We all love to treat ourselves to a good meal, although for many Americans, going out to dinner or ordering takeout is a weekly or bi-weekly event. In fact, from 2015 to 2016, for the first time in history, Americans spent more money at bars and restaurants ($55 billion) than they did on groceries ($53 billion).1 And while there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, the reality is that nearly 70% of Americans report having $1,000 or less in their savings accounts.2 That’s very little savings and lots of restaurant meals.
So, why are Americans choosing the expense of takeout, delivery, and restaurant meals over cooking at home?
With the recent push to value experiences over things, many individuals and families are spending their dollars to maximize enjoyment and that includes multiple dining experiences during the week. The average American “goes out” five to 13 times per month, with younger generations opting for more excursions than older generations. Still, baby boomers and Gen Xers manage to outspend millennials when they do venture out.3 Going out—whether it’s with friends, family, or on a date—is a fun thing to do to break up the week.
The average full-time worker in America now works 47 hours per week, which is equivalent to a six-day workweek.4 Add to those hours the pressures of school, activities for kids and other commitments and it’s clear that many of us have a lot going on. Often, the stress that comes with a lot of obligations means a tendency to overeat. In fact, 38% of adults say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress. Half of these adults report engaging in these behaviors weekly or more.5 And there’s no industry better at indulging your craving for fat, salt and sugar like the restaurant industry, which is why we might find ourselves turning to takeout when we’re feeling stressed.
We Have Serious FOMO
If you’re not familiar with FOMO—“fear of missing out”—it’s probably good to acquaint yourself with the term. Most of us feel at one point or another like everyone but us is out there having fun and we want to join the party. So when a friend calls and says, “Hey, you should come out,” we’re left feeling like our options are to sit home and feel left out, or roger up even if it’s not in our budget.
We Didn’t Plan
It takes a little forward-thinking to successfully beat the urge to go out. Whether you’re cooking for yourself, your family, or a group, taking the time to plan out your meals for the week and shop for the ingredients takes time. And many of us feel we lack the skills to be good cooks, making this whole arrangement seem more challenging.
So What Can You Do About It?
You probably know why you’re reticent to cook meals at home every week, but changing set behaviors is not an easy task. What can you do to save yourself the cost of frequent meals out?
- Collect Recipes
If you’re struggling to see how you can make your way through the complex field of shopping and cooking, start by collecting recipes you like. Sources such as Real Simple, Food Network and Family Circle offer quick and easy 30-minute recipes that won’t take up too much of your time or budget—and extra points if those recipes are Crockpot meals that can be quickly prepared in the morning and are ready to eat after work.
- Try a Meal Planning App
There are lots of tools available for planning your weekly meals. Whether you use the tried-and-true pen and paper method, or a more modern mobile option, getting organized has never been easier. Apps like Paprika, Plan To Eat, Cook Smarts, and Pepperplate offer access to thousands of recipes and grocery lists that can keep you organized and on track.
- Plan a Potluck
For many of us, eating out is a social experience. We meet our friends, family or significant others out for appetizers, dinner, or drinks—and the bills add up. Invite your friends over for a shared meal at home. Ask each friend to bring a dish and enjoy all the social benefits of eating together without the restaurant mark-up.
- Make Cooking a Family Affair
It can be easy to turn to takeout when you’re trying to feed your family. You’re busy, your kids are hungry and you need dinner fast. The occasional family pizza night can turn into a weekly affair because it’s just so easy to do. Instead of resorting to restaurants, have your kids help you cook. Children as young as three can be helpful in the kitchen (with supervision, obviously!) Not only will cooking together save you some cash, it will also teach your children valuable lessons about how to prepare food and be a fun event for everyone.
- Consider the Savings
The reality is that the average American family spends just over $3,000 a year on prepared food. That $3,000 is a big chunk of change that could be spent in lots of different ways. Whether you need to pay down debt, invest in your retirement or save for your children’s education, those few thousand dollars can add up to a lot of money over time. Cutting out just a few restaurant meals per week could save you over $1,000 annually. Think about where that money could go and adjust accordingly.6
While the siren song of takeout can be hard to ignore, there are things you can do to stay in control of your eating habits and your budget. With some careful planning and a change in attitude, you can be on the way to saving more every month. Remember, even a little goes a long way when it comes to saving! If you’re looking to create a budget to save for your priorities, let Jemma Financial help you. Our experienced Financial Advisors can work with you to develop a customized savings and investment plan that works for you. Learn more at www.jemmafinancial.com.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
2 2016 Go Bank Rate Study on American Savings
3 TD Bank's Consumer Spending Index, 2016
4 Gallup Poll on Work Life Balance, 2015
5 American Psychological Association Study, 2016
6 TD Bank's Consumer Spending Index, 2016
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Securities offered through M.S. Howells & Co., Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Jemma Investment Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. M.S. Howells & Co. and Jemma Investment Advisors, LLC are not affiliated.