Squashing the Biggest Mosquito

Now that we have figured out a lot of our spending patterns and started putting together a working budget you may have discovered a few areas where you might want to be cutting back on your spending. For the vast majority of Canadians the biggest budget killing mosquito is eating out.

For families living in urban centres it is not uncommon for their eating out spending to be as much as or even more than the mortgage. Yes, I know the little voice in your head is screaming “That can’t be true!” but in way more cases than you can imagine it is. When you add up all the coffees, the doughnuts, the quick deli or fast food lunches, grabbing take out or eat in the car food on the way from work to activities, and the actual sit down meals in a restaurant the numbers are sobering.

This is not to say that all eating out is bad. It can be a nice break from routine, a reward or celebration, and sometimes it is the easiest and best option on the super busy days that have us running all over the place. The main problem is that most people are completely unconscious when it comes to the money they are spending on the various forms of eating out because it goes out the wallet in small, but very regular, chunks.

In order to make your budget work AND improve your health and diet (restaurant food isn’t only expensive it is usually loaded in fat, sodium, and extra calories) is to cook more at home. With a little bit of advance planning you can easily cut your eating out expenditures in half.

I personally like to do my big grocery shopping trips early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The stores are quiet, they are well stocked, and I can go home and do a lot of meal prep for the week in minimal time. I cut up my veggies, cook a few dishes (it takes almost no extra time to cook 3 – 4 meals rather than just 1), and save myself a lot of time and grief during my busy week. Also, whenever I cook I try to make a large meal for my small family of three and break up the leftovers into TV dinners for my husband and I to have for lunches or quick, busy night dinners.

Having a ‘fancy’ coffee machine at home allows me to have my chai tea latte treat for a fraction of the cost of buying one. Having healthy, grab from home snacks for the kids (and yourself) that you can keep in the vehicle can save you a lot while holding every one over until you can get home to dinner.

Unfortunately the art of cooking is quickly dying. It blows my mind that we have college kids that don’t have any skills in the kitchen. Spending quality time with our kids teaching them how to prepare healthy food is a great way to build relationship while teaching them valuable life skills. If you don’t know where to start visit your local library and check out a few cookbooks and find some that you like. Sign up for a cooking class. Ask a skilled in the kitchen friend or family member to give you a few lessons.

With a little bit of forethought and a tiny bit of preparation time you can easily squash this huge mosquito.

“Business is good for the restaurant industry. Americans now spend roughly half their food budget dining out.”
Christine Bokelman