What’s For Dinner? Food Spending & You.

With prices soaring at both the drive-thru and the grocery store, we’re spending more than ever on food. Which especially sucks because we all need to eat. At the end of a long workday, it can feel easier to swing by a fast food restaurant than to go home and cook a meal. And in some cases, it might be cheaper, too.

To Cook or Not to Cook?

Conventional wisdom says that making food at home is cheaper than eating out. But conventional wisdom hasn’t lived with the grocery prices we’re currently seeing. While, yes, it’s often cheaper to cook food at home, it’s not cheaper to buy groceries, intending to cook at home, and then let them go bad because you’re too tired to cook.

The bottom line: you know yourself better than anyone. By all means, make that resolution to try and cook more. But if you end up purchasing a week’s worth of groceries, only using half of them, and spending more money on takeout, then you waste more money than if you’d just chosen takeout in the first place. Be realistic about your goals and start small. If you’re used to getting takeout every day of the week, start with just one day a week to cook and eat at home. Alternatively, choose one meal of the day to eat at home. Breakfast is a great place to start.

For example, if you made avocado toast or scrambled eggs and coffee at home every day for a year, rather than swinging by a drive-thru, you’d save approximately $1,600. And that’s a low estimate! That could be an extra $1,600 toward your Andi app Wish List goals!

To find out how much you’re spending on dining out—and decide if you want to change that number—use Andi’s Monthly Spending Summary. You can categorize your out-to-eat purchases to get a real-time look at how much you’re spending on takeout.

Here are some other ways that we at Andi have been saving money on food:

  • Make a plan. You don’t have to be one of those food preppers with 17 containers of grilled chicken and rice in the freezer. But having a plan for your meals can help you avoid both waste and overspending. P.S. You can include fast food in the plan.
  • Try a plant-based meal. Veggies, beans, rice and other vegetarian staples are often some of the cheapest items at the grocery store. There are tons of delicious plant-based recipes online, so try expanding your palate (and saving your wallet).
  • Become a store rewards member. Many grocery stores offer rewards or discounts to frequent shoppers. Choosing just one store to shop at can help you rack up those rewards points or discounts.
  • Go for curbside pickup (or even delivery). None of us are immune from a grocery store impulse buy. Many grocery stores offer free curbside pickup, so you can place your grocery order online (just the necessities!) and pick it up without ever setting foot in the store. And while grocery delivery may be pricey, it’s sometimes worth it if your only barrier between cooking at home and ordering on DoorDash or GrubHub is a trip to the grocery store.
  • Make dining out a weekly treat. If you give yourself a day of the week (or two or three) that you plan to go out to eat, you reduce the chance that you’ll spend on restaurants during the rest of the week.
  • Download favorite restaurant apps. Many of your favorite chain restaurants—especially fast food—have apps, where you can earn points and take advantage of app-exclusive discounts.
  • Choose takeout directly from the restaurant (rather than a food delivery app). All food delivery apps—even if you have a subscription—have higher menu prices and service fees. Not to mention the driver tip, which you’ll definitely give if you’re not a crappy person. You can drastically decrease your out-to-eat spending just by going to get it yourself.

We all need to eat. You shouldn’t feel guilty for spending money on food. But if you spend it well, you’ll have more left over for other things.