Self-Improvement Challenge #1: Cut Food Spending

IMG_20171010_204451
Fewer meals like this…

It should come as no surprise that I love food. Cooking, going to restaurants, the act of eating itself all just delight me. But, my spending in the area has become a little excessive and I think it’s time to evaluate whether I can maintain food quality without shelling out quite as much money.

I spent around $750 on food in September. That’s $350 more than my baseline. Let’s see if I could bring it back to “normal” levels.

Looking at my food spending overall, the big, low ROI sinks are in delivery meals and restaurants. Delivery fees cause me to spend more in two ways– (1) with the fee itself and (2) by making me feel I “might as well” add in more for leftovers since I’m already paying the delivery premium. Once a month, I also get delivery when it’s my turn to pay for game night food with pals (cooking would take too much time/probably be less enjoyable for our guests). Since I get to choose the place when I pay, I can at least pick one of the cheaper options.

Restaurants are often for social hang outs and, with my foodie friends, can often get out of hand. The meals are usually good, though we sometimes end up at pricey Zagat-rated establishments that aren’t really worth the cost. Those I could easily cut without affecting my lifestyle much at all.

Therefore, in order to reduce my food spending, I’m going to focus on minimizing my delivery and restaurant visits. Here are the rules I’ll be following:

  1. IMG_20171021_111059
    …and more meals like this.

    No delivery with one exception: game night. Choose cheaper source when tanking.

  2. One “nice” restaurant meal per month (recurring event) with foodie friends. Otherwise, suggest cheaper options or skip out to eat at home.
  3. At restaurants, only one entree or two appetizers. Not both.
  4. Takeout maximum is $10/meal, no rollovers.

I also won’t be setting a maximum budget or spending goal for November. While I would like to end up around $400, I often find that having a set amount of money causes me to become anxious and micromanage my food spending (to unhealthy, deleterious results). I’m hoping the rules-based approach will feel more natural and habit-forming than just stressing out the whole month about food cost.

How much do you spend on food per month? How do you cut the cost of social eating?

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