Are You Eating Away Your Wealth?
I recently returned from a trip to Phoenix, AZ. While waiting for my flight to board, I noticed a typical American family of four (Mother, Father, and two boys). The younger child started to whine that he was hungry and so the Mother and son walked off to go purchase some food from the airport vendors. They came back with what I would guess was about $30 worth of food. In the mean time I also noticed a first generation or tourist family from China sitting behind me. That family consisted of Mother, Father, Grandmother, and toddler. The toddler started to get hungry and petitioned her mother, who promptly pulled out a plastic grocery back with hard boiled eggs inside. The toddler was satisfied. From my outside observations, the first family spent around $30 on food, while the second family spent around $2.00 on food. This thought came into my head: Americans spend way too much on eating out!
According to gallup.com, the average US household spends $251 per month eating out. That works out to be $3,008 annually spent on eating away from home! This number continues to rise.
Why are we eating out so much?
People don’t enjoy cooking anymore.
One study from the Harvard Business Review showed that only 10% of Americans enjoy cooking. We are quickly losing the art of cooking in our county. Will it go the way of the lost art of sewing our own clothes? Today very few people know how to make their own clothes, when less than 100 years ago, this was a common skill. Those that still make their own clothes usually do so as a hobby.
There’s a recent obsession with cooking shows, while at the same time we don’t want to get in our own kitchens. If we spent the time that we used watching others cook for our own food preparation, maybe that joy and pride from preparing food would return. We need to find joy in cooking again.
Society fights against us, as invitations to be social usually include dinning out. It’s hard to say no to a co-worker who wants eat out for lunch. It’s hard to say no to friends and family who are getting together at a restaurant to touch base. Go against the grain, and invite friends and family over for a home cooked meal. Beat them to the chase. They will soon learn to love not having a $100 dinner check at the end of the evening, but a full belly and quiet time to connect with those they love. We need to be proactive to change this societal norm.
Go against the grain, and invite friends and family over for a home cooked meal.
Money shields us from having to plan ahead:
Looking back at our two families, the first American family didn’t plan to bring food. We have become a very spoiled society. Money flows into our homes, and it flows out just as quickly. When money comes in so freely, it’s easier to go on a trip without planning on how you will feed yourself. You know you can just buy the food when needed. The second family may have had a different experience with the flow of money, and so they have prepared and packed food for the road. These are habits we develop as we navigate our way through our financial reality.
My grandfather was raised on a farm, which his family didn’t own, and started working on that farm from a very young age. When he was “old enough”, around age 10, he was sent to another farm Monday – Friday to work. His wages were sent back to his family for their use. He would then come home for the weekend, and work on his family farm. This was common place where he grew up in poor rural Virginia. Because money didn’t come easy in his early years, he developed certain habits that stayed with him until the day he died. He died a millionaire. In his 70’s & 80’s he would walk around his neighborhood and see apple trees loaded with fruit, most of it falling to the ground and rotting. The homeowners had no idea what to do with that many apples, and so they let them rot. This would drive my grandfather crazy! He would carry bags with him on his walks, gather the apples from the ground, and bring them home to process into applesauce, apple pie filling, or for a snack. He knew the value of good food, and couldn’t waste.
The foreign families that I’ve observed in the US tend to value each dollar, and each piece of food. I think of my grandfather who grew up poor and how he valued the planning and preparation of food throughout his life.
Now there I go, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Let’s get back to the topic at hand. Eating out has the potential to stifle your finances. If a typical family of four can change their dinning out habit from $3,008 a year to $1,500 a year, then a simple car repair of $400 can be handled. Credit card debt can be avoided! But it all comes down to planning ahead.
There is no time for cooking:
Our culture today pushes us to be on the move constantly. Soccer practice, church meetings, coaching youth groups, binge watching on Netflix. All these things scream for our time. The easiest place to make room in our day, is to cut out food preparation. It is no wonder that the rates of obesity are reaching 1 in 3 in the United States today. The value of preparing our food has been diminished. Making it a priority will dramatically change our meal expenses, our enjoyment of food, and our time with those we love. There is value in preparing homemade meals and slowing down our lives.
There's no time?
In a world where families struggle to stay together, money is seen as being scarce, and our time is limited, it can be very difficult to build habits of food preparation and planning. However the fruits of this habit will benefit us for many years to come. If we go against the grain of our how culture sees food, we could see the following benefits: more time with our loved ones, stronger financial stability, healthier bodies, and one of the most important gifts, GRATITUDE.
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