Jan 14, 2010

Why Go Out When You Can Stay In? (Merrick)

How often do you eat out?

After a little online research, I discovered that Americans eat out on average four times a week! Although some of these meals may be lunch (slightly cheaper), it’s still a huge number when we think about how much money is being drained out of our wallets simply by eating out.

My husband and I rarely eat out for lunch, but for the last few years we’ve had regular date nights once a week. Regardless of where we go, we spend anywhere from $20-30 (plus tip!) for just the two of us.

Once a week, spending roughly $25, adds up to $100 a month, and $1200 a year! Now what if we were eating out four times a week? That’s almost $5000 a year – just on eating out! And that doesn’t include all the money you’re spending at the grocery store.

So why do we eat out so often? In a 2006 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was found that American’s eat out for three primary reasons: variety, convenience, and entertainment.

I’m here today to tell you that if you want variety, convenience and entertainment, you don’t necessarily have to go out (although we will talk about ways to eat out cheaply another day). About a year ago, I instigated “Friday Homemade Pizza Night.” It started out a little slow, but now it has become tradition and is a fun date night together. We stay in, we rent a movie from the Redbox (with a free rental code, of course), I make homemade pizza, and it fulfils all three of those reasons American’s eat out.

1. Variety: Yes, I understand that pizza once a week does not seem like variety, but after catching on to the tradition I’ve picked up a few pizza cookbooks and since then we’ve tried many different kinds of pizza. We have our favorites that we always go back to, but it’s fun to try new things, especially if it’s cheap.
2. Convenience: From the time I start making the pizza dough to the time it comes out of the oven is about 45 minutes. If you go to a restaurant, especially on a Friday night, you’ll be waiting for longer than that. Yes, you might not have to do any cooking or cleaning up, but a 10-15 minute prep time (and 30 mins in the oven) is really pretty hard to beat. (If we really want to talk about convenience, I’ll show you the fastest way to make homemade pizza – 5 minutes! – in another post…but I don’t do that every week).
3. Entertainment: Philip and I often make the pizza together, putting the toppings on as part of our date night. Then once the pizza is cooked, we cuddle up on the couch to enjoy a free movie ($1 at the most!) and dinner simultaneously.

And here’s the best part. I’ve broken down our cost for dinner, dessert and a movie so you can see our savings:

Homemade Crust (4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, salt): $1.00 estimated – possibly cheaper
Sauce (Kroger Brand from Smiths, $1.79/jar, I use about 1/3 of the jar): $0.54
Cheese (I only buy it when the big bricks are on sale, 2/$6, and use about 1/3): $1.50
Meat (pepperoni, Canadian bacon, salami, etc. I use about ½ a pack at $3): $1.50
Veggies (peppers, mushrooms, etc): $2.00 estimated

Vanilla Ice Cream (Kroger brand from Smiths, $2/qt, we use about 1/3): $0.60
Crushed Candy Bar (2/$1.00, we only use one): $0.50

Redbox (usually can find free rental code): $0.00

TOTAL for dinner, dessert, and a movie: $7.64 (and no tip!) for two people!!

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever eat out, but look at the difference. Think about that next time you don’t feel like cooking…


Miriam said...

Where do you get that free code for Red Box?

Ashley and Danny G said...

This is genius! And probably significantly healthier than eating greasy processed restaurant food! I love it-thanks for the tips! Oh-and what's your fav pizza cookbook?

Merrick White said...

Ashley: I was going to email you a response, like we usually do, but your email isn't hooked up to your account. Hopefully you see this comment and it answers your question. Our favorite pizza cookbook is "Delicious Pizza" by Love Food. I picked it up at Joann's Fabric for $5 and we've found many good topping ideas in it! Our favorite is Chicago Style -- pepperoni, smoked ham, sliced tomatoes, and jalepenos!

Packrat said...

This is great advice, but I still want to eat out once in a while. Some nights are beyond me to have to cook, and this is the only time I can get my husband to stop for 5 minutes. He knows how to cook, but if he is busy he won't stop to help or eat. Soooo, I make him slow down by going out to dinner. LOL

Anonymous said...

Like Miriam, how do you find the free code for a red box movie?

Merrick White said...

Anonymous: My favorite site for finding redbox codes is www.insideredbox.com. You can also find some by googling "redbox codes."

Good luck!