Eating out too much can take a hit on your health: Those who eat out often have higher levels of obesity, body fat, and unhealthy BMIs.

Your wallet takes a hit too, impacting your financial health. When you add up the dollars, you will see that those satisfying short-term calories can be pretty costly in the long run.

Costly Calories

Lunch is among the most costly meal of the day. Consider these stats:

  • Americans go out for lunch on average twice a week and spend $10 each time. That means they’re spending $936 annually!
  • Men spend on average $21 for lunch while women hover around $14.
  • Northeasterners spend 14 percent more per meal than the national average at $11.40 for a weekly total of $17.10. (Source: Forbes)

Now think about this: A family of four eating moderately at home will spend about $245 per week on food (Source: USDA), which is half of what they’d spend eating at restaurants. That’s a big difference. So, how do you start saving?

How to Save Dollars — and Eat Healthy, Too

Plan your meals in advance. This will keep you from making an impulse visit to a restaurant. Draft a five-day meal plan for yourself or your family, make a list of ingredients and groceries, and voila! Also, try meal-themed nights, like Taco Tuesday, to give yourself something to plan for. And, embrace your friend the slow cooker – for about 15 minutes of prep in the morning you can have a fantastic dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day!

Keep ready-made meals and snacks on hand. Prepare a few lunches for the week, keep them in the fridge, then bring them to work each day. Easy.

Spend more on foods for the home. Invest in quality foods that make eating healthy the easy choice, like prewashed spinach or precut carrots. Make eating at home simple and pleasurable.

Add energy-boosting foods to your diet. Ditch the empty calories for energizing foods and snacks like almonds and blueberries. Or, simply carry a water bottle during the day to stay full and hydrated and eliminate cravings.

Make eating out a reward. Whether it’s celebrating a workplace win with colleagues, or an occasion with family, connect eating out to a reward. That way, spending the extra money will feel like it’s worth it.

But, what if I still want to eat out?

Be financially savvy about it: Budget for it, consider sharing a meal, drink water instead of costly beverages, and try coupons or discounted certificates, like Locavore Today here in Vermont.

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