You probably don’t believe me. $10,000 seems like such a huge, drastic amount of money for such a small lifestyle change. But I’m telling you right now, when you actually do the math and look at the difference between cooking in and getting takeout, you’re going to be absolutely shocked at the amount of money you can save. So let me show you how I did it.
Why did I have to cook all the time?
First, story time. It all starts when my husband and I lost our wedding checks. We met in Chicago, which is where we also had our wedding. We took a honeymoon to the San Francisco Bay area (and wine country!), and immediately after, we packed our bags and moved to New York City.
When we got to our apartment—an incredibly tiny studio that didn’t get any direct sunlight—and started to unpack, we couldn’t find our wedding checks anywhere.
You know, the checks people give you to get you through those first few months of financial struggle when you tie the knot? It was absolutely devastating. And given that I hadn’t landed a full time job yet, and my husband was about to embark on a two-year grad program at NYU, we were doomed.
Luckily we were able to call family and friends and get them to cancel their checks. Some were able to give that money back to us, and we are forever grateful for their generosity. But we didn’t have the money when we immediately needed it, so we found ourselves in a very, very tight pickle.
When we sat down with our finances and realized we had a whopping $30 to our name, we knew we needed to change a few things in our budget. At the time we were relying on my income solely, and although I was able to land a few freelance gigs here and there to get us by, it took be 15 months to finally land a full-time job.
During that time we had to sacrifice a lot. We stopped shopping. We got rid of any subscription that wasn’t deemed necessary. We didn’t travel at all. Our “date nights” usually consisted of a $2 coffee at the shop around the corner. The only time we went out on a real dinner date is if my parents came into the city and actually took us out so they could pay. And we didn’t order takeout.
So with a budget of $50/week (yes, for the two of us combined), we had to get thrifty with our food. And the only way we could get the most bang for our buck was to grocery shop and cook our meals at home.
Wait, didn’t you say you had $10,000?
Obviously that’s not immediately! And to be honest with you, it’s not like by the end of this we had $10,000 to spend. I put that number out there because our cooking efforts helped us to save what we needed to pay our bills and other expenses. If we hadn’t done that, we would absolutely be in debt right now. So the $10,000 was saved from takeout and spent on things we really needed it for.
Alright, are you ready for the breakdown? Let’s get into it.
I did some very basic math to see how much I would have spent if I ate out every single day. In my calculations, I think the average person in New York City spends $37/day on takeout. Here’s how I got there.
- $7 for breakfast: This includes some kind of coffee drink and a breakfast item. I got this price because typically a black coffee ($2) and a bacon, egg, and cheese ($5) at an average bodega would come to about this price. Or if you’re at Starbucks and you get a fancy latte ($4) with some kind of pastry ($3), you’re probably looking at a similar price tag.
- $15 for lunch: This will obviously vary on where you eat, but when I took a look at any lunches I would spend out, I found that this was the average price I would pay. Yes, even at the salad places! Those salad bars add up fast.
- $15 for dinner: This does not include alcohol. If you’re adding a drink to dinner, you are easily spending $30. But I’m going to be gracious and not include it in this little roundup, so let’s say dinner is going to cost you about the same as lunch, depending on where you eat out. Unless you’re grabbing a $1 slice, of course.
$7 + $15+ $15 is $37, so that’s where I get that average.
Doesn’t seem like much, right? Well, let’s do the math and see what that looks like over time.
$37 x 7 days = $259/week
$259 x 52 weeks = $13,468/year
Feel free to grab a calculator and do that math yourself if you don’t belive me.
Now let’s go back to my budget and compare.
As I already wrote, I spent $50/week on groceries. That was for two people, right? Well again, I’ll be gracious, and let’s say you’re going to spend $50/week on groceries for one person. Also, let’s be real, eating in every single day is kind of impossible when you have friends or if you need to network for work. With some late nights in Manhattan doing a few things for my husband’s grad school, we had to eat out sometimes, too! So I’m also going to throw in $100/month for eating out for one person, because that was the budget we used.
Here’s the breakdown.
$50/week for groceries x 52 weeks = $2,600/year
$100/month for takeout x 12 months = $1,200/year
$2,600 for groceries and $1,200 for takeout means you’re only spending $3,800/year.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Instead of paying $13,468 a year by eating takeout for every meal, you could be frugal and spend $3,800 a year for groceries and takeout and save…
$13,468 – $3,800 = $9,668/year saved
It’s a drastic difference, but a good reminder to start looking at how much you spend.
Now I know you’re obviously not ordering takeout for every single meal. I just wanted to give you a small glimpse of how much money you could be saving by simply making a budget for yourself and cooking at home.
The budget I gave may seem really small to some, but I’m going to be completely transparent with you and say it’s the budget that I used. And that’s not just for one person, but for two people. If I can make it work for two people, you can absolutely make it work for yourself. Even if you were to double the budget ($400/month for groceries, $200 for takeout) you’d still see an extra $6,268 in your pocket.
Alright so…how do I get started?
Great question. As you probably guessed, I use this blog as a way to teach people not only how to cook, but how to budget and make these numbers a reality. So I’m here to help you save money and cook delicious meals. And yes, these meals are delicious, we are in no way eating cheap packaged ramen every night! Unless you want to spruce it up and make this steak noodle stir fry, of course.
The best thing you can do is to follow me along for the journey. Follow me on my newsletter for all of my latest recipes and cooking tips, join me on Instagram for some of the more day-to-day commentaries, and add me on Pinterest so you can save all of my recipes, as well as other recipes I share that I love.
Plus, when you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free cookbook! I share 25 of my favorite dinner recipes (plus one bonus dessert!) in this cookbook that can help you get started with cooking dinner at home.
Now if the idea of planning meals and grocery lists gives you anxiety, I actually put together an easy guide for you that you can buy. I self-published a cookbook, Easy Eats, which comes with 42 original breakfast and dinner recipes, as well as 20,000+ lunch ideas! This e-book comes with a full three-month meal plan and weekly grocery lists so you don’t have to plan a single thing.
And lastly, if it wasn’t obvious already, I’m posting here on this blog. So if you need delicious meals and motivation to keep you going on your new budget, I’m your gal. You can email me any questions you have, or shoot me a DM on Instagram. My inbox is always open.