The Gory Details of Eating Out 217 Times in 2012

“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.”
– Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Your Money or Your Life

I’m making an honest review of my spending habits. Not as an exercise in self-punishment, but as an opportunity to see how I can get more happiness while giving up equal or fewer units of life energy.


As a habitual (bordering on compulsive) eater-out, it seemed right to re-visit every one of my restaurant transactions in 2012.

Here’s a summary table, broken down by the quality of the food and experience:

2012 Meals Out Broken Down By Quality and Cost
Rating Meals Dollars
Gross 45 $579
Meh 27 $447.76
Tasty 118 $1568.8
Delicious 27 $1105.41
Totals 217 $3700.97

Yes, I ate out a lot.

Because full confession is supposed to be cathartic, I present you with the complete, gory transactional details:

(Scan past the table to see what I learned from the analysis.)

Date Restaurant Amount Rating
1/2/12 Rubios $10.08 Tasty
1/6/12 Five Guys $26.46 Tasty
1/8/12 NYPD Pizzeria $35.81 Meh
1/11/12 In n Out Burger $16.49 Tasty
1/14/12 Jimmy John’s $8.66 Tasty
1/14/12 Papa John’s $16.70 Meh
1/14/12 Scaddy Time $7.52 Gross
1/16/12 Thai House Cuisine $19.40 Tasty
1/17/12 Jimmy John’s $10.76 Tasty
1/18/12 Kneaders $3.23 Gross
1/19/12 Barbacoa $14.09 Meh
1/20/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $5.39 Gross
1/21/12 Cafe Rio $18.05 Tasty
1/21/12 Coldstone $13.53 Tasty
1/21/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $11.04 Gross
1/26/12 In n Out Burger $14.92 Tasty
1/28/12 Chick-fil-a $22.69 Tasty
1/28/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $5.37 Gross
1/31/12 Ichiban $46.53 Delicious
1/31/12 Settebello $8 Delicious
2/1/12 Jimmy John’s $17.70 Tasty
2/3/12 Cafe Zupas $10.43 Meh
2/3/12 Settebello $36.20 Delicious
2/3/12 Settebello $8.99 Delicious
2/4/12 Kneaders $19.82 Gross
2/10/12 Chick-fil-a $15.96 Tasty
2/14/12 Thai Village $29.70 Delicious
2/15/12 Biaggi’s $37.22 Meh
2/18/12 In n Out Burger $6.43 Tasty
2/18/12 Settebello $13 Delicious
2/19/12 Rumbi Island Grill $28.07 Gross
2/20/12 The Downtown Philly $7.96 Tasty
2/21/12 Chick-fil-a $16.39 Tasty
2/21/12 Chick-fil-a $14.49 Tasty
2/21/12 Little Caesars $7.10 Gross
2/22/12 In n Out Burger $14.32 Tasty
2/24/12 Jimmy John’s $22.87 Tasty
2/24/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $4.20 Gross
2/25/12 Carl’s Jr $6.45 Gross
2/25/12 Subway $4.24 Gross
2/26/12 Benja Thai and Sushi $26.27 Delicious
3/17/12 Bombay House $43 Delicious
3/20/12 Goodwood Barbecue $11.70 Tasty
3/22/12 Leger’s Deli $8.26 Meh
3/23/12 George’s Gyros and Burger $18.15 Tasty
3/24/12 In n Out Burger $17.74 Tasty
3/26/12 Settebello $21.44 Delicious
3/27/12 Chili’s $61.88 Gross
3/30/12 Ichiban $59.37 Delicious
3/30/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $14.30 Gross
3/31/12 Jimmy John’s $11.48 Tasty
4/2/12 Rumbi Island Grill $23.86 Gross
4/3/12 Chick-fil-a $14.20 Tasty
4/6/12 In n Out Burger $14.92 Tasty
4/7/12 Cafe Rio $16.72 Tasty
4/7/12 Pizzeria Seven Twelve $43.03 Delicious
4/10/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $4.20 Gross
4/11/12 Chick-fil-a $21.24 Tasty
4/12/12 Culver’s $5.04 Tasty
4/14/12 Culver’s $7.09 Tasty
4/14/12 Jimmy John’s $11.48 Tasty
4/14/12 Pizzeria Seven Twelve $58.35 Delicious
4/16/12 Barbacoa $18.28 Meh
4/17/12 Thai House Cuisine $19.40 Tasty
4/18/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $7.84 Gross
4/18/12 Jimmy John’s $11.48 Tasty
4/19/12 Scaddy Time $10.60 Gross
4/20/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $13.98 Gross
4/20/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $4.62 Gross
4/21/12 Ichiban $66.24 Delicious
4/24/12 Chick-fil-a $23.06 Tasty
4/25/12 Thai House Cuisine $19.40 Tasty
4/25/12 Thanksgiving Point $6.73 Meh
4/25/12 Thanksgiving Point $14.82 Meh
4/27/12 Pizzeria Seven Twelve $56.35 Delicious
5/12/12 Communal $9.54 Delicious
5/12/12 El Gallo Giro $27.45 Tasty
5/14/12 Thanksgiving Point $37.52 Meh
5/16/12 Jimmy John’s $17.40 Tasty
5/17/12 IHOP $26.99 Gross
5/19/12 Communal $153.14 Delicious
6/2/12 Red Robin $28.67 Tasty
6/4/12 Baskin Robbins $3.48 Meh
6/4/12 Stan’s Burger Shack $9.08 Tasty
6/8/12 Stan’s Burger Shack $9.99 Tasty
6/13/12 Cafe DeJeuner $15.50 Meh
6/19/12 In n Out Burger $4.29 Tasty
6/22/12 Thanksgiving Point $36.79 Meh
7/19/12 BWW $12.66 Meh
7/19/12 In n Out Burger $13.47 Tasty
7/20/12 Jimmy John’s $7.38 Tasty
7/21/12 Black Sheep Cafe $49.17 Meh
7/23/12 Cafe Rio $13.20 Tasty
7/25/12 Chick-fil-a $18.35 Tasty
7/25/12 Culver’s $13.63 Tasty
7/26/12 Little Caesars $10.78 Gross
7/28/12 In n Out Burger $12.45 Tasty
7/31/12 In n Out Burger $2.14 Tasty
8/1/12 Five Guys $11.83 Tasty
8/1/12 Jimmy John’s $20.45 Tasty
8/2/12 Chipotle $10.84 Delicious
8/3/12 Culver’s $9.44 Tasty
8/3/12 Jimmy John’s $7.38 Tasty
8/4/12 Ichiban $42.41 Delicious
8/7/12 Five Guys $6.88 Tasty
8/8/12 Chick-fil-a $18.13 Tasty
8/10/12 The Downtown Philly $10.44 Tasty
8/11/12 Bombay House $43.98 Delicious
8/14/12 In n Out Burger $15.62 Tasty
8/17/12 Kneaders $0.85 Gross
8/18/12 Chick-fil-a $14.52 Tasty
8/24/12 Jimmy John’s $13.63 Tasty
8/24/12 Settebello $8 Delicious
8/25/12 Kneaders $29.56 Gross
8/25/12 Red Iguana $37.06 Tasty
9/1/12 In n Out Burger $15.40 Tasty
9/3/12 Culver’s $15.03 Tasty
9/4/12 Rumbi Island Grill $16.04 Gross
9/5/12 Bombay House $47.02 Delicious
9/5/12 J Dawgs $5.99 Tasty
9/6/12 Kneaders $12.90 Gross
9/7/12 Jimmy John’s $5.93 Tasty
9/8/12 In n Out Burger $13.24 Tasty
9/12/12 Chick-fil-a $21.02 Tasty
9/14/12 Jimmy John’s $7.70 Tasty
9/15/12 Country Bakery of Lehi $3.65 Tasty
9/17/12 Five Guys $8.60 Tasty
9/17/12 Thai House Cuisine $19.40 Tasty
9/18/12 J Dawgs $4.99 Tasty
9/19/12 In n Out Burger $15.61 Tasty
9/20/12 El Mexiquense Grill $9.91 Meh
9/21/12 Jimmy John’s $7.70 Tasty
9/24/12 Cafe Rio $14.57 Tasty
9/25/12 In n Out Burger $2.14 Tasty
9/25/12 Pier 49 $17.74 Gross
9/27/12 Jimmy John’s $5.93 Tasty
9/27/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $2.21 Gross
9/28/12 Culver’s $2.79 Tasty
9/28/12 El Mexiquense Grill $12.15 Meh
9/29/12 In n Out Burger $4.29 Tasty
9/29/12 Pizzeria Seven Twelve $51.12 Delicious
9/29/12 Smart Cookie $5.66 Tasty
10/1/12 J Dawgs $4.99 Tasty
10/2/12 Rubios $9.36 Tasty
10/3/12 BYU Creamery Fountain $9.18 Tasty
10/3/12 Chick-fil-a $20.82 Tasty
10/12/12 Jimmy John’s $14.70 Tasty
10/12/12 Taste of Punjab $40.92 Tasty
10/13/12 Little Caesars $7.85 Gross
10/13/12 Little Caesars $7.85 Gross
10/16/12 In n Out Burger $12.55 Tasty
10/17/12 El Mexiquense Grill $9.75 Meh
10/18/12 Rubios $9.36 Tasty
10/19/12 Thai House Cuisine $12.92 Tasty
10/20/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $14.30 Gross
10/21/12 Ichiban $60.45 Delicious
10/22/12 Jimmy John’s $7.70 Tasty
10/23/12 Cafe Rio $8.35 Tasty
10/24/12 Rubios $9.36 Tasty
10/25/12 El Mexiquense Grill $9.91 Meh
10/26/12 Cafe Rio $14.49 Tasty
10/27/12 Bombay House $44.01 Delicious
10/27/12 In n Out Burger $13.47 Tasty
10/29/12 Rubios $9.36 Tasty
10/30/12 BBQ and Grill $8.54 Meh
10/30/12 Chick-fil-a $20.17 Tasty
11/1/12 Jimmy John’s $7.70 Tasty
11/3/12 El Mexiquense Grill $10.18 Meh
11/3/12 Jimmy John’s $16.14 Tasty
11/3/12 NYPD Pizzeria $25.33 Meh
11/5/12 El Mexiquense Grill $9.91 Meh
11/6/12 Rubios $9.36 Tasty
11/6/12 Rumbi Island Grill $29.48 Gross
11/7/12 Kneaders $17.10 Gross
11/10/12 Cafe Rio $17.13 Tasty
11/10/12 Cafe Rio $9.64 Tasty
11/12/12 Beans and Brews $3.66 Meh
11/12/12 In n Out Burger $5.55 Tasty
11/13/12 In n Out Burger $2.14 Tasty
11/14/12 In n Out Burger $18.10 Tasty
11/14/12 Thai House Cuisine $9.70 Tasty
11/15/12 El Mexiquense Grill $9.63 Meh
11/16/12 Cafe Rio $17.13 Tasty
11/17/12 Settebello $18.10 Delicious
11/17/12 The Downtown Philly $13.55 Tasty
11/19/12 Thai House Cuisine $19.40 Tasty
11/20/12 Little Caesars $10.78 Gross
11/21/12 Kneaders $15.28 Gross
11/21/12 Taste of Punjab $19.91 Tasty
11/25/12 Scaddy Time $11.18 Gross
11/26/12 Beans and Brews $3.66 Meh
11/30/12 Cafe Rio $9.64 Tasty
12/1/12 El Mexiquense Grill $17.67 Meh
12/4/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $4.14 Gross
12/5/12 Chick-fil-a $14.48 Tasty
12/5/12 In n Out Burger $2.14 Tasty
12/6/12 JCW’s Restaurant Lehi $14.30 Gross
12/7/12 Culver’s $6.66 Tasty
12/8/12 Pizzeria Seven Twelve $23.94 Delicious
12/11/12 Chick-fil-a $22.51 Tasty
12/12/12 IHOP $15.91 Gross
12/12/12 J Dawgs $5 Tasty
12/14/12 Cafe Rio $9.75 Tasty
12/15/12 In n Out Burger $14.28 Tasty
12/17/12 Jimmy John’s $8.84 Tasty
12/17/12 Paradise Bakery & Cafe $4.14 Gross
12/18/12 Rubios $12.12 Tasty
12/19/12 McDonald’s $5.69 Gross
12/19/12 McDonald’s $2.58 Gross
12/19/12 Red Iguana $18.51 Tasty
12/20/12 Bombay House $76.39 Delicious
12/24/12 Cafe Rio $16.18 Tasty
12/25/12 Subway $1.05 Gross
12/25/12 Subway $18.57 Gross
12/26/12 Mad Greek $3.76 Gross
12/26/12 Mad Greek $34.26 Gross
12/29/12 Woody’s Burgers $22.76 Tasty
Total $3,700.97

I Don’t Regret the Expensive, Delicious Meals

…just the cheap, gross ones. Note the meals/restaurants rated “Delicious.” These are places my wife and I can go for some good food and a quiet conversation – which is what we value most.

With a year of data in front of me, I’m inclined to double the money spent on expensive meals, while (almost) eliminating the waste on meals that are anything less than ideal.

No more dollars wasted on “Meh” or “Gross” food. That’s over.

We’re Wasting Something Much More Precious Than Money

The eating out habit robs us of time. Time we could spend enjoying ourselves at home (or a nearby park, or taking a walk together).

Instead, we eat out, which means:

  • Driving to and from the restaurant.
  • Sitting around in the restaurant, eating mediocre (or terrible) food.
  • Scolding our restless kids (and why wouldn’t they be restless and irritable, cooped up in the car and a crappy restaurant).

Excessive eating out is like any other wasteful activity: It creates deep down stress and guilt, and reduces happiness.

Occasional meals out at carefully chosen restaurants create good memories, and adds to our happiness.

The key (for me) is seeing a clear distinction between the two, and acting accordingly.

What about you? Did you spend anything close to my obscene $3,700 eating out in 2012?

50 Responses to “The Gory Details of Eating Out 217 Times in 2012”

  1. Bob

    I don’t understand – tell us why you kept going back to places you had labeled ‘gross’? Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time? Or the second, or the third… ???

    • mark

      Hahaha – well said, Bob. That’s the whole thing, isn’t it? We never stopped to ask ourselves why we were going back to eat bad food – AGAIN. We never took a breath and said “Yeah, I’d rather make mac and cheese at home then spend $30 on bad food. Lesson learned.

    • Kat

      “Convenience” eating out could account for a lot of it. When you suddenly realize you’re short on time, ingredients, or the ability to get home and make something, it’s very tempting to pick a cheap, quick, but less-than-tasty choice that you’re not really totally satisfied with.

      • mark

        Right. “Not eating out” is a skill to be developed. Become better planners will be key. At the same time, when you decide eating out isn’t an option, you’d be amazed how you have plenty of food available at the house (I am, anyway). I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at a pantry and fridge FULL of food and said “There’s nothing to eat. Let’s go get a pizza.” What??

      • Lydia

        My husband and I have separated our eating out budget into 2 categories – one for eating out because we want to (date, entertainment with friends) and one for convenience (those times that we have to grab something on the go because we are away from the house from 6:00 am – 10:00 pm and can’t cart around 2 full meals the entire day in our lunchbox). This has really helped us control our spending on convenience “meh” food. We put a hard cap on how much we want to spend each month, and look at the balance regularly on our mobile app. Then, when faced with the decision to grab a quick bite, or find an alternative, we are able to make a better decision. We definitely have to plan our week and our meals to make sure we meet our goals. But having a convenience food category gets us out of the mentality of feeling guilty or stressed if we don’t pack a lunch or dinner one day.

  2. Dez

    That’s a LOT of eating out! :)
    But now that you make me think, i have 180€/month budgeted for eating out plus other 90€/month budgeted for pubs&bars with friends..the two makes up 3240€/year so, not very far from you :(
    I think it’s time for me to review my budget..just think of all the things i could do with all that money!

    • mark

      Pretty enlightening when you step back and analyze, right? And yes – there’s a lot you could be doing with money not wasted on gross food. The goals I’ve talked about in recent posts (bike, trailer, etc) were the inspiration for my analysis.

    • Meg

      Actually, 3240€ is about $4200 US, so you’re actually spending more… eep.

  3. whocindylou

    What a great post, Mark. Good financial soul (and stomach) searching going on here.
    We have a lot of our budget allocated to food, and enjoy tasty/delicious meals! Last year we embarked on a similar journey of mindfully thinking about where we are eating out–was the food as good as what I prepare at home, was it as healthy as what I prepare at home.
    During the past year we have completely dropped all but 3 restaurants from our dining out list. They are all 20-30 minute drives from our home so there is no doing it for convenience, only because we really want to go, and have planned to go. This dropped our annual restaurant budget from almost $5k to about $3k. We also have $1k year in our “celebration” budget which is usually spent in top notch restaurants in the big city. Some years we use it all, some we don’t. It’s actually MORE fun when that budget is depleted because it means we, and our friends/family, have had a great year!
    We also dropped weight by being more discerning about dining out. While we have never been fast food, drive-thru people, we found that the restaurants we love serve healthier food and don’t put out any free, mostly unhealth food– rolls, chips, fries, etc–that the lesser restaurants put out to distract you from the fact that they are feeding you marginal food.
    Once you are debt free, have your budget balanced, have your emergency fund, good savings rate, generous giving rate–I think it is great to have a nice dining out budget. It took us seven years of living lean to get to this place and we want it enjoy it without a shred of guilt.

    • mark

      Absolutely. Very interesting to me that you’re living what we now aspire to: 3 or 4 restaurants that are worth the money and the drive, and forget the rest of it. A great meal out should be a celebrated event, not a stress creator.

  4. Erin

    We probably spent around $1200. We budget enough for our family of 6 (five who eat solids) to get one nice fast food meal (something like Rumbi or Cafe Rio) once a week. love eating out and I’m not giving it up! I do think it’s good to analyze when it’s worth it and when it isn’t, though.

    • mark

      If we were going out much less often (with the kids), I think we (and they) would enjoy it much more. There were times last year that my 5 year-old would say “Dad, which restaurant are we going to for dinner tonight?” Those were the moments that my wife and I would look at each other say “Yeah, this needs to change.”

      • Joyceln

        Our son once asked as we were driving to the restaurant “why can’t we eat the food in our fridge?” He was only four but smarter than his parents :)

  5. Melissa Bauguess

    Thanks for the rare insight into someone else’s (anyone else’s) spending habits! I feel so voyeuristic. And I feel a little less guilty about the $100 a month we spend eating out. Truth is, we generally only eat out when it is necessary/convenient – travelling, busy evenings with activities when we can’t be home in time to feed the kids at a decent hour. We may not eat out a lot, but we also don’t enjoy much of it – because it is usually mediocre food and we are in a rush. I may start packing PBJ sandwiches for those occasions, and spend all $100 on a couple really nice meals for my husband and I so that we can get more enjoyment out of the $100. Thanks for the post!

    • mark

      $100 per month?? I bow before you.

      Agreed on the packing of food. Does it really take a lot of time/mental energy to pause before you head out the door and say “Hm, am I likely to get hungry before I get home?” Grab a PBJ, a banana, whatever. Great idea.

    • saveourskills

      Try cooking meals in advance and freezing them. I’d rather eat a hot bowl of chilli or some shepards pie than a PB&J. I make them in huge batches and freeze them in scew top containers

      • mark

        Another great idea! My wife already does this with certain things – spaghetti sauce and lasagna come to mind. She and I should brainstorm what we could cook in advance for a) me to take to work and b) portable bites when we can’t get home for a meal.

  6. whocindylou

    Funny thing, Mark. One of those restaurants is a farm to table restaurant in a sweet farmhouse with porches everywhere set on 1200 beautiful acres of land with hiking and biking trails. Too bad you don’t live near Atlanta. You could BIKE there and make a day of it :>)
    Destress, enjoy outdoors and great food, stay fit–all in out lovely afternoon.

  7. Ken

    We spent 2834.76 –ouch! But we have that money budgeted…. no more wondering if we have the money to go to eat somewhere. Also, we have learned that a cheaper option when we need a quick-we-are-too-tired meal we go to the grocery store and get something that can be thrown in the oven. You spend 40-50% less and is just as unhealthy :)

    • mark

      No kidding about the grocery store. After Monday night family time recently, Kate and I were going to pack the kids in the car and go for 99 cent Frostys at Wendy’s. Then we thought, “Wait, for the price of four Frostys, we could almost buy a half gallon of really good ice cream.” Much better value for money.

      In the end, we found some ice cream in the freezer and skipped the trip and the purchase altogether. The joy of budget-created awareness.

      • Jerald

        Your thoughts about ice cream match the light bulb moment we had last year. For the cost of one small blizzard from DQ, we can buy enough ice cream for the whole family (2 adults + 2 toddlers) to enjoy 2-3 times. So now we try to “splurge” at the grocery store instead of at DQ.

  8. David

    Mark, I love the post. I especially appreciate the honestly. I just did a quick analysis (i have only been a ynabber for 3 months now so I only have a few months of good data) and we are right at 350/month on average on eating out. Sad. We have reeled in a lot of our other expenses, but now it’s time to tackle the eating out spending crisis. Deep down all I really want is quality conversation time with the wife, which could much more easily be done at home, or on a higher quality less quantity basis. Thanks again for putting the confession out there. You’re not alone.

    • mark

      Spilling the beans is good for the soul. Glad it resonated with you. As to the quality conversation time, I’ve been thinking about picnics. In Utah we can probably only picnic five months of the year, but I know we’d enjoy the time outside and the opportunity for the quiet conversation.

  9. Megan

    Good Gawd! Why is financial health even a concern? You won’t live long enough to need any retirement!

    • mark

      Megan, you’ve given me a good laugh, and made my day.

  10. Janise Cookston (@janisecookston)

    After our great “No Spend Month” experiment of 2012, we realized that we had room to cut back on all our food spending, both groceries and eating out. So for the last 12 months we have spent a total of $800 (avg. $65/month) on eating out and $2,700 (avg. $225/month) on groceries. I think we could use another $20 or so in the food category to really feel comfortable, but tightening the belt (in more ways than one) has been a good challenge for us to be intentional both about what we eat and what we spend on what we’re eating.

    • mark

      If you have your budget dialed in to the point that you’d feel an extra $20 in the groceries category, I think you’re doing pretty darn well.

  11. saveourskills

    Mark, loving your ranking system. Thanks for sharing. It’s a great way to see your emotional ROI on restaurant budget.

    • mark

      Glad you liked it, and thanks for the kind words.

  12. Lisa

    Great article. We spend about $300/mo eating out (2 adults, one teen, one 6yo who eats about as much as the teen!). But we,too, have been making a conscious decision to eat at only places we enjoy and less often. We’ve also been working to shift a higher % of food costs toward groceries rather than eating out. Again, it’s all budgeted, but we both enjoy cooking, and well, the food tastes a lot better and is healthier (usually). For example, last week, I bought two sirloin steaks for about $20. They were large – nearly a pound each. But they tasted just as good as a chain steakhouse dinner that would have cost a lot more, even after I added baked potatoes and a salad. AND there was enough steak to make steak subs with later in the week. Or, we love crab legs. Three pounds of them at the market costs about $50, but hey, it’s hard feeding a family of four at an Applebees for that price with the beverages, tip, etc.

    • mark

      …and that all sounds delicious, whereas Applebees would go straight into my Gross column (but that’s just me). I wouldn’t mind dropping by your house on steak and crab legs night!

  13. alepinions

    Thanks for this! Very good informative read.

    I’ve been YNAB’ing since October, and we’ve been somewhere in the ~$350/$400 per month on dining out… we both enjoy beer, so 95% of our trips are to pubs, and beer is probably nearly half of that total.

    I think a weekly wing night, and a bi-weekly restaurant visit, is a good moderation… $250/month would be a target for me :)

  14. Joey

    I know you sorta answered this earlier, but I am still perplexed. Why would you go to a gross restaurant six or seven times? Are those your wife or kids favorite restaurants? My husband and I have a two time gross max on an eatery. If it is gross twice you are off the list forever.

    • mark

      I think my data table makes it appear that I rated the experiences as they happened. If I’d been that proactive, I’m sure we wouldn’t have eaten at the gross places so often. What you’re seeing in the table is my rating of the restaurant, assigned while reflecting on the whole year’s transactions.

      In the moment, eating at places we don’t like was more a matter of habit, or because my son likes this or that from one particular place. But like I said, now that the hard data is staring me in the face, we won’t be back to those places.

      • saveourskills

        Exactly! My wife and I were just talking about this as we left a local steak place that had awful food. We “kinda sorta” remember not liking it the first time but figured we’d give it another shot. This is why I’m going to use this idea.

        I need the data!

  15. Taylor

    I feel so weak after reading this. A few weekends ago my partner and I spent over $400 in three days eating out. We actually are converting to veganism so we started making alot of meals at home and it is amazing food and we spend more time together. Defintiely better than the “gross” and “meh” spending.

    But I am disappointed that “in-n-out burger” is only rated as tasty!

    • mark

      In n out is good, no doubt. But it’s not going to make it into delicious status for me.

      Veganism will cut down on your eating out, but I don’t know if it will cut down on your overall food budget. A diet of nothing but produce seems like it would get expensive fast. I wonder if there are any vegans or near-vegans who could weigh in.

      • Cate

        I’ve been vegan for about five years, and I find it’s actually quite cheap if you use menu planning. I currently spend about $20-25 a week on produce (and that’s with a big salad for lunch every day). The fact that beans and pulses are cheap-cheap-cheap certainly helps the budget. I’m on track for spending about $150 this month on groceries, with about $75 budgeted for eating out (mostly soy lattes, which are my weakness).

      • mark

        Thanks for speaking up, Cate. $150 in monthly food cost isn’t bad at all.

      • Cass

        I think that is all relative. It completely depends on what you’re buying and the quality.

        I eat some animal products but I changed my purchasing habits to NEVER buy an animal product that isn’t from a humane, reputable source. Changing my grocery shopping habits has been one greatest decisions of my life.

        What you find in supermarkets is meant to be the cheapest in existence due to the way it is mass produced. In what world should meat be cheaper than produce? Does that really make any sense? After all, it takes quite a lot of produce to grow that meat.

        Humane, pasture-raised meat is not cheaper than produce, and it shouldn’t be. Think about what you’re eating and you’ll actually be better off with your health and happiness. Even with your wallet.

        I’ll give you an idea of how that works for me.

        First, I get a box of mixed produced delivered once a week from Washington’s Green Grocer. It works similarly to a CSA. They determine the contents, I determine the size of the box. This has been fantastic!

        I often found myself stressing over what to buy at the supermarket for vegetables to eat with meals. I have to worry about more than just myself. My live-in girlfriend has her own tastes, and I spend three nights a week at my mom’s as her caregiver. She definitely has her own tastes that contrast with mine. Sometimes, I would get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to make to satisfy all and what could easily be brought to and cooked at my mom’s. I’d just end up getting the same stuff over and over. It was boring…. and I’m a good cook, so I was surprised to be struggling so much.

        My produce delivery changed all of that. Now, I get a variety of produce that naturally causes me to cook vegetables that I never would have bought. It also means we eat a lot more produce now because it’s there to be used. Much healthier; much happier. A box of quality produce that costs $30 feeds 2-3 of us for a week if not a bit more. Talk about reducing your grocery bill. It also reduces our restaurant expenses because we have more variety on hand to cook with throughout the entire week.

        Next, I changed where I did the rest of my shopping. Now, I only go to a market that carries products I can trust. Nothing from factory farms, nothing with hidden ugly ingredients. I cannot tell you what a relief it is not to have to worry about the food I buy now. I feel free in there.

        Nearly everything in a supermarket is going to contain ingredients that are far from ideal, and even harmful, all to save a buck. Now I have an entire store full of quality, and I don’t pay much more for it. It’s entirely worth it. Meat is the only thing that is particularly pricey, but guess what happens when you pay more for higher quality meat: you eat a smaller portion of it without even noticing. That’s incredibly healthy.

        These new habits (began over 6 months ago) have cut our grocery spending in half, changed our eating habits for the better, and have eliminated a huge stressor in my life. I couldn’t be happier.

  16. Stephen

    Hi Mark,

    How did you track your ratings? YNAB memo field?


    • mark

      Hi Stephen –

      I actually didn’t track them in the moment, as I mentioned in reply to another comment. (Sorry, I can tell the way I laid this out made it look like I rated them as I went.)

      But the memo field in YNAB would be perfect for rating a dining out experience.

  17. Chris

    In Oct 2011, I spent a little over $800 on eating out: everyday for lunch and then $20-40 a night on wings & alcohol, or Chili’s, or some other restaurant where I could easily drop that much on food and booze. In November, I couldn’t figure out where all my money was going, ran a little Excel analysis on it, and decided I needed to change. So I got it down to $400 in November. Today, after I have had YNAB for about three months now, I budget $50-60 per pay period on eating out, and mostly stick to it, or just go slightly over (then cover it from Entertainment budget, if necessary). Huge change.

  18. Faminem

    Hi, Mark. I´m Vinicius, and I live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a new user of YNAB, first I gotta thank all of you for making the budgeting something easy and fun. I´ve been using a lot of alternative methods, such as paper and pen, Excel (good and reliable) and other products, paid and free, but only YNAB is trully worried about how do we deal with our money.

    Back to the subject, I elected saturday night as my “oh my God, I´m gonna spend $ 70,00 on a dinner!” day. But thats all. During the week we make our food, not only because you can save a lot of money, but mainly because we´ll know what we are eating, and we´ll know that we made that meal with love. It´s something like what happens in Peru (yeah, I think it´s Peru) – people over there are connected to the dishes they´re preparing – the lunch or dinner time is special. Of course it´s impossible for me and my wife to be together by that time every day, but we make an effort.

    So, you save money, save your health and, most of all, your relationship with your wife and sons.

    If you can´t be at home, just take home with you. I use to prepare my meal and bring it along.

    Hugs from Brazil,


  19. Jim

    and here I thought $35 a month was reasonable. i think you might be eating your retirement/future purchases.

  20. Eve

    eating out is our biggest issue too, we don’t have the money to do it like we do- but we still end up doing it- and justifying doing it. Getting a dishwasher helped a little, as one of our excuses was hand washing dishes after dinner- but we still eat out wayyy too much. No idea how much we spent becuae I just started using YNAB on the 5th, but since the 5th we have spent $174 eating out, with our one income family that is wayyy to much, especially since because of our slip this weekend we have to wait and pay electricity a week late (again)

    I think I need to join a Eating Out Anonymous or something!!!

  21. Mom

    Our grand total for 2012 was $3870.05. This is mostly because hubby and I like to eat out, so when grandma offers to babysit, we go out to a nice fancy ($70+ for 2) restaurant. And on the weekends, we take Daughter Person (2yrs) out to lunch because she loves people watching, and we get a little bit of a break while she’s engrossed in that. We rarely go out to eat for dinner though, stick to lunch and special occasions.

Comments close automatically after 14 days.