Americans need money to pay for the necessities in life. Everyone knows that. If they are in a lot of debt or saving for a luxury that is extremely important to them, they need to take a good hard look at how they are spending that money. If you have been tracking your spending then it is time to assess that spending. But for those of you who don’t track, here is a pretty good assessment of how the average family is spending their money.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released this chart last September which shows the average consumer’s spending in 2017 compared to 2015 and 2016:
Average consumer spending
I find it a very interesting read. The highest expenses of housing, food, and transportation were not a surprise nor were the amount people are paying for social security and contributing to their retirements.
The surprise for me was what the average family consumer (they call it a unit) is paying for Food Away From Home. For 2017, that figure is $ 3365.! Am I the only one shocked by this amount? The figure for Food Eaten At Home was $ 4363.
I know food is expensive, so the figures for food eaten at home is not surprising. But the amount spent for eating away from home seriously shocked me. You add the two figures together and you find that the average consumer unit is spending $ 7,728. on food. Holy Cow! No wonder so many people cut their food budgets when they need money for other things. Food is a huge cost!
However, I can’t even imagine spending that amount
of money eating away from home. We like to eat out once in a while but I can’t imagine spending that much in one year. And I know that when my children were living at home, we spent nowhere near that much. If we ate out once a month, that was a lot. But when we did, we knew that we could pay for it.
So if your income is being cut or you are in debt up to your eyeballs, cut your eating out. You may not be able to save the entire average of $3365. because you will be eating those times at home. But I would bet you could save a significant amount of it without trying too hard.
I am not saying to quit eating out. If you can afford to pay cash for your food and your eating out, then go right ahead. But if you are in debt or losing income, this is the first thing you should cut. Over the years, I have seen people who are always complaining that they are broke eating out every week, even two, or more times a week. How are they doing that, you say? Well, they just whip out their credit cards and charge it. Then they pay interest on top of their meal. Most people don’t ever consider what the real cost of that meal is.
So dust off your cooking utensils and start eating at home the majority of the time. Make a meal plan every week and only shop for what you need to make those meals. I stockpile at rock bottom prices so we eat from our stockpile. I grocery shop for the few things I might not have at home to make those meals and any rock bottom prices on items on sale that can go in my stockpile. I don’t shop every week. Sometimes it is 2 and 1/2 weeks until I need something. Just because you may have $100. per week set aside in your food budget doesn’t mean that you have to spend that $100. every week.
If we had no stockpile, we would make our meal plan by looking at our ads. If we didn’t get a newspaper, then I would look at them online or pick up an ad at the grocery store. Then I would make our meal plan for the week from the loss leaders on the front page. If hamburger or chicken is the best price, make most of your meals from either chicken or hamburger that week. Your family won’t die from eating the same meat. They will get a new variety the next week. if you have $5. or $10. more that you can spend, then buy extra hamburger or chicken and freeze it for future meals. Do this a few weeks and you will be able to make a variety of meals each week at rock bottom prices and build your stockpile at the same time.
After you pick your meat or main item for dinner, look at the back page for what produce is on sale. Only buy what is on sale which is most likely whatever is in season. If what your family will eat is not in season, then buy whatever frozen or canned vegetable is on sale. Next figure out what kind of a starch is on sale, whether that be pasta, bread, rice or some other starch. Base not only your dinner on those sales but also your breakfasts and lunch. If you have food at home to make all of these meals, then you are less likely to eat out.
I have heard over the years many excuses for why people eat out. The one that I have always hated is, I deserve it. No one deserves anything if they can’t pay cash for it. Spending your money before you earn it, is the quickest way to dig a hole that will take you years to get out of. Keep whipping out that credit card because you deserve it and eventually you will end up with no money.
Another excuse I have heard is, I don’t know how to cook. That one makes me laugh. Get a simple cookbook or look up how to make recipes online. A great cookbook that has simple, frugal meals is:
Dining on a Dime Cookbook .
Or you can go look at the recipes that the Prudent Homemaker has on her website .
Then there is I am too tired to cook. I know what that feels like. So go out to eat once in a while. But not if you can’t afford it. Make something simple like scrambled eggs and toast or jarred spaghetti sauce over pasta. Make a salad and throw a piece of meat on the grill or in the oven. Make simple meals. Not every meal has to be a gourmet meal.
So if you need to cut your bills, start with eating away from home. Just think of all the money you could save to pay other necessities if you just cooked at home.
I hadn’t planned on posting today but when I saw this article this morning, I just had to. We are coming into a New Year. Make 2019 the best money saving year that you have ever had. Make a goal of eating the majority of your meals at home. Your wallet and possibly your body(restaurant food is calorie laden) will thank you!
Please feel free to leave a comment.