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Hi everyone,

Eating and drinking out are one of my huge vices. I don't do it all the time, but when I'm stressed and/or lonely — which is frequently — I self-soothe by splurging a bit at restaurants and bars. I also am in an uncomfortable roommate situation, so it's challenging using the common areas at home, but not to the point where I'm really physically prevented from using the kitchen. It's just stressful to do so.

I need to convince my brain that eating out to self-soothe is not a viable option, but in those stressful moments, my mind takes a real "fuck it" attitude and I lose my better judgment. Can someone give me a reality check? I also work a lot and can't seem to make time to pack a lunch, and eating out a lunchtime has become a sort of oasis of relief from the work pressures, too, so it feels very difficult to give up. I've also had no success in dating for at least three years. Oh, and I drink way too much, to the point where it's becoming a real health problem. It's all kind of a compounding problem.

Can you guys please give me some tips on the following challenges?
  • How can I make packing my lunch feel like less of a hassle?
  • What general categories of foods should I buy or avoid buying to save money and still be healthy?
  • I read about people spending $300 on food a month or so. To me, that sounds incredibly inconceivable. Can someone give me an example of what they are buying that helps them keep their grocery bill down?
  • For those of you who have similar experiences with self-soothing with eating out, can you tell me how you were able to overcome it?

Thanks in advance. I realize this is a bit of a rambling post.

Btw, I'm a 38yo Asian American male living in Seattle, where everything is overpriced.
 

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Tanuki, it sounds like it would be better to get out of the uncomfortable roommate situation. Would it be possible to move? To another roommate situation if needed, but if you are drinking to cope with it, that is the number one problem I would adress.

Secondly, I am European, so prices are lower inhere, but I only eat out if it is the only practical solution. What I do is get a big package of yoghurt, a couple of bananas, bread and cheese or lunch meats for lunch. I live like 5 minutes from Aldi, so it acts like my to go grocery store, which is a big help to me. Aldi does exist in the USA, but has completely different products, so be careful with that.

Another suggestion I would like to make is to do some kind of picknick lunch moment, so you get out of the building, without spending a ton of money, I don't know if that is feasible though.
 

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I can completely relate. I've been in a depression for a while and food was always my thing since miserable childhood and all we really had was food. My family only eats together, nothing else so lots was always 'food centered'.

Eating out picked me up after spending several years miserable due to employment problems in a hard place to find a job.

I would try living an 'al-fresco' existence for a while, purchasing non-perishable items for breakfast/lunches and pick up grocery store takeout items once a day. Can run some of your meals from your desk drawer at work.

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Oatmeal, cereals, granola, yogurts, junk foods purchased in bulk.

Ramon, TV dinners, ethnic packed meals like indian, crackers/cheese or tuna fish, can of soup

Grocery store: sushi, salad bar, chicken, anti-pasti, chinese deli, deli side dishes ...

Snacks - V8, carrots & dip, hummus/pita, blocks of cheese,

Could try doing some activity groups in order to stay out of house until you want to sleep: gym, yoga, martial arts, meetup.com, Toastmasters, community college class + use the computers on campus...Second job is good way to stay sane.

I feel for you. Seattle is place with expensive rent. Getting a broom closet will keep you sane, maybe you can apartment hunt and get yourself on the list for an apartment.
 

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I agree that looking into ways to clear up the roommate situation is a good option, but really THINK about where you're going and why.

I, too, LOVED to eat out. I would rationalize this pointless spending by saying "Oh, it's the Happy Hour Menu...", etc. but when I did my budget and realized how much money I was spending, the light bulb came on.

Act like a Nike and just do it !! It helped for me to take some time and pack a week's worth of lunches when I could. Drinking is expensive (especially at a bar) and not the best for your health, so try to use a good meal as a treat to yourself for being disciplined. Maybe try saving $5 a week and rewarding yourself with a nice meal at the end of the month.

I LOVE dessert, but found that visiting my favorite cupcake bar (at $2.50 per cupcake) several times a week (not like I could eat just one) was bad for my wallet and waistline. Now I budget well and use the cupcake as a reward.

Finally, who says you have to be a master chef to prep your own meals? You can do a lot with frozen burger patties, tuna, frozen chicken breasts, and individually wrapped fish. Frozen veggies are easy and pretty cheap to prepare...

Think of the big picture and how this whole eating out thing won't be so big of a deal when you're out of debt...

PS... exercising (even a walk around the block) is healthier and releases endorphins. Way better soother than food...
 

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You don't know overpriced... I live in Denmark which has a 25% VAT on everything, including groceries. Things are so expensive here that I think Central London is cheap. But I'm still able to keep our grocery bill around $150/month for DH, me, and my teenage stepson who lives with us part-time.

I work from home now, but when I worked in an office, I'd make a couple of things on Sunday afternoon for the week... soup, curry, or chili that could easily be reheated, hummus that could be put in a wrap with some veggies, marinated salads, etc. Now that I work from home, I try to cook once and eat twice. I cook enough food at dinnertime that it can double as a lunch or two, or another dinner on another night.

I'm a vegetarian, and I shop the sales, which keeps our grocery bill down. We mostly eat veggies, grains, and beans, which are inherently healthy. We eat milk, dairy products and eggs sparingly. I think the biggest contributor to my low grocery bill is the fact that I don't buy meat, I can imagine I'd need to double my budget if that were to change. I do spend a fair amount on wine, which isn't part of the food budget, but buying wine at the grocery store is still WAY cheaper than buying it at a restaurant.

As for eating out, I just don't. It's not a priority for me. I'd rather have a paid off mortgage, a paid off car, and no debt. Now that I've accomplished all of those things, I have a nice travel, designer handbag, and jewelry budget, and we're saving for a second home. What are your priorities and dreams?

What can you do about the roommate situation? That doesn't sound like a good way to live. Maybe if you make a deal with yourself to re-appropriate your eating and drinking out money to a new living arrangement, it will give you a tangible benefit that make the change easier.
 

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We all turn to food when it comes to de-stressing. I totally get you for the fuck it moment. I'm currently trying to lose more pounds but there are fuck it times for me as well. I guess you can give in to yourself sometimes but I think you're doing it too much.

I agree that you should start solving the roommate issue first so you can make use of the kitchen and prepare less expensive and healthy food.
 
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