I’ve made it known that avoiding going out to lunch and packing your own lunch will be very budget friendly. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should parlay your cost savings by going out to dinner, but it could make sense to take a break from cooking at home. It is very common for my wife and I to make larger meals so that it can pay dividends to us later in the week for lunches or quick dinners. Some meals make sense to do it, but there are times that it can be cost ineffective, especially if you are single or don’t have kids.

Here are 5 reasons why going out for dinner could be a good thing:

1. Try new foods, especially foods of other cultures. It doesn’t hurt to have variety to please your palette. While you don’t have to be a food critic, it’s nice to try other foods other than your typical meat and potatoes (not that there is anything wrong with that). Plus, you’ll be exposed to other meal ideas that you may be able to expand your recipe book for new meals at home! Variety is a good thing and you shouldn’t be bored of your food.

2. Take advantage of the doggy bag. Portions are becoming obscenely massive these days. Sometimes I wonder if meal was meant to feed an entire family. Depending on what restaurant you go to, you could stretch a $10 meal into as many as 3 meals. Just don’t forget to order water to shave a few bucks off your total bill!

3. It’s a good excuse to get out of the house. You need a break after spending weeks slaving away making meals in your kitchen. The bonus for you? You don’t have to do the dishes! Taking your significant other out to dinner also gives you a nice time to unwind and have a pleasant talk while you share your meal together.

4. It’s OK to share meals. As long as they don’t charge a plate fee to share, one meal can go a long way especially if you have several courses that go along with it. Order a single appetizer, get a salad or bowl of soup and share the main course. Just make sure you both can agree on what to share!

5. Some foods are just cheaper when you dine away from home. Take a hamburger for example. You have to buy meat, buns and all the fixings (which if you don’t plan right, will go to waste). This doesn’t mean you have to go for a $10 burger, but low cost restaurants can be a money saving (and time saving) alternative, especially when only cooking for only one or two. It won’t take long for your homemade burgers cost $5 each although you do have control of the end product.

Of course, going out to a fine restaurant does not make the most ‘cents’ to get the most out of your money. We plan dates on going out to eat, which is all dependent on our remaining food budget, but it’s rare we spend more than $25 for the two of us including tip. The only time we really spoil ourselves is for special occasions. If our budget is tight, we just don’t go. We probably eat out once a week, but we don’t make it a priority. It’s almost like a reward for staying below our budget!

In the end, we will continue to stay home and make our meals in bulk when appropriate. But it’s nice to know that going out to eat isn’t all that bad as long as you don’t go overboard and be sensible in your restaurant choices. Don’t forget to tip!

Do you avoid dining out or do you take time to treat yourselves once in a while when it makes sense to do so?

Stupidly Yours,

Matt