Although I track my grocery spending, I don't generally track my family's restaurant spending. We tend to eat out only occasionally, maybe eating in a restaurant three times a month and ordering pizza on Friday nights. But in the past two weeks, due to a combination of circumstances, we ended up eating out so much that our grocery spending isn't all that relevent. We barely ate at home!
Which leads to a question for you Frugalista readers: Do you have a restaurant budget? And if I may ask, how much is it?
Over the past two weeks I spent only $97.58 at drugstores and grocery stores:
Walgreens: $2.32 (33 cents on six rolls of tape, plus $1.99 for a Snapple while at work (ouch!)
CVS: $9.77 on Band-Aids and milk
Jewel-Osco: $51.75. Best bargains were Oberweis lemonade @ $1.50 (wish I'd stocked up on more before the price went up to $2!), free Ronzoni pasta, free Ivory soap, $.49/pound Purina One Beyond cat food, and 20-cents-a-can Friskies canned food. All coupon deals except the lemonade.
Trader Joe's: $23.54
Farmer's Market: $3 for a dozen cage-free eggs (they charge more for the large ones, but these were only medium)
So I spent well under my $200 grocery budget for the past two weeks. But I'm not crediting myself with any savings because we spent so much at restaurants. During that period we went to Domino's twice ($24 for four large pizzas @ $5.99 each on special), stopped at Culver's in Wisconsin three times (once for only me, once me and the kids, once for the whole family -- guesstimated cost $35), had brunch in Lake Geneva ($40), lunch at a noodle restaurant for one kid and me ($20?), Marion Street Cheese Market (free since we were being treated), breakfast out in Oak Park ($40), Taco Bell ($6), a McDonald's snack ($2), lunch for me and all the kids at an Oak Park cafe ($30), Popeyes take-out ($20?) and Thai delivery ($45).
That's at least $262 in dining out in just two weeks. Good thing we do not do that all the time! But during the past half month we were on the road a lot, had a guest we wanted to show around, had dinner plans fall through once, etc. etc. And actually we were frugaler than it looks, since when we stayed overnight at a water park resort and went to Great America, the Culvers and takeout we ate helped us avoid paying for the expensive on-site restaurants. We even brought breakfast to eat in our room.
Yes, we surely could have done better if we'd packed more road meals and had a backup meal in the freezer for the night when Dad forgot to start the slow cooker. As for those perennial suggestions of saving with Restaurant.com and daily deal certificates, they wouldn't have helped. As often happens with us, our restaurant choices were dictated by proximity or being a special place. Restaurant.com is great for when you have a date night planned and you can say, "Hey, where would we like to go eat?"
Maybe I'll start setting a monthly restaurant budget.