going to try it! We will keep the Tuesday take and bake Pizza and we will keep special occasion dinners out. Date nights will be at home and I am switching the budget and menu to accommodate a few more "quick meals" so we are not tempted to eat out if we are too busy to cook. I already cook a lot and normally not "quick meals" so having a few easy ones that hubby can pop in the oven will help. Plus we are going to try to do some freezer meals one weekend a month to stock up on things we can just stick in the oven.

Can we afford to eat out? Sure, I suppose. We don't have a mortgage and just the one credit card we pay off each month. We do have crazy medical bills to keep up with due to having two sons with high special needs/medical needs, but we manage. For years, we didn't eat out at all because our one son (who is now a voluntary out of home placement since he needs a team of 24hr awake staff for his care) needs were so high, we simply couldn't leave the house. When he first moved to his placement 2.5 years ago, we were so "trained" that we still didn't go out to eat for like another year - plus we can't always take our other special needs child out to eat due to sensory issues and food issues. It has just been this last year/year and a half that we found a PCA who will take our at home son maybe once a week so we could go out for dinner/date night or for the local burger night, sometimes that son was able to go with us, and if he wasn't up for Sunday, my mom could take him or we just took him with.

We decided that we are going to use the money to fly to see our son in the military who is stationed overseas next year. So we have a time limit - 1 year - and a goal - 10 day trip to see son next April/May. Wish us luck!!!

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answers from Dallas on


When hubby was alive, we had date night once a week (major priority) and that usually included dinner/drinks. We also worked from home and to get out of the office (home) we had lunch out almost daily. We truly enjoyed great dinners and great wine so we ate out a lot at good places.

Since his death, still no... I waste more money and food trying to cook for 1 when I can go out and eat a meal. My local grocer has a fantastic hot deli an salad bar that I frequent. I can pay around $10 at Chipotle for a bowl and that is an easy 2 meals for me. I do not eat a lot at a time so I typically have 1 paid meal out (say $15) and it is 2 meals. I can't cook 2 meals for that amount of money. I also need to get out since I am living alone now. I still go to the wine dinners and things I did with hubby at the club, I just take a good girl friend with me and enjoy the great food.

I also eat out a lot because I am now running the company and that includes business dinners and lunches.

I know I would not be able to give up my eating out and Starbucks Cold Brew and Berry Refresher!

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answers from Washington DC on

Nope. I go out with my girlfriend's on Friday nights. I'm not willing to give that up.

I'd have to cut back somewhere else!

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answers from Wausau on

Not ever, for a year? Unlikely. Even with good planning sometimes things happen. There are days where I just flat out don't want to cook or have a craving for something. We try to keep it to once per week under normal circumstances. Sometimes we're out of town, or someone has a birthday, etc.

I can tell you that you spend more on dining out than what I spend on groceries for the whole month with bottomless-pit teenagers in the house. If you want to cut back in this area, you have the room to do so.

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answers from Portland on

We rarely go out. I guess with a larger family, it just seems ridiculous to waste the money. If we do get something, as a treat, it's just one item like a hot chocolate each or something on our way home from rink.

We do pizzas at home. On occasion usually if we have a group over, we will order one - but certainly not norm.

The one thing we get if we go out are coffees. Nothing crazy nor fancy - but that's our treat.

My kids babysit/work for their phones - and they are young teens. I can't imagine paying for those. They have the most basic plans (cheapest).

My kids and husband make their own lunches for school and work.

We all pack snacks if we're headed out in car.

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answers from Boston on

When the kiddos were in college, we did it. We had planned for college expenses, but even as they attended, the costs increased and we were really trying to make sure there were few or no college loans. So we gave up all extras for 8 years: restaurants, new clothes, trips, etc. But the key was that we both wanted to do this. As for you and your husband, it may be that compromise on which days you will eat out and which you will cut.

As for us now. No way!!!! Having saved all those years, it's time for us to enjoy ourselves (modestly) when we want to.

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answers from Houston on

Years ago we did something similar. Only because we had NO money!! Now? Nope.

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answers from Portland on


The nights we go out to eat are marvelous. I don't have to cook.

We live a modest but comfortable life. I get my hair cut about 3 times a year. No color, no mani/pedis. We don't have expensive cars. No cable. No services (except necessary ones, like a plumber. Gardening, pet care, housekeeping we do ourselves.) I likely spend about $300 -400 on clothes all year, including shoes and good underwear. I have tea at home (even though there's a Starbucks a block or two away. I don't care for coffee these days) and most nights, we stay in. My son doesn't like movie theaters, so we don't spend a lot of money on entertainment.

No fancy vacations, but when we do go out of town, I always look at which restaurants are around in that area and what they offer. We also have cell phone plans which are about $10 a month. We save nearly everywhere else, but on the weekends, my husband likes a meal out and truth be told, I'm not adept at making many of the foods we enjoy out, like sushi for example. And frankly, it's NICE to be served, to just sit and enjoy a drink while someone else cooks for me. My husband doesn't enjoy cooking, I do, but 18+ meals at home a week is plenty to plan for and make!

Plus, I couldn't make that crab bisque the pub has to save my life. And a girl's gotta have her crab bisque every once in a while!

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answers from Norfolk on

Have done.
We were eating out a lot before our son was born, and once he was here, we didn't eat out again for about 4 years.
It's not so hard once you get into the habit.
You simply don't consider eating out to be an option.
Much like not walking down the cookie/candy/soda/snack aisle in the super market, you avoid restaurant row, fast food and Starbucks (harder to do - they are everywhere).

You plan your meals for the week and shop accordingly - using coupons and specials.
If a special is really good, get more than you need for the week and freeze it for future use.
You make meals big enough to have meals from the leftovers, add a veggie side or salad for a little variety.
When you can, you buy from road side stands to get fresh grown produce in season.
A crock pot is your friend.
Right now we only eat out a few times per year for special occasions.
More than that doesn't make it special anymore.

You want pizza night?
Get a take and bake pizza from the super market and bake it at home - it takes 20 min to bake.
You like burgers/hotdogs a couple times a week? Fire up your grill (or broiler) and have what you need to build your burgers.

This site helps figure how to plan for a week of meals:


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answers from Jacksonville on

No, I don't think we could. My husband works strange shift work hours, and my daughter has multiple after-school extracurriculars (marching band, jazz band, beta club, pit band, Reading Bowl, etc) and she can't drive herself just yet. So, I am on the road playing chauffeur to her at meal times, often. And it's a 50 minute round trip commute to the school and back from our home. I am working again also. So, we eat out a LOT. Husband also works on Sundays, and I volunteer on the council at church, so we often take multiple vehicles, b/c he has to leave and come home to change for work, and I have to stay for meetings after the service. He picks up lunch on his way home to change. He isn't home for dinner.
He isn't home for dinner on Mondays, and most of the time not on Tuesdays. So, it's me and or daughter, and sometimes our almost moved out son. Wednesdays, we don't have a family meal, either, b/c his sleeps through dinner and gets up to work an overnight shift. So I try not to be home making noise in the kitchen (and so far, not a problem, b/c I'm picking up daughter from school at 5:00 pm from activities still)..
By the time Friday night rolls around, I'm bushed. He's ready to relax, too. And often daughter is elsewhere (football game Friday nights, sleep overs, weekend trips for band workshops, etc), so it's an ideal date night for us.

We went without date nights for a LOT of years, b/c we simply had no family nearby to help, and it took us a long time to develop a short list of sitters we could trust and who were available at the strange times we needed them (husband's weird work schedule was even weirder back then).

We can afford it, though the savings if we *could* cut out the meals out would be substantial. But honestly, right now, it isn't that high of a priority. We're in the home stretch with our kids on the cusp of being adults and gone, and trying to make rules about what we can and can't do as the need arises is needless stress. There are days that driving through Zaxby's to pick up a salad for my daughter's dinner is mentally a life saver. Just coordinating her schtuff is enough to break me some days. Next year... I keep telling myself... next year... she'll be able to drive and get herself places. And all the band practices, and volunteer hours, and meetings, and rehearsals, and and and... I won't have to be part of the process. I can be at home and getting laundry done, and dinner made, and having a glass of wine or walking the dog, and just show up for the performances! :D

There is something to be said, I think, for living your life today. Of course we have to plan for tomorrow, but not at the expense of being miserably stressed today. Not all the time. There is no guarantee of tomorrow anyway. We've planned for it. And we're on track. So I'm not killing myself to make a home cooked meal every day just for the sake of saving a little more, so we can more comfortably eat out later. We're more likely to want to stay home to eat later, anyway, when we have more time on our hands.

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answers from Boston on

We rarely go out. We make all kinds of stuff at home - pizzas, burgers, chicken on the grill, stir fry, and tons more. I think you are spending a small fortune in restaurants and I think you could certainly go "cold turkey" or if not, restrict it to exactly once a month and that's it. Set a budget and pay cash. That means ordering on 2-for-1 night, and using coupons, and absolutely planning ahead for "special occasions" (and limit that to birthdays and anniversaries so you know when they are coming.

Try to stop grabbing things at the drive-through or just stopping because "you're on the road." Keep some granola bars in your car, have some small bags (that you pack yourself - don't buy snack sizes) of things that don't spoil, like carrot sticks and cheese/crackers, and just grab a couple each time you go out. You know you're going to go to the doctor, right? So grab snacks and put them in an insulated lunch bag as your "go bag. That doesn't mean to turn your car into a rolling restaurant where everyone just eats because they're bored. Every single person in your family can learn to eat before they leave the house, or wait until they get home. Put your own tap water in a reusable water bottle (run it through the dishwasher every few days) and never, ever buy supermarket or vending machine bottles of water!

If people in your family haven't learned to cook, teach them. Make it your family time together. Everyone can cut up stuff for a make-your-own taco bar or salad bar. Everyone can put stuff on their half of the pizza so they can choose their toppings. Go to inexpensive sources of protein like beans and eggs. For example, I make burgers out of half beef, half ground turkey, refried or mashed black/kidney beans, flax seed, wheat germ, grated onions, defrosted frozen spinach, and something like horseradish or Worcestershire sauce. I make a bunch, freeze the patties between pieces of wax paper, and then wrap in plastic and put in a ziplock bag. It's easy to pop out 2 or 4 whenever I need them, and they thaw quickly. Make your own oven fries with white, red or sweet potatoes, with a little olive oil and maybe some Italian seasoning, dill or paprika. Super easy. You really don't need burger joint fries.

If you have certain ingredients on hand, just google them (you can write "chicken tomato sauce mozzarella" or whatever you have, and you'll get lots of recipes. Economize. It doesn't all have to be steak! Learn to grill. Learn to make stir-fry. These are life skills your kids need too.

Get some cooking magazines at the library - ours has a free exchange where you bring a magazine and take one home. The magazines have really appetizing photos. Rachael Ray has a lot of 30 minute meals and 6-ingredients-or-less types of meals, and measuring isn't that exact.

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answers from Anchorage on

I suppose I could, but I have no desire to. I would love to cut back on the times we eat out because of poor planning ect, but I love having date night with my husband where we try something new, or having a family day outing that ends up at our favorite dinner for chicken and fries. I would rather have these experiences with my family over things. Although more travel money would be great!

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answers from Boston on

My family rarely goes to a restaurant except for Christmas Eve and if my father visits us( he loves to go out and pay for our meals) . Otherwise we do pizza every Friday from our favorite ma/pa place. Which is $25 .

We eat what we buy at the grocery store , which typically runs me $175 a week( just my hubby, myself and our son) I'm not a coupon saver, I just buy what we need for the week. If I have company, I just plan in advance and budget what I will need. I stick to it.

It's easy once you organize yourself and stick to a budget.

I also budget for gas, house supplies, gifts, and pet care.

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answers from Boston on

Maybe not 100% but we generally only go out to eat once a week, usually on Friday night and something cheap like pizza or other takeout. I would have the hardest time with the little grab-and-go stops that I make. My younger boys both play hockey 8 months a year and with them each playing on a regular team and a school team, we can have 10 games/practices in a weekend and with the all hours of the day and night timing, we're sometimes in the car or at a rink during a meal time so we'll get drinks and a snack at the rink. The tea that I make at home only stays hot and lasts so long! Additionally, I like to sometimes go out for an afternoon iced tea (and sometimes a baked treat) at work. Those add up to about $20 a week. Otherwise, we eat breakfast at home, all bring lunches to school or work, and have dinner at home 6 nights a week.

Biggest tip is to meal plan - if you've got the food you need for dinner on-hand, you're much more likely to cook and eat it. Otherwise you need to freeze or toss it, and most of (I hope) aren't wasteful enough to deliberately toss out a pound of ground beef and a package of rolls so that we can get into a car, drive somewhere, and pay for the same meal you could have cooked at home.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We have tried several times, and between work schedules and evening sports schedules, it just doesn't happen because we are so often on the run with no prep time.

That said, we're really good about cost-cutting in other ways. I have clippers and cut everyone's hair in my house except my own. I go to a very inexpensive walk-in place for cuts. I LOVE Tazo Chai Tea latte, but instead of paying $5/cup at starbucks, I keep the concentrate and milk in the fridge at work and make my own. I buy kid clothes at second-hand stores and my clothes at places like Ross/Marshall/TJMaxx. Instead of buying beef at the grocery store, we buy a 1/4 of a cow directly from a farmer (it's a bigger cost up-front, but saves a LOT over grocery store beef over the course of a year).

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answers from Los Angeles on

I wouldn't be able to do it. I may be able to do a week at a time, but that would still be tough. If I were to try, I would have to do it gradually -- start a week at a time then two weeks at a time then a month at a time. There's no way I can suddenly go from eating out frequently to not eating at all for a whole year.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'd take baby steps. One month at a time.

We don't eat out much. Maybe once a month. We typically meet up with friends and play cards and have a pot luck or the host is responsible for the dinner.

I don't drink Starbucks coffee. I know people that spend $100 a week there.

If you are going to do this? Take the money that you would normally spend and put it in a different savings account or envelope. I don't know how you do your money. You need to ensure you're actually saving it. many people find other things to spend the money on and end up not saving it.

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answers from Indianapolis on

Good idea but I couldn't do it. That goes along with new years resolutions and giving something up for lent. I would try it for a week or 2 but would never make it. Good luck to you though..

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answers from San Francisco on

I probably could but I wouldn't want to. I love to cook and entertain but I also love going out to eat, which I do about once a week. I would make cuts in other ways if I needed to.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

So what you're thinking is a partial eat out plan...not eating out for a year would mean nothing on your table that didn't come from a grocery store to be cooked at home or brought with you from home to eat wherever you are going.

It would mean no pizza Tuesdays or eating out during travel and such.

Either you just want to cut down some and spend the money on other food instead of food that was prepared by someone else. You still have to eat, you'd just be buying groceries instead.

We think eating out is expensive and a waste of money, right?

Consider that your food costs money no matter where it comes from. And "I" matter. I deserve to not live in the kitchen either planning, prepping, cooking, or cleaning. I deserve to have time for me and not spend it entirely on my family.

Then at home who is responsible for the cooking? For planning it? For going to the store, walking the aisles, picking out all the ingredients, going back to the store for something that you forgot? Spending time cutting stuff up, mixing the ingredients, making sure it's made how your family will eat it, maybe even making an alternative for that one that won't eat dairy or glutton or some other thing, then you serve it and no one wants to eat it.

After spending all that time getting the meal from an idea in your mind to on the table now you have dishes to do. Who's responsible for the dishes AND kitchen clean up all the way from the cabinets to the floors and trash? Who gets to put those dishes away?

Then you get the utility bill. If you never washed dishes or cooked a meal how much less would they be? Natural gas, propane, or electricity make your hot water, run your appliances and clean your dishes. You have to buy liquid dish soap, dishwasher detergent, water softener additives, Comet, Brillo Pads, dishclothes, hand towels, and more just to have clean dishes from cooking.

So is eating out a waste of money? We use apps on our phones to the places we eat most. Such as Sonic. A kids meal is often on sale for $1.99. I can feed the kiddo and myself for less than $10. No dishes, no clean up, no mess. I toss the trash in the can at the exit so no mess in the car either.

IF we went out to sit down restaurants every meal it would be expensive. Figure out how much it would cost you to feed your family every meal out for a month. Then look at how much money you spend now on every meal, including the eat out meals, and see what the difference is.

Could you eat out less expensively? More than likely.

Could you eat healthier if you did everything at home? Yes, no question there.

So eating out, if we tried to eat at home every meal or take food with us when we're not at home and it's time to eat, I think that would be more expensive in the long term for me because we eat on the run a lot. My propane bill could double and it only serves the stove and our heating unit. The water is electric. Our electric is hundreds per month on the average monthly plan. If we cooked every meal it would shoot up too.

All in all you sound like you want to eat out less. If you don't mind the extra workload on yourself and being tied to the kitchen more and more then I think you should try it for a week, then a month, and by that time you should be able to see if you can stop eating out completely.

As for my household? No, we can't not eat out. We have a lifestyle that puts us in the car for hours every day and if I packed food in ice chests and then had to make stuff out of the trunk and then take it back in the house and toss what was left over I'd have a nasty cooler every day that would have to be sanitized. I'd rather eat a quick meal out and toss the trash.

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answers from Milwaukee on

I would say that 90% of the time we eat out is for one of two reasons:
1. We are lazy & forgot to prepare anything to make for dinner, so everything is still in the freezer & it is now 7pm.
2. One of us gets a "craving" for some food at a particular restaurant, so we go spur of the moment.

So, if we took the time to plan ahead, & learned how to make the "mimic" food (Pinterest, thank you!!) that we crave, we could save a LOT of $$. Now, you have me inspired.

That leaves the remaining 10% of eat-outs when we go out with friends, or to celebrate something big. I'm OK with leaving that in the budget.

Plus, added bonus for cooking at home - my hubby LOVES to cook (binge watches the cooking shows on Netflix) & it gives him a chance to be creative, me a chance to feel pampered & encourage him, & both of us a chance to eat something healthier & cheaper, yet just as tasty! T. :)

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answers from Philadelphia on

It would be tough. We eat out at least once a week since my daughter is in college 45 minutes from our house. We typically take her out to dinner on Saturday night around 5:00. We get to see her and she still has her night free.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I have done it, not as a test to see if I could, but simply because after paying bills, there was barely enough money left for ramen, much less a weekly pizza night.

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answers from Springfield on

we only recently started a once a week eat out. before that it was random. my husband is allergic to onions, peppers and some other things that make eating out difficult, we were also financially struggling. now that were in a much better place financially w will eat out only one time a week. so yes you can do it. and yes i have done it.

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answers from New York on

I wouldn't want to do it. It's important to cut but it is equally important to increase your income.

You have put a great deal of effort and energy into cutting back. I would put even more energy into how you can earn more money and save that money too.

For me cutting like that has to have a set time frame on it along with a great reward at the end of it. I'm goal oriented and 1 year is too long for me to cut something like eating out.

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answers from New York on

We next-to-never eat out. It was something I cut out of the budget about ten years ago. It probably helps that most restaurants where we live are very expensive and not that great. There is one decent pizza place where I pick up every other Friday. Otherwise, the only other time we eat out is when we travel. I try to avoid too much prepackaged stuff from the supermarket too, but that's been a little tougher to do over the past year with my work schedule. I don't really miss eating out all that much. It's nice once in a while but between the expense and calories I find it's not really worth it. Good friends of mine like to cook gourmet meals at their house every Saturday, so I guess that's kind of like eating out.

You can definitely do it, but be aware that you will have to do a fair amount of pre-planning - especially when it comes to grocery shopping. I use my freezer like crazy, so I always have some main ingredient on hand for last minute situations. I also use the crockpot a lot. The biggest change for me was letting go of the old notion of a meal like my mother used to make - main course, several sides, fresh baked dessert. Sometimes the main course, if a veggie is mixed in, is the whole meal, or a side becomes the main course or I serve a bunch of appetizer-type things for the whole meal, or even breakfast for dinner. It works for us and it's a LOT cheaper - and that's coming from someone who barely has any time to cook.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My husband and I ate out a lot before we had kids. Two incomes, no kids, why not? When we had the kids, and I gave up my income to stay home we cut out restaurants all together for a few years. Eventually we started going out to eat for special occasions, and as the kids got older we used fast food on the busy days, between school and activities. Now we do fast food one night a week between school and activities, and we eat out as a family about once a month for a treat.

We also cut the cable down to basic, stopped magazine and newspaper subscriptions, don't own cell phones, we use coupons for entertainment, make our own coffee at home, we keep our vehicles until they need to be replaced, we conserve water and energy, shop second hand...the list goes on and on...

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answers from Boston on

I could, but I do not tend to go out to eat much.

What I find irritating is that going out to eat is the social go to. What about going on a hike? Window shopping?



answers from San Francisco on

Probably, but I don't really want to. We don't eat out that often as a family, and we try to keep it as modest as possible. I could definitely do a better job of bringing lunch to work, and that would save a few dollars.



answers from St. Louis on

Not only will you save on money, but THINK of all the excess calories and lack of nutrition in fast food and restaurant food! I've not done a whole YEAR but have accomplished six months, since October 2016 when I started Weight Watchers. I've made better food choices and really feel SO MUCH BETTER now that I'm not loaded down with fat, sugar and salt. good luck! Jan

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