Why Dining Out Can Delay Your Retirement

If you know me, you also know I love to eat. Whether it’s a home-cooked meal made with a lot of love, or at a great restaurant, it doesn’t matter to me. We all know that eating is essential; however, as a financial planner, I learned long ago that food is one area where we see huge amounts of overspending.

Here are a few interesting facts: In the 1920s, Americans spent 25% of the family’s disposable income on food. Due to technological advances in food production, today’s modern-day family spends about 11%. However, the amount spent on dining out has seen a dramatic increase. Of the total amount spent on food, a modern-day family will spend about 50% of their food budget on dining out.

Unfortunately, dining out provides only 28% of our calories. The other 72% comes from eating home-cooked meals. Think about this for a moment. Eating out fills us up 28% but consumes 50% of our food budget—at least. From years of experience, I can tell you that many families spend well over 50% of their food budget on dining out.

If the average person were to take a portion of their money spent on dining out and saved that amount over 20 or 30 years, it could make the difference of several hundred thousand dollars. 

Now, I realize that after a long day or week at work, you may feel like “I deserve it.” Eating out at a restaurant is often an easy and pleasing way to spend an evening. But try to consider alternative ways of getting those calories! Here are a few ideas:

  • Have some friends or family over, and have each bring a favorite dish as the “cost of admittance.” 
  • Bring a bagged lunch to work, and make lunch for your kids to bring to school.
  • Do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry. Impulse purchases are a grocery store’s favorite way to get you to buy unnecessary items.
  • Try to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. You may be amazed by how delicious (and inexpensive) some vegetarian meals can be! Fruits and vegetables are well known to be far cheaper than processed foods, meats, and dairy products. 
  • Look for deals on generic store brands, but be careful of buying bulky items that go to waste (think twice about buying that bushel of lettuce at Costco).
  • Compare prices on store shelves. Many stores position the most profitable items at eye level. Bottom-shelf items are frequently the same in quality but lower in price.
  • Use a shopping app or create a shopping list, and stick to it.
  • Also, use an app for recipes and to help build your shopping lists. I have found Allrecipes.com online and on my phone to be a tremendous help.
  • If you’re really interested in your diet, consider consulting a dietitian. Let us know if you need a recommendation.

Lastly, have fun with your food! Try taking a cooking class, and bring a friend or family member. I guarantee you will have fun and learn how to make delicious, healthy food that won’t break the bank.