Thursday, May 28, 2009

COULD You Skip Going Out To Eat For One Month? And WOULD You?

I don't know how you feel about Oprah or her even more lightening-rod-for-criticism buddy, Suze Orman (do you think she was actually born with that spelling of her name?), but something Suze (let's pronounce it Sooooooze, just for fun) said got me to thinking. 

She was shilling her latest book on Oprah yesterday, and, at the end of the show, she presented an "action plan" for getting one's finances in order. She wanted folks to try this:
For one day, spend NO money
For one week, don't use a credit card
For one month, don't go to restaurants

The audience seemed to have no problem with the first two. Me neither. But the third idea was an almost shocking suggestion to them...and that's just the way I felt too. Not that I go out THAT much, but I want to be able to, if I want. And let's face it, in many places, eating out is a town's major entertainment, plus it's available at every price point. 

Have you EVER gone a month without going to a restaurant? And would you consider it as a cost-saving measure? How many restaurants DO you frequent in a month...on average?

I'm sure when I had little kids, there might have been a month where we didn't go out, but I can't remember one specifically. I probably eat out an average of 6 to 8 times a month (closer to 6), and of course, I'm not counting if we're away. Plus does takeout count out as a restaurant meal? I guess it should. 

This made me feel better about the state of restaurants and food service in general. I know that raising food and fuel prices have given restaurants a double whammy. But if people have such a visceral reaction to the idea of not eating out, maybe that sector of the economy, at least, isn't doing as badly as all the rest. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm curious if that means not going to a sit-down restaurant or if it also includes things like fast food, delis, or picking up a pizza.

I cook and brown bag most of my meals and only eat out in a restaurant once a week. I do tend to grab lunch on the road when I go riding though and that often means Quick Check or the salad bar at the supermarket. I think I would have a harder time giving up that than I would giving up going to restaurants where I sit and am served.

I had a boyfriend in college (I have an old blog about him somewhere) who REFUSED to eat out ever. He got sick really badly once as a child after eating out and then had a psychosomatic reaction to any subsequent restaurant visits. He and I never ate a meal together the whole time we were at school (he commuted from home, so he didn't eat at the cafeteria as I did). He wouldn't even share a pizza with me. I was a starving student at the time, so not eating out didn't bug me as I didn't have the money for restaurants very often, but I think if I were with him now, it would really bother me! He's married now and I wonder what his wife thinks of his phobia and who catered their wedding!

Anonymous said...

I totally think take out counts as eating out. My husband and I have that argument all the time. I say I don't feel like eating out, but he offers to pick something up. If you don't make it yourself at home, it's going out.

That said, I could totally do it. Eating out too much tends to make me feel gross.

Tom said...

I always laugh when I see Suze's name -- "Suze" is a French aperitif that's sweet and slightly bitter too. Good stuff!

I suspect Suze's challenge was more to get you to think about patterns. You'll definitely save money if you don't go out and instead plan ahead (unless everything you buy is convenience foods and then you'll be spending just as much). It won't happen for most people, but if you think about when you go out most often and why, and then try and come up with a strategy for eating at home instead or spending less if you absolutely have to go out, that may be just as good.

Looking back, we almost never ate out when we were kids, going out for ice cream was a very occasional treat. I still remember the first time a dinner bill came to $20 for the four of us -- it was a really big deal!

Sue said...

Amy and I completely agree that takeout is the same as eating out. Sooooooze's point, I think, is to spend a month cooking ALL your own food. I love to cook, but NO WAY would I do that.

That boyfriend story is amazing. Having said that, a million years ago after working in my first restaurant kitchens, I was sooo miserable (I preferred cooking for people I knew - which put a big crimp in my restaurant career!) that for MONTHS after, I couldn't go to a restaurant without thinking of the grief and heartache that was inevitably going on in the kitchen. I did get over that...probably a little too well.

Yup, you're right I think.

I wish I felt that way about takeout OR restaurant eating...or eating in general.

Sue said...

True, Tom. I guess planning what you're going to spend in advance is kind of like planning what you're going to eat in advance. Both are very smart, good ideas...and absolutely NO fun!

You're right, that IS the way it used to be when we were kids - we didn't go out that much to eat. I remember when going to Benihana was a BIG deal. Ice cream, though, WAS a regular treat. The Good Humor guy LOVED our family.

DebCarol said...

Well, some great comments here. First, I count getting "take-out" and eating out as two entirely different things. I'm not a great fan of ordering take-out, but that is probably because the choices are dismal where I am. Second, we eat out at least once a month but not much more than that. Lastly, my nickname for Suze Orman is "tombstone teeth". Honestly I just can't watch her.

Adam said...

I have in the past gone at least a month without eating out. Usually 2 months is my limit, and then a birthday or something comes up :)

Growing up, going out to eat was always a HUGE event. So was McDonalds... (I know, don't judge) So we never went out too much. I think it was to keep restaurants as something special and a treat, and not as an excuse not to cook.

Does that make sense? Now that I'm an adult, I just brown bag lunches because I eat 6 or 7 times a day, and that would be wicked poor otherwise :)

Emily said...

Heh. Soooooooooooze.

I'm pretty sure I've gone a month without eating out. Our family was kind of like Adam's, (Adam's Family :)) where we rarely ate out. I kind of like that though, because my parent's cooked a lot and that got me interested in cooking.

What's interesting to me is now I'm eating out more than ever since I have a boyfriend. We eat out maybe once or twice a week, and I like it because I get to try new food and other people's cooking, etc. Dining out is a form of entertainment, and it would be hard to have date nights without it

I'm not sure if I agree with her, because you can dine out and still eat cheaply. It might even be cheaper than going out and buying and cooking your own food.

Lolz to Rachel's story.

Sri said...

Oh I have to eat out at least 4 times a month!!! I have 3 kids and I do need a break from cooking. :D
I cook most of our meals every day and eat out once a week. And for my sanity, I need that. :D

Anonymous said...

yes I have gone without going out to eat for a month and even longer...

i enjoy cooking first of all and like my own food, but even more it has become a "hobby" of mine lately to see how much $$ i can save by not buying things, and that includes eating's too darn expensive!

Sue said...

Hi DC,
I’m so sorry you don’t have good takeout. Takeout IS different from going out, BUT it’s still paying more (usually) than eating in, so I get TT’s point (hilarious nickname) about skipping it for a month.

Hey Adam,
I’m impressed with all your eating in and bag lunches. Yeah, it really is a necessity these days. (MOST people eat 7 times a day, they just don’t admit it and don’t plan it. And I have a feeling you’re not eating bologna and cheese standing in front of the refrigerator or handfuls of potato chips.)

That is so true that restaurants were such a special thing. It says so much about us as a society that that’s not true anymore. Actually, I think it’s good and bad. Good because we all seem to care about food a lot more and its quality and we’ve embraced lots of ethnic foods and bad because folks don’t cook as much as they used to and we eat so much crap.

I JUST got your Ad(d)am’s family joke. Funny.

Definitely eating out is a dating thing to do. Have you trained him yet to let you order both meals and then as soon as they come you split everything exactly down the middle and switch plates halfway through? Oh wait…we’re not talking about ME here, are we?

Sure you CAN spend more cooking great food IN than eating junky food OUT, but if both are equal in quality…then I think eating in is always cheaper...and the bar’s closer at hand too.

Rachel IS funny.

I’m with you! And it isn’t just EATING out, it’s being served and, mostly, it’s not having to clean up afterwards!

You’re awesome. Of course, I love to cook, but after 6 days in a row of creating masterpieces ;-), I need a break!