The One Reason For Eating Out That Is a Big Fat Lie

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I think we would all agree that dining out is more expensive than cooking at home. We all go out to eat from time to time, but did you notice that we always seem to attach some sort of excuse to it? Whether we’re celebrating, or we’re on vacation, or we’re just too busy to cook it seems like we have to justify to ourselves a trip to a restaurant. Sometimes there are some valid reasons, sometimes there isn’t a reason other than we just want to and that’s OK. But there’s one excuse that we tell ourselves over and over that’s just an outright lie.

Vonnie had an appointment late Friday afternoon that was going to push eating dinner later than usual. We had planned to grill steaks, but since her return time was a bit up in the air, by the time we got food on the table it could be very late. We talked about options, but really didn’t come to a decision.

While she was gone I went to the grocery store and picked up steaks and a salmon fillet. When she got home, we calculated how long it would take to actually make the meal and decided to go out to eat instead using the excuse that it was already late and going out would get us food faster.

We went to a nearby steakhouse, ordered our food, and had a nice conversation. When our food arrived I happened to notice the time and mentioned to my wife that we could have made a meal at home in the same amount of time. She thought for a minute, as she stared at the clock on her cell phone and then nodded her head in agreement.

Going out to eat to save time is a big fat lie.

Let’s compare potential timelines:

Eat At Home:

  • 8:00pm: Start preheating oven for baked potatoes, start making salad
  • 8:10pm: Baked potatoes placed in oven
  • 8:30pm : Start Charcoal For Grill
  • 8:30pm : Start Making Salad
  • 8:35pm : Salad Served
  • 8:50pm : Grill ready, Steaks start cooking
  • 9:00pm : Steaks / Potatoes ready
  • 9:05pm : Main Course Served
  • 9:15pm : Food Eaten, Cleanup begins
  • 9:25pm : Cleanup complete

Eating Out:

  • 8:00pm Leave House
  • 8:15pm Arrive At Restaurant
  • 8:25pm Seated in Booth
  • 8:30pm Initial contact with server, waters ordered
  • 8:35pm Waters served, order taken
  • 8:45pm Salads Served
  • 9:00pm Food Served
  • 9:10pm Eating Complete
  • 9:15pm Bill Delivered
  • 9:20pm Bill Paid and receipt signed
  • 9:35pm Arrive home

As shown, the timeline for the food delivery is very similar. The salad would be served earlier had we stayed at home, and the main entree was served at almost the exact same time. We’d actually have eaten and cleaned up 10 minutes EARLIER than when we walked in the front door from dining out.  But wait, here comes the ironic part; take a wild guess at what we ordered. Vonnie had steak, and I had salmon. We also had the ingredients to make salad in the refrigerator.

We spent $70 at a restaurant to eat the same food we had at home, and the entire experience took longer.

I’m not here to tell you to go out to eat or not – that’s up to you. But if you find yourself trying to convince yourself to go out using the excuse that it will save you time, just know that unless you’re hitting a drive though, it’s a bold face lie. You’re going to pay through the nose eating at a restaurant and you’re doing it simply for convenience.

The question you have to ask yourself, will it be worth it?

About Travis

32 Responses to “The One Reason For Eating Out That Is a Big Fat Lie”

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  1. To me eating out is kind of a special occasion. I don’t think about it being a time saver too much, but I think about the markup of how much it’s costing me for someone else to cook my meal, plus all the extra “stuff” that isn’t good for me that make it taste so good. I think you could come up with an excuse for anything if you try!

    • Travis says:

      Special occasions, or purposefully budgeted nights out with the lovely Mrs. Pizel are my main reasons for eating out. Unplanned meals out always burn me……especially if I order something I could have made better myself! But you’re right…we can talk ourselves into anything. The goal is….talk yourself OUT of it!

  2. Eating out is a hassle for us since we have the kids. Honestly. I would much rather make something at home where they can play with their toys while they wait. Eating out doesn’t save us time, and can be a huge headache. I do enjoy a nice quiet meal out with my husband!

    • Travis says:

      It’s funny how things change over time, Holly. When the kids are small, it’s a HUGE hassle. Then they get older, and it’s works OK, but you wish you could have some time with just your spouse. A little older, and they don’t want to go, so you go just the two of you, and enjoy it…..sort of……then one of us says, “I wish the kids were here.” LOL.

  3. Michelle says:

    This is something we have just come to realize in the past few years. We used to spend so much money on food because we truly believed it saved time. However, it definitely does not!

    • Travis says:

      Every time I add up how much we spend eating out in a month, I equate it with how many weeks of grocery shopping we spent on just a few meals. There is some entertainment value there, and it’s nice to not have to spend time in the kitchen every now and then – but I don’t think we’ve found the right balance yet. Thanks for your comment, Michelle!

  4. For me it simply comes down to laziness. I usually only go out because I am too lazy/tired to prepare and cook a meal. I’ve been trying to eat in more and more but it is hard sometimes.

    • Travis says:

      Exactly, Jason…it really wasn’t that we would get the food any faster….we went out to eat because we didn’t want to expend the effort at that point. But….when I think back, I’d take spending the effort over the paying the bill!

  5. Great point, Travis. I think that fast food can sometimes be justified by the “I’m in a rush” argument, but definitely not a sit-down restaurant. I prefer sit-down restaurants when I have more time, anyway, since it’s easier to enjoy a meal when you aren’t in a rush.

  6. Scooze says:

    I totally agree. We almost never eat out anymore. Actually, we have taught ourselves to be excellent chefs, mostly by trial and error, and we find that we eat much better and much healthier when we cook in. In fact, I would put my cooking on par with many mid-to-high priced restaurants. I have no natural talent in the field, I just know how to follow a recipe and have spent 10 years cooking for myself and learning what I like and what I don’t. Anyone can do it. I would even argue that it’s more important from a health standpoint than a budget one. So I encourage everyone to start doing it themselves and in no time you can make that dish at home faster, healthier and cheaper than you could ever get in a restaurant. And no snarky wait staff to bring you down. 😉

  7. Sit down will never save you time, fast food or take out yes, but than again how healthy is that for you. We usually just get everyone to pitch in to help cut down on time when eating at home.

    • Travis says:

      It really would amaze people how fast a great meal can be thrown together at home…..it simply requires just a little bit of planning. But even on the spur of the moment, I could whip up something pretty good – if I can talk myself out of hopping in the car instead. 🙂

  8. Michelle says:

    I love eating out but I try to go for an experience meal instead of just going out to eat. And I completely agree that it takes about the same amount of time to do both. It’s a lot less time to cook at home especially if you’ve prepped the meal over the weekend.

    • Travis says:

      Great comment, Michelle, I agree. There’s a chef in our local area that does a specialized dinner once a month. It’s usually 5 courses, and in between each course he comes out and tells stories and explains the inspiration for the next course. It’s a little on the spendy side, but the food is great and the experience and entertainment is even better. THAT’s a meal worth paying for!

  9. I think the key is not to make excuses. It would have been OK – in my books – for you and Vonnie to have gone out for dinner just because you wanted a bit of a break at the end of an especially busy day. Perhaps you enjoyed those hours more because you weren’t working through them as you would have been at home. No excuse needed. I find that when I’m perfectly honest about my motivations, I also have greater clarity about the choices in front of me. In this case, there were plenty of choices: use budgeted money for the restaurant you went to; use half that amount to go to a less expensive restaurant; stay home, work hard, and eat the meal at home; prepare a simpler meal. I’m finding in our journey out of debt that there is usually a range of options. Making no excuses gives you a better chance of picking the best one for you.

    • Travis says:

      That’s exactly my point, Prudence! If we’re going to go out to eat, at least be honest about it. We went out to eat, because at that point (7pm) I wasn’t in the mood to expend the effort to make dinner. Maybe when the words were actually said and heard, Vonnie and I would have said, “Hey wait a minute…..we’re going out to eat because we’re lazy?” and busted out the pots and pans. OR maybe we would have said, “Hells right, let’s hop in the van!” and went anyway. But at least we’d be honest to ourselves. 🙂

  10. Julie G. says:

    Thank you for sharing! That makes so much sense, but I have never had anyone break down the times like that.

  11. Yeah, we eat a lot of convenience food, but at least I’ve stopped trying to rationalize it. It’s simply, “We don’t have food, and I’m not making any. Where do you want to pick up food?”

    I think as soon as you start making excuses, you’re not facing reality. Which, in finance, is a pretty slippery slope.

    • Travis says:

      At least you’re honest with yourself, Abigail – that certainly helps with your budgeting I would bet. It also is a good foundation for if and when you want to change your spending habits.

  12. We’ve found the exact same thing Travis. Throw young kids on top of it and it becomes even more so the case. I used to think it was making things easier for us to just go out so we don’t have to cook, clean up, etc. however the time aspect wins out nearly every time. Why on earth would we want to spend money to end up with the same time situation? That’s also not to mention the fact that we don’t want to be THAT family in the restaurant whose kids are creating their own food fight, lol.

    • Travis says:

      LOL, FOOD FIGHT! yeah taking young kids out to eat is NOT making things easier….trying to keep them entertained and behaved for that long of a period of time is EXHAUSTING!

  13. Ugh, I struggle with this too. Sometimes I think that eating at home puts a lot of pressure on us wives. Not sure why, especially like, in your case, when you help with the cooking, but it does tend to be stressful for us women. This makes me want to eat out more but mostly I keep my cravings in check. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      As the cook of my house, I feel the pressure to always have choices that the family wants and likes available. When I fail…..then we go out to eat and the budget will fail too. I generally do pretty well….but, it happens! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Laurie!

  14. JMK says:

    On the kids front, it’s a very happy day when they are old enough that you can call home and have them turn on the oven, peel the potatoes, make the salad or set the table. Having the prep started or done by the time you arrive is terrific.

    • Travis says:

      Oooh, that’s a good point, JMK….and we haven’t gotten in the groove of asking the kids to start some of the prep work – although we sometimes have them start the oven for us. Having them do some of the initial work would definitely help out!

  15. Tre says:

    We usually only eat out for a special treat. I try to cook ahead of time so that it won’t take too long to make dinner on a weeknight when we are busy.

    • Travis says:

      I sometimes do the same thing, Tre….if I can make part of the dinner ahead of time (usually while I’m making lunches for the kids for school in the morning), I will. When I can say that dinner will only take 5-10 minutes, it usually takes away any thought of dining out! 🙂

  16. Sean says:

    Great post! I agree whole heartedly that the “saves time” excuse is a falsehood we buy into constantly. I have found that even at work when i don’t bring my own food I waste huge amounts of time trying to pick up lunch.

    • Travis says:

      So true, Sean…..I can bring my own lunch, make it, eat it, and be productive for half an hour before my coworkers (who go out to eat every day) get back. Guess who gets to go home earlier???

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