Eating Your Dollars Away: Budgeting for Foodies



4 min. read

By: FCU Team

Eating out or ordering in isn’t just about convenience. It’s about the flavor, the ability to eat something you may not have been able to cook yourself, and the social connections that can come with heading to your favorite restaurant to eat or dine in with family or friends. It all sounds great on paper, but when you learn that the average Floridian consumer spends $3,253 a year eating out, spending at restaurants becomes hard to swallow.

Let’s be clear though – you don’t need to stop going out or ordering food! If your aim is to save money, then the idea is to be more selective about when you do so. Pairing self-control with smart menu choices and practices will help save a few bucks every time you go out. This along with following a few best practices when grocery shopping will help you save money!

So, when should you dine out/order in? In the end, it’s all up to you. Your lifestyle and budget will determine how often you would like to go out to eat, and how often you can actually afford to.

Cooking at Home

Picture this: you’ve just finished a long day at work and a long commute back to your home. You’re tired and simply want to relax…but your stomach suddenly growls. We all know that the last thing anyone would want to do in this situation is cook a meal, but thinking ahead can save you a lot of trouble and time! The first thing we’d recommend is to establish quick and easy core recipes that you know like the back of your hand, turning an hour-long affair into a 20-30-minute activity.

You should also know what you’ll be cooking well ahead of time. How you do it is completely up to you, whether it’s deciding what you’ll cook early in the morning before heading off to work or planning a menu at the beginning of the week, it's your own personal weekly menu. If you have roommates or a significant other, you can also alternate cooking days so you don’t always feel like you’re in charge of the food.

Best Practices While Eating at Restaurants

Sometimes we all just need a night out at a restaurant! Being mindful about your choices is all you need to make it through dinner! Going for specials on the menu, searching for cheaper options, and even things like settling for water over soft drinks or alcohol are little things you can do to save a few a bucks! Restaurant choices are also paramount. It may take some digging, but you’d be surprised how many restaurants serve delicious food at affordable prices. Websites like Yelp allow to you search your local area with a variety of filters, including price, so take advantage of those when you can!

Takeout vs. Delivery

As the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has shown us, sometimes the best option is to order food through delivery or takeout. The most convenient option is to have food delivered, but convenience comes at a price! Delivery and booking fees, coupled with a tip for your driver might make the delivery option much more expensive than taking the alternative and driving to the restaurant to pick up your food. If you're ordering delivery several times a week, those fees can start to add up and eat into your cash reserves, no pun intended. 

In the end, it's up to you and your lifestyle. Do you struggle to find time between your job and other responsibilities? Ordering food with a specific delivery time can be a great time saver and stress reliever. Have the time to pick up the food yourself? You'll be rewarded by saving some money you can put towards other meals or let rest in your bank account.

Grocery Shopping

If you’re trying to cut down on food expenditures, grocery shopping will be an integral part of your strategy. The first thing you should do is have a list ready before you even step foot wherever you choose to shop. Having and sticking to a list will help you cut down on splurging for items you would not have purchased otherwise! Along the same lines, don’t shop while you’re hungry! Your stomach might overpower your brain and convince you to make purchasing decisions you wouldn’t have made while full.

Taking advantage of coupons and sales is a good thing! However, beware of the dangers of BOGOs, buy one get one free deals. While they may look like bargains, they’re only true bargains if you were intending to buy said product anyway, or if it’s only something you buy once in a blue moon. Another tip is to shop for generic brands when you can. Name brands are often more expensive than generic – you don’t always have to go with the brand you know. Moreover, generic brands often contain similar or identical ingredients to name brand items.

Another option for grocery shopping is having your groceries delivered. Much like restaurant delivery, this option is convenient but much more expensive when compared to taking the trip yourself. The reality is that for those looking to be financially conservative, these services are a luxury. Current pandemic conditions make this a complicated decision as well, as it might feel to some like compromising your safety to save money. If you live with others, having someone be the designated "shopper" cuts down on potential risks associated with leaving the home at this time. If you wish to be as sure as possible, however, delivery is an option. Always remember that cutting down on other food-related spending can make space in your budget for grocery delivery. Speaking of budgets...

Consider the FCU Budget Widget

FCU’s online and mobile banking platform features a budget widget you can use to track your income and expenses in one easy place. Using it can help you achieve your financial goals, as it allows you to categorize your expenses specifically for Groceries, Fast Food and Restaurants, for example. Take a look for yourself to see how it works!

Treat Yourself

Saving money is good but remember to treat yourself every now and again. Allowing yourself the odd meal at your favorite restaurant could be the only reward you’ll need to provide you with the motivation to keep up your healthy food-related spending habits!