Limit outside dining, eat healthy at home and save money

A lengthy read, packed with big money-saving idea while eating healthy.

Enrollment time for my new employer’s company benefits came around at the end of the year.  It was a Friday with some eye opener presentations for both medical and money savings plans. After listening to the company presentation on a few options in financial planning, I was over thrilled to hear about its 401K Savings Plan.

How do I carve out moneys to allow me to participate?  Our family budget is tight!

Saving money on healthy meal planning is a way of life for me.  Thanks largely to my upbringing. I was born into an economist frugal father and raised by a WWII survivor.  My mother was an efficient shopper and saving money is the obvious fruit of her effective system.

So I pulled out my mental notes on frugal spending. In those days, we hardly ate out.  With a party of 8, a family could spit out a large bill. Dr. Sabella, my Pa, was a professor who brought home and applied his expertise on the subject money matters.  He taught my older siblings how to make money as far as they can remember.  No handouts, beyond the essentials, we all have to learn to earn the means to pay for our desired personal items.

Albeit, prior to the week-end; work outside of home, house chores and everyday family activities have given way for our family to consider other options.  So, to recoup, it was easy to simply choose not to cook and instead, let’s just dine out.  And, so, we did.

We went out to eat as planned the following Monday.  At this first outing, my body received and felt the needed rest, I felt relieved. The change alone was heavenly.  It was regenerating, it took me to cloud nine, enough that we went out to eat on another night, immediately followed by a third time in one week.

Order of events to our favorite eatery:

Monday, I was tired from work, so we brought home some of Genovese’s Italian cuisine take out.
Friday, worn-out again, so we drove to a nearby burger joint, In-and-Out, yummy.
Well for heaven’s sake, it’s Sunday!  Hence, off to Denny’s we went.

The little old piggy bank saver mind whispered and said, “really?”  Now, “should you, Annabelle, decide to pursue more of this easy and simple task of “skip-the-cooking”, sum up your expenses and fix your calculating mind on the total disbursed cash.”  I did the preordained.

My menus in exchange for the week of outings were left in the to do shopping list.  So let’s add the cost of those home menus:

Monday night is for a family’s favorite, sautéed Cabbage and Tuna served over rice.  Easy to do, and yes, it was also healthy eating.  Total:  $3.00 for my entire family of 4.
Friday night was Spaghetti and garlic bread.  Another easy cooking and healthy with ingredients made with: turkey ground meat, eggplant, carrots, green pepper and garlic on bread.  Total: $7.
Sunday night was another family favorite is Chicken Soup with plenty of vegetables.  A little more work, as it is in most of our house chores, the whole family helps me here too.  Total:  $7.

Please note: the timeframe of costing was in the late 1980’s.  When consumption of turkey was a pittance compared to beef.  In essence, a bit pricey but taming for healthy choices was a priority.

In summary, my budget went way over.  Cost of dining out on:
Monday at Genovese’s 
for 2 meatball sandwiches and a green salad, was: $10,
Friday at In-and-Out was: $9 
for 4 cheese burgers and 1 large order of French Fries and on Sunday’s cold cut sandwiches at Denny’s, we paid $12.  Yes, we had water with our meals!

The grand total for our 3 nights of eating out was: $31 versus my usual meal budget for our family meals for 3 nights at home: $17 = is a difference of $14.  “That’s it,” oinked my “piggy bank” saving mind.

Healthy eating can be less costly.  More importantly, we choose the ingredients to include in our dishes.  This knowledge is important to me, for my family.  So back to calculating…

This would mean that $14 x 4 = $56 dollars in four weeks’ time, I would be spending on less healthy foods.  So I jotted the pros and cons:

Eating/Dining Out
~ Physical rest for family
~ No prep, cook and clean-up

~ Higher cost
~ Potential, higher fat caloric value
~ Potential, higher sugar content
~ Other, unknown flavoring/spices
~ Other, unknown food preservatives
~ Vehicle and gas

Home Cooking Meals
~ Family assistance
~ Lower cost
~ Choose fresh ingredients
~ Knowledge of quality ingredients
~ Control fat, sodium, sugar other ingredients

Cons: None

DineInOut copyThat’s it, I found the carving knife, per se, limit our family outside dining!

As I continued to pencil in all the good vs the bad, I was already imagining the 401K savings plan, ka-ching!  It is within my reach; I can already taste the sweet goodness of its compounding effect.

My family can still enjoy the blessedness of dining out once a month. And, the extra few dollars can be carried over to the next month for added budget to allow for another outing, or add to our vacation budget envelope.

Let us calculate my numbers together.  Cost of eating out is $56 take away $40 for my anticipated and a sure lucrative 401K savings plan = a balance of $16 which is more than enough for that blessed night out at our highest cost of $12.  That’s a carry-over amount of $4.  Yay!

What’s more, imagine receiving up to 100% of return (company matching amount towards my personal contribution) into my company’s 401K savings plan! Resulting in over $15K by year five!

Please note: 401K each employer saving’s plans vary and carry a maximum amount of employee contribution for a company matching program with maturity schedule.  Still, carries money-making options to earn even more on your savings. Check your company’s savings plans and explanation of benefits.

To my knowledge, there are no other outside institutional saving’s plans that would match from a wondrous return.  My Pa would be proud!


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About The Author


A “Pinay” at heart, beautified by the Western ways. Respond to God’s calling, it never fails. Tribal of many colors include many personalities; a part of one’s wholesomeness. Experience lifelong happiness by living a healthy lifestyle.