Good food is a non-negotiable part of life for me. Call me a glutton but I love a good meal, followed by an even better dessert. Now, I love cooking, but there are things I just can't cook, like a wood-fired pizza or a classic New York cheesecake. Naturally, I’ve spent quite a bit on eating out or even ordering in (this is a different story altogether). And yes, it’s been bad enough that things get a little down and awry after the twentieth of each month. That’s when my pressure cooker jumps in to help my sorry self. I’m not a ‘new year new me’ person and resolutions were never my thing. But as I sat in the fourth restaurant on 28th December, I knew I had a bit of an issue. Eating out burnt quite the hole in my pocket last month and I told myself it’ll be better this month. That I won’t lazy cook dal khichdi and watch reruns of The Office because I don’t have the money to step out in the last week of the month.
I know I went on a bit of a tangent and some of this stuff is TMI, but to save me (and you) from yet another end-of-month boring food torture, here is how I think we can eat out and not be broke because of it.
Sis, you heard of delayed gratification? I asked myself this question and the answer is I know it but I don’t practice it. If you’re concerned for me, you’d be happy to know I’ve eaten out just once a week this month. (part of that because of losing my appetite due to Covid, but hey, it counts). Throughout the week I hype myself thinking about that one specific dish I’m going to eat. I leave it up to me to either have it now or have it later in the week, but the key is that it’s the only dish I can have from a restaurant. What this does is alter my behaviour in the tiniest, yet super favourable way. Each time I’ve tried this I’ve pushed having it by a few more days. And when the day finally arrives, I can’t help but drool and relish each bite. If you haven’t already, try delayed gratification, but make sure to not go all out in restraining yourself.
If you’re eating out regularly in a city like Bangalore or Mumbai, you can possibly spend anywhere between ₹10-20k a month on food, or even more. For most of us, that’s quite the bomb to spend. What really can help here is having coupons/cashbacks/rewards or memberships of any kind. Many restaurants have tie-ups with either food delivery services like Zomato Gold or banks that provide offers to credit card holders. If nothing else, try to look into the coupons you could use at a place the next time you go. When it comes to ordering in too, cards like Fi’s Debit card give you cashbacks/discounts on your order. Don’t forget to check these out and save a little every time you spend. You should know how to save money on food or for that matter how to save money on food without cooking. One way to save money on food without cooking is to opt for cheaper, healthier fast food options.
Creating any habit goes beyond just noting it down in your planner. It can definitely be a long, exhausting process until you finally see the rewards of it. Here’s a little tip - start small. I learned through FIT rules that even if I save Rs 20 every time I order something, I would have saved enough for a few more meals towards the end of the month. Try to customise a FIT rule for yourself. Despite how draining starting a habit is when your brain gets an instant reward from saving and increasing money, it eases out and becomes worth it. Similarly, try to create a saving mindset. I like to think that every spending should have at least a 10% saving ratio.
Food really is one of the most primitive things that unite us. For centuries now people have bonded over food. Want to have a lighter bill? Go out with a group of friends. This way, you can try different dishes, share them and split it all up. I know we love an independent queen/king who can eat by themselves but consider getting a foodie partner who’s willing to try new places with you. Let’s not forget the transport costs of heading out to eat, having someone sharing it all with you will definitely be a fun (and cheaper) experience. Also, you can split memberships with them and get that discount!
Like everything in the world, eating outcomes with hacks. Going out for dinner and drinks but the aim is to get drunk? Great, have snacks and a strong pre-booze at home. Then, focus more on food and less on alcohol at restaurants. Similarly, try going in for main courses you can split with friends.
But my favourite hack of all time is to eat something special. I think eating out is more about the experience and less about the food in itself. So when you’re spending on the experience, make sure it’s special. There are foods you can make at home and there are dishes you simply can’t. Opt in for the special stuff. It’s going to be more expensive, but it still isn’t a financial loss. The loss is really in spending more on the dish you can easily make at home.
Also, if you’re making dining a special experience, you’re likely to reduce it to special occasions when it truly fits your budget.
Going broke because you eat out isn’t normal and you shouldn’t be on the receiving end of it. You can enjoy delicacies and still have a fat wallet. It’s about the balance you’re willing to work out for yourself. Of course, there are basic ways to save, like taking leftovers or going on birthdays for that free cake. But look into how often you want to eat out and how much you’re willing to spend (and save) from the experience before you head out the next time!