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Have you cut back on restaurant meals with this economy?

We most definitely have. We used to eat in restaurants up to three nights a week; these days, we allow ourselves just once. Just cannot afford it now.

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  1. I sure have. Been cooking at home a lot more, but the new TJ's across from the Whole Foods in Montgomeryville is easing the pain for now. I am worried about some of my favorite eateries in the area though. I hope they survive this slow time.

    1. We usually go out to dinner on Saturday nights, but I really haven't felt like spending the money on us. I've felt better when we've donated the money that we would have spent on dinner to an organization that is dear to us. I've felt like they needed the money more then we've needed the meal. However, this weekend we were at a wedding in New Orleans. We were on our own for two lunches and really enjoyed having amazing meals AND tipping generously. The economy is really hurting there and we felt good about spending our money AND enjoying amazing food. Everyone we met said something to the effect of thank you for coming to New Orleans.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaisyM

        we keep our dining out experiences to a minimum, these days. I only go on Weekends, Saturday and Sunday, and usually for lunch, before 3. I am a comfort food kind of guy and having diner food, i.e. Country Club Diner, on a Saturday afternoon, works out well. Usually less that $20.00 for two. Rarely are my bills over $35.00, although on our visit recently to Cheese Cake Factory, it was over $40.00 for both of us, lunch of course. To me, that's splurging. I know many of you visit fine dining establishments in and around the city, so apologies in advance. I do have my eye on Distrito, however, that may take a special occassion...

        1. Not really....we still eat out 3-4x week for dinner on average. I have lunch out about twice a week and Dh five days a week. One thing I have noticed is that the "festive" atmosphere of many places has diminished significantly and getting reservation is easier and vocal appreciation from places is on the rise. So far, we have been fortunate in that our income has not diminished (and in Dh's case has increased) thus far, but we are being more thoughtful in our spending, even if we are spending as much as ever.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            I'm pretty much with you on this. Unless you've lost your job or (God forbid, living off your 401K), I'm not sure why you would cut back. Last Sat. night we went out to a popular local place and it was mobbed by 7 p.m. I commented to our waiter that it must be the great economy...

            1. re: bnemes3343

              The cutbacks are more visible during the week and the weekend.

              And frugality is in order even if one hasn't lost one's job or is living off savings. The $ add up quickly, and it's prudent in uncertain times. This will dawn on increasing numbers of people in the hard months and possibly years that are coming.

              1. re: bnemes3343

                I don't know how things are looking in your part of the world, but I find everything is costing a lot more. Flour alone has gone up by almost 100% in the last year, eggs by 50%, and meat by about 50% too. Fuel is certainly more expensive, and my rent's gone up by 10%. So even though I'm earning the same, everything else is costing more, which means... eating out and eating meat have gone down a bit in our household. So I don't think it's as simple as - you either still have your job or you've lost your job.

                1. re: Gooseberry

                  I have to agree with you on this. Two years ago, my grocery bill was about $50 a week and now it's up to $70 buying essentially the same items I bought two years ago. I used to go out for lunch a lot more often and now I just go home. Now I go out to try a specific restaurant, but considering where I live, that isn't very often.

                  1. re: queencru

                    I'm starting to see things come down. I saw a gallon of milk for $2.99 yesterday. I think we will see food prices comes down along with gas and everything else (hopefully not TOO low, that's not a good thing).

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      Personally, I never saw milk go over $2.39 at Aldi's and many of the local markets now have milk under $2/ gallon.

                      1. re: jlawrence01

                        Well, not all places will price milk to make money. (Used very often as a loss leader, or the dairy supplier cuts a deal to date move his stock)

                        Milk today ranged from $2.89 to $4.29 a gallon.

                        1. re: RShea78

                          If you are serious about reducing your food costs, you take advantage of the marketplace. You take advantage of the promotional prices at retailers who price that way. You take advantage of the EDLP retailers for the rest of your spend.

                          Another reason for the low price on the milk is that the dairies the retailers use are local. I am sure that if I went to Costco or TJs, I could spend more on milk that has been trucked across the country.

                          1. re: jlawrence01

                            I'm a huge Everyday Low Price person myself. I'm sure my grocery prices would be even more than $20 higher if I didn't do this, because most weeks I save at least $5, sometimes $10+ by buying items that are on sale. Just out of principle, I don't usually shop at places that require me to have a card for savings. I don't know what it is about that, but it really annoys me. At some places there are still ELDP savings in addition to the card, but I used to shop at one place that would price items roughly 100% higher for people without the card. Talk about ridiculous!

                            1. re: jlawrence01

                              EDLP unfortunately is a gimmick in my neck of the woods. Need I say, Walmart?

                              Although I have complained to several retailers go with "ads online", we are forced into getting ads from the local paper or be creative and pass word of mouth.

                              Milk pricing is a fiasco. Convenience stores and Pharmacies (like CVS) generally have the better deals, because they do not accept public assistance (FS) Stores I believe hedge to those on public assistance, when pricing seems best the last 2 weeks of the month.

                              Anyway, my system is working, as I knock on wood.

                          2. re: jlawrence01

                            In California, dairy cannot be priced below certain amounts.

                2. As we are pretty particular about restaurants, we don't dine out often. But when we do, we go to very good local restaurants (like Spring Mill Cafe, George's...). So the economy has not stopped us from going out to dinner.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jarona

                    I have cut back & think twice before suggesting to my hubby that we go out for dinner. Before, if I just didn't feel like cooking when I came home from work, I'd drop the hint to go out. No so much any more.

                    I am making a conscious effort to eat through the stuff already in my freezer instead of just going out & picking up something else to make for dinner. I have tons of stuff in there that I just forgot about. My hubby refers to those dinners as "freezer surprise". I'm also making an effort to cook big batches of stuff like soup, chili, spaghetti sauce on weekends & putting it in the "freezer bank" for withdrawal later -- I just have to remind myself to defrost.

                    I'm cutting back on buying lunch at work as well, as much because it's packing on the poundage, but also because I'm thinking twice about where I spend my $$.

                    1. re: PattiCakes

                      I love my freezer bank too Patti! A coupla weeks ago I made an obscene amount of lasagna and so for dinner last night I was able to just pull out a glass pan of the stuff to defrost a bit. I was so tired I crashed on the couch for a bit, then I could just nuke up slices. Homemade, really good, ready instantly. Felt like I beat the system some how. And TJs helps when my bank is depleted with easy meals to eat at home. Did you ever get over to TJ's?

                      1. re: givemecarbs

                        I'm freezing soup more and I've gotten my husband to (happily) make bread in the bread maker. I'm not feeling so good about spending $6 for a loaf of bread anymore. I also bought a bunch of spices from spiceworld.com I feel like cooking and experimenting more.

                        1. re: DaisyM

                          Daisy I love my bread machine too! Even if the bread it made sucked (which it doesn't) just coming home to the house filled with that fresh baking bread smell would be worth it.

                        2. re: givemecarbs

                          No, never got to TJ's -- maybe this weekend. I'm working on some quilty Christmas presents, and the weather was perfect for hunkering down by the toasty sewing machine......

                          look in my profile & shoot me an email.

                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            Done. Now I need to find pictures of those projects. Maybe on Yelp if I can figure it out.

                    2. I'm finally in vogue. We don't eat out a lot unless we are with friends. I have always preferred to eat at home than go out.

                      1. No! We rarely go out for dinner unless traveling. If in town, I cook. We have not felt the necessity to cut down restaurant lunches. Knock on wood!

                        1. I don't eat out that often having already been constrained by financial considerations even before the downturn so I would still go out to dine if an opportunity came up, expecially to try a new place. I've cut back on other activitiies, such as attending concerts, night classes, lectures, etc, in order to be able to do this (true hound).

                          What we have cut back on is ordering in food. Sorry Bona Pizza.

                          1. I work in the restaurant business and it has been really slow but I think my job is secure. Lately I've made a point of going to the restaurants I like on a regular basis, I am worried that some of them wont be there in the future. I've especially been hitting the places near my house that have good price/quality ratios.

                            1. Yes BUT it's because I'm finding these amazing deals on things like expensive clothes and cameras that are too good to pass up. I'm buying things that normally would have been way out of my price range, and I'm cutting back on eating out instead.

                              1. I am not much of a eat out person, but when I see a good sandwich or fried chicken deal, I will go for it. I will forgo the fries, drinks, or other add on items, as I will be taking my food deal home with me.

                                1. We've actually tried some new places for lunch instead of dinner. And no bottles of wine. One glass, if that.

                                  I wish I had a lot of the money we spent in the past decade at mediocre restaurants in my bank account right now. I could use a new (used) car.

                                  But the exceptional restaurants we've been to were worth it and still are.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Panini Guy

                                    Lunch out instead of dinner rocks! So much cheaper and feels somehow decadent. I haven't been able to manage a nice long lunch out in awhile. It feels like beating the system somehow!

                                  2. Yes, we have. We're socializing more at home(s), which is a change that we're really enjoying. When we do go out to restaurants, we're only going to places we know are excellent - otherwise, we can cook better at home.

                                    1. My sister raised an interesting point on eating out.

                                      She purchased a 12 year old home that must have been constructed for an "eating out" family. Oh, it is a nice home, room wise, but that kitchen is a phone booth compared to the one in my rented apartment. She is currently dealing with eating out vs remodeling.

                                      When she bought it, she asked for my opinion of the house. I mentioned a bulldozer, kitchen unacceptable...

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: RShea78

                                        Of course, that construction was better for that eating out family than if they had built an elaborate kitchen and mostly used the microwave. Which waste of resources is *far* more common.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          Agreed. One can make do in a small kitchen if one really wants to. I've had some really tiny kitchens that would be considered microscopic by any US standards, but I cooked in all of them without any problem. At times, I even had people over for meals and these were places that did not have ANY counter space.

                                          1. re: queencru

                                            ""One can make do in a small kitchen if one really wants to.""

                                            Not me and expect to pay money either in rent or to purchase. Cooking and prepping food is the first order of survival. Kitchens like that you starve.

                                            1. re: RShea78

                                              Again, there are many countries where living in a place the size of a kitchen in the US is the norm. People do fine and many of them do actually cook fairly decent meals there. They may not use the same type of appliances we do- for instance, in Japan it's typically a small 2-burner stove, a fridge, a rice cooker, and a few other applicances, but no one would say that the Japanese do not eat well with this configuration.

                                              1. re: queencru

                                                I agree. While it would not be my choice to have a miniscule kitchen, my Aunt lived in an apartment all her life with a kitchen the size of many people's bathrooms. She was an awesome cook, although she never cooked/fed a crowd in her apartment. Roasts, cakes, pies....My mom used to tell us of the time when my aunt's oven broke & she could not afford to get it fixed. My mom lent her a Nesco roaster, which she put on it's stand in her breakfast nook (and I do mean "nook"), and she cooked/baked with it for almost a year. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say.

                                                I think many people are going back to the use of pressure cookers here in the US. They are almost mandatory in India, and very popular in Europe because they make the very most of a single heat source & cut cooking time down considerably. They are much safer than they used to be (back when they got the reputation for exploding), and a great energy/time-saver. I find the food more flavorful than when cooked in a crockpot. They are a great way to make a tough cut of meat more tender & a fast way to cook beans (pinto, lima, black) from scratch very quickly. We all know what a money-stretcher beans can be. Go on the Cookware board and check out the posts. I have an electric model -- I thought that was a "safer" way for me to try it out -- but am going to be getting a stove-top model shortly.

                                              2. re: RShea78

                                                Actually, I cook less in my current more spacious kitchen than when I lived in a condo where it took three steps to cross the kitchen. I've finally stopped calculating things in terms of space. If someone wants to cook .. size doesn't matter. You can be creative

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Perhaps I should put things into perspective. If a kitchen is physically unworkable (as in ADA or physically challenged) it is a barrier, plain and simple.

                                                  Truth of the matter, I once worked in a small mobile kitchen, and the thing was a dream to work in. Of course the unit had to be professionally designed.

                                                  Many home kitchens that I have seen, the idiot designer should have been sentenced to life, without possibilities of being eligible for parole, in them. There was a local developer that put up nearly 50 rental duplexes before discovering, none even had a flatware drawer or drawers capable of storing simple cooking tools. Can you imagine having to buy something in order to store something outside the kitchen? I guess pots, pans, dishes go into the bedroom dressers? Their design made under the sink to be off limits to the household (secured access panal).

                                                  Kitchen unacceptable! And I can rant on forever on this issue.

                                                  1. re: RShea78

                                                    My in-laws in Romania have a tiny kitchen which consists of a sink (what we would consider a "bar" sink here) with an attached drainboard, a tiny 4-burner gas range, a bar size fridge (they shop nearly daily), and the clothes washing machine. No cabinets at all. They store their few pots, dishes, and cutlery on top of the washer or in the dish drainer rack that sits on the drainboard next to the sink. Food prep is done on the tiny folding dining table (much smaller than American card tables). Their kitchen is not unusual in that part of the world. Our 15x9 galley style kitchen which we feel is in need of updating would seem "gourmet" to them. My MIL is an amazing cook. When there's an event to cook for (like a wedding), neighbors and friends all pitch in to help bake and cook. I remember her upstairs neighbor bringing down loaves of sweet bread that she baked in her oven for my MIL. The two of them baked about 20 loaves for entertaining out of town wedding guests - two at a time in each oven.

                                        2. I frequent more laid back comfort places and fewer pricey.

                                            1. Yes, but this is more because of how the restaurants themselves have changed. Two have gone out of business entirely, and two that remain have raised their prices and lowered the quality of the food. A price increase is easier to handle if I still get the same food. When I get junky food, I stop going. I don't live in a big city, so I don't have infinite choices. If a decent place closes, then it is gone.

                                              It's not just this, though. I have been more careful to fully utilize the food that I do buy on account of budget constraints, and this leads to eating in more often. Then, the more often I eat my own food, the less tolerant I am of the general lesser quality that is available in my price range in the restaurants. So I eat out even less, on account of wanting better food. (I know, this would not be a factor in a large city).

                                              1. Yes, a lot. I was laid off in September due to the construction of swimming pools declined in Az by 75%, no pools, no fences (what my company did). I now plan 2 week menus as my husband gets paid every 2 weeks. On an occasion I can't take cooking and cleaning anymore and we go out, usually pizza or burgers. Nothing expensive. I miss that a lot, but tell myself this is hopefully temporary. We've been in worse situations before and always came out of them.

                                                I also look for restaurant coupons to help, including fast food. I also join restaurants we enjoy email and get coupons. I received at least 5 coupons since my birthday is coming up.

                                                1. i was laid off last week and i don't have a car at the moment as well, so i've mostly been limiting myself to stuff that's been proven fabulous and also more local - i.e. within walking distance. it gets old fast. i expect to resume my habits in full swing when i'm employed again. :)

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: rabidog

                                                    Oh, rabidog, I am so sorry. That sucks. I admire your ecclectic taste in dining, both here and on Yelp. I will say a prayer to the kitchen goddess that employment finds it's way to your hearth soon.

                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                      thanks! we're getting by - i haven't been totally deprived! i'm heading down to the italian market & RTM with my newfound free weekday time next week to do some thanksgiving meal shopping!

                                                  2. Yes and no.

                                                    Though my income is unlikely to change unless the entire US goes bankrupt, what is happening isn't really impacting me.

                                                    However, what was more of an impact was the gas prices. I just stopped traveling to restaurants because throwing 50 bucks in the tank annoyed me.

                                                    Still ... I'm far from wealthy ... so I make more prudent choices. I'm less likely to spend my eating out bucks on crap .. in essance, I'm eating more like a chowhound.

                                                    I just don't eat fast food much these days where in the past if I was rushed for dinner, I'd think nothing of grabbing a meal at a drive thru. Damn if I'll spend $6 for a mediocre meal at McDonald''s that is only filling my tummy.

                                                    I am a little more selective in restaurants looking for deals. Then again, restaurants are using cheaper ingrediants, even at the top levels. Take a look and see how many fancy-dancy egg dishes are on upscale restaurant menus

                                                    1. We've always gone out for dinner one night a week. This hasn't changed recently, and I don't see it changing. I am, however, worried by what I see when eating out - lots of empty tables.

                                                      1. Short answer: yes.
                                                        Longer answer: We are a family of five with a single income stream. While there's no danger of the income diminishing, I have definitely noticed prices for food going up. And while many people may be able to deal with increased prices by hitting certain big box places, we have a philosophy about eatting local, small, independant, fair trade and organic which limits our ability to decrease our food bill. Last weekend, I hit the farmer's market and two food co-ops. Food purchases---not the restocking of tp, laundry soap and beer, was well over $250.
                                                        For going out, we abandon the organic standard in favor of small ethnic places but even there, dinner for five is easily $45-50 a pop, lunch $25+. So going out multiple times a week really adds up. In order to supplement the family dining out budget, I've reduced my own lunches out and my coffee purchases as well [a double espresso in my own cup is $2 x five days x four weeks or 1 family dinner out.]
                                                        When things started going down, we decided to make a list of favorite places to eat and to make sure we hit each of them regularly. We've already seen a favorite place go under and anticipate losing more as time passes.

                                                        1. So far, no. The time will probably come, but for now, it's pretty much "business as usual." Now, my wife has cut down on some of her entertaining. A few board dinners were heavily scaled back, and a big, post-holiday bash is not going to happen. With business meals, she does not allow me carte blanche with the wines, and I understand this - one can still have very good wines, without breaking the bank. At a recent ball, where I normally order a half-dozen bottles of wine from the list, rather than what is being poured, we did not do it. So far, the personal dining has yet to take the hit.


                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                            I am still rockin it everywhere this is a great site, much better than zagat

                                                          2. Yes, but a big part of it is the decrease in family income due to my divorce this year, and now living with an under-employed musician.

                                                            I used to eat lunch out every day of the week, and dinner out 3/4 nights a week.

                                                            Now I live closer to work (or work at home when I can) and eat lunches at home.
                                                            My SO almost never went out to eat before moving out here, so he's helped break the habit alot. We do a ton of cooking at home.

                                                            If we do go out, it's to a couple of favorite restaurants, those that feel like family. Or to sushi (OK, so they feel like family, too) or to pick up a NY pizza - the sushi bar and pizza place are right next door to each other just a couple of blocks away.