Restaurant Detox: Part One

I stared at my July bank account statment in complete shock, adding the numbers up in my head as I scrolled down the list of transactions from familiar names - restaurant names.

Taco Bell - $12.38
Unique Flavors Cafe - $16.06
Hardees - $13.42
Hard Rock Cafe - $23.74
Sweet CeCe's - $2.39
Calypso Cafe - $18.40
Jackson's Bistro - $22.43
South Street Smokehouse - $23.70
PM - $31.71
Calypso Cafe - $12.61
Unique Flavors Cafe - $7.87

Gah! On top of my regular grocery budget - you know, the excessive one that keeps my pantry bursting at its seams - I'd spent an additional $185 on restaurant meals. How did I allow that to happen? Do I do that every month? How many pairs of shoes would $185 buy me? How in God's name did I spend almost $13 at Taco Bell?

Flummoxed, I rifled through my bank statements for June and May and found the same ridiculous truth: I spend way too much money on restaurant meals, always on top of my grocery budget. The worst realization is that for many of my July restaurant meals, Josh and I went Dutch. How much food was I eating? How much was I drinking?

I vowed to myself that during the entire month of August, I would not buy a single meal at a restaurant. If somebody wanted to foot the bill, I'd let them treat, but I would not plunk down my evil debit card once at a restaurant, cafe, creperie, bistro, bakery, greasy spoon, or bar.

So far, I've stuck to it. I bought $28 worth of groceries last night and our first big shopping trip of the month will be this Friday (payday). I cooked for Missy's birthday instead of meeting her out for dinner, Josh's parents took us out for Chinese buffet on Sunday, my boss is taking me to lunch on Wednesday, and I've gone home for lunch every day aside from that.

But the month is still young. I'm obviously loyal to certain establishments - they know me at Unique Flavors. My friend Ashley has invited me out for Zumba and frozen yogurt on Monday. I've mentally made an exception for $2 worth of frozen yogurt, as a reward for both reaching the halfway point and attending my first Zumba class.

Perhaps I'll find a couple pairs of shoes so worth having given up restaurants for a month that I might even keep it up through September...provided somebody wants to buy me a cupcake for my birthday. In the meantime, I'll think some more about the opportunity cost of a month's worth of meals out, versus the shoes, concert tickets, extra car payments, night of bowling, magazine subscriptions, day trip out of town, great bottles of wine, new blender, etc. I could have been buying instead.

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