Have you cut back on eating out? [moved from L.A. board]
Are you making eating out a budget cut? I am curious what people are doing in this bad economy to save money and eating out less, or trading down to less expensive places is a strategy some people are following. What are you doing?
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My own situation has not yet changed radically, though I did agree to a significant reduction in a monthly billing recently. I'm just being a little bit more careful, a little less likely to say "What the hell, let's just eat out" than I used to. I'm not sure our actual dining-out frequency has changed a lot yet - it never was particularly often anyway. Usually two or three times a month, and that includes individual lunches. We've dined out three times within the past week, which is really unusual, but one trip was on the parents' dime (my birthday) and one was more a snack after a wine-and-cheese gathering. Oh, and I treated myself to a Pann's lunch on my birthday, too. Total combined expenditure since last Friday, then, was just under $100, much more than usual. We usually stick with the $25-or-less places...
1. Farmer's Market every Sunday to stock up on veggies for the week.
2. No waste whatsoever with those veggies: celery tops, carrot ends, onion trimming, etc. go into a jar in the freezer, to be used for stock whenever the jar is full.
3. Spend the extra time to make it from scratch for less money, i.e., pasta from my home hand crank machine costs me $0.70 for a portion for three-four people. At the market it would be $4.
4. Sundays we make lunches for the week. Tuna-apple-raisin salad, salmon salad with capers, and butternut squash risotto have been CHEAP big batch standouts.
5. We keep track of our food costs as a per-meal number. For example, a recent dinner of rockfish baked on a bed of potatoes, with tomatoes, herbs, garlic, and lemon, cost us $7 total for two people--who wants to eat out when faced with that number?
6. We enjoy the savings, going out to eat ONCE each week, and this way it ensures we research our meal, find a family owned place doing it for the love of it, and enjoy it wholeheartedly, with out a shred of regret.
Although I did make it out to The Bazaar this week, that is a rarety these days. Completely cut out breakfasts and luches out, as that is an easy $20 wasted, when I have bread, cheese, eggs, etc at home, and dinners have been reduced to about once a week. And they are usually something like Baja Fresh. (Like I said, The Bazaar is a rarety.) I visit Farmers Markets and load up on (cheap) veggies....Last nights dinner was steamed carrots and cauliflower, with butter. Oh, and I bought Ralph's brand ice cream the other day, instead of my usual Hagaan-Daaz.