Mindless Consumption At My Favorite Eatery

Have you ever craved food so badly you can close your eyes and taste it?  Yes, I have that same problem, too.  I like food and my waistline would prove it so.  But I also like to save money – two “likes” in constant competition with one another.

I recently had the opportunity to return to my hometown.  When I’m within 50 miles of the place I have to stop by for a meal at one of the local BBQ restaurants.  It’s the kind of food you just can’t get any where else.

My family of four gathered around the table and I was in hog heaven (pork pun intended).  The menu still looked the same and the food smelled just as good, too.

“We do not eat out often as a family, but $14.34 per person just seemed ridiculous, even for us.”

My wife and I ordered two BBQ plates and the kids both ordered a chicken finger plate.  I know it’s sacrilegious to order poultry at a BBQ restaurants, but they’re kids; what are you going to do?

Since I had intentionally eaten light the night before and skipped breakfast before our commute I was ready to eat the napkins right off the table.  So naturally I ordered an appetizer at $4.95.  And the four of us couldn’t pass up the sweet tea and lemonade.

Check Please

The food was just as good as I had remembered, but I was left with some form of indigestion (and it wasn’t the pickled and onions served on the side).  Our bill totaled $57.37!

We do not eat out often as a family, but $14.34 per person just seemed ridiculous, even for us.  It wasn’t that the menu was pricey; we paid about what I would expect for an entree at this sort of restaurant – $8-$10 per plate.

Here’s a breakdown of the receipt:

  • $4.95 – Vidalia Onion Dip
  • $9.79 – BBQ Pork Platter
  • $2.08 – Sweet Tea
  • $9.79 – BBQ Pork Platter
  • $2.08 – Sweet Tea
  • $8.99 – Fried Chicken Fingers
  • $3.10 – Lemonade
  • $8.99 – Fried Chicken Fingers
  • $3.10 – Lemonade
  • $0.25 – Skillet Apples

As I made my way to the register to settle our bill I realized I violated just about every one of my self-imposed restaurant rules:

  1. We didn’t share meals.
  2. We didn’t order water.
  3. We ordered an appetizer.

I’m not going to beat myself up over the meal.  Like I said, we don’t eat out of often and this was a nice splurge.  But as I stood from the table and saw leftover food it occurred to me we could have easily split an entree between the kids and one for my wife and me.

And I should have passed on the appetizer.  My meal came with a salad and it was out within a couple minutes of ordering.

Now the sweat tea and lemonade are non-negotiable, but if we were really gung ho we would have all had water and saved another $10.

Frugal Tweaks To Make On Our Next Visit

In review, just a couple small changes to the order would have saved us an easy $23 – enough gas money to make the return trip home.  Drop the appetizer, one BBQ platter and one chicken finger platter.  Everybody still eats what they want to and everyone is full (even my wallet – well, more full).

For me, that’s striking a frugal balance.  You don’t have to dine on saltines and ketchup.  It’s perfectly acceptable to budget for the occasional meal out, but plan ahead and discuss what your family plans to order.

It may mean people have to share a meal, but that’s fine – most restaurants pile enough food on the plate to feed three people anyway.

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