Menu image: “Happy Home Meal Banchan illustration” by Choikwangmo9 is licensed under CC0 1.0
|Average Australian home||$4000 a year*|
|Smart renter||$2000 or less a year|
|Very smart renter||$1000 or less a year|
*We have taken figures from the 2015/2016 Australian Bereau of Statistics data presented across different income groups, averaged it out and multiplied it to reflect the average household occupancy to give you an idea.
Smart renters not only eat out less, they do so in style by enjoying great food at home or in third places that are way more interesting than your average restaurant or café and avoids food waste and garbage.
$4000 a year? Where’s it all going?
- Australians spend roughly a third of their food expenditure on eating out.
- Most of this goes into buying take away, eating at restaurants and cafes, buying lunch at work and buying convenience food/snacks.
- Usually, the same meals can be cooked at home for a fraction of the price and with little effort (e.g. $25 for a plate of pasta and tomato sauce vs $2.50 at home).
Eating in or at interesting third places is like the Airbnb of dining; it can be a really unique experience beyond what a restaurant or café can offer. Here’s some easy ways to eat in style without spending a fortune:
Savour a good meal at home
- Most restaurant meals can be easily made as good (if not better) at home even if you spend a little extra on some special ingredients you wouldn’t normally buy.
- It’s nice not to have the feeling of being rushed like you do in some restaurants or cafés.
- For us, we’d rather have a lazy Sunday breakfast in the garden (or a hearty winter’s meal in a cosy lounge room) than at a hectic café.
Find free or cheap third places
- Sometimes the desire to eat out is not about the food, it’s about the experience of being in a different location.
- A third place is anywhere that makes a great seperate social location to your home .
- Parks, beaches, town squares and the like are great places to bring a camp stove, cook up a simple meal (or bring a picnic) and watch life go by.
- There are no rules: if it’s a public space and it’s appealing, sit down and enjoy a meal there.
Have some easy meals on standby
- Keep some simple meals available for the occasional times when you can’t be bothered cooking.
- For example, pasta/ravioli and a decent sauce or a store bought gozleme with a homemade salad can be made in no time, is delicious and costs very little.
- If you have a freezer, prepare some meals or sauces that freeze well and can be reheated easily. For those without a freezer, you can also make and bottle homemade pasta sauces.
- These meals may not always be super healthy but are preferable to takeaway.
Meet friends at home or in cheap or free third places
- We noticed in Germany that our friends and family there mostly preferred to meet at each other’s homes or in public areas (like the park, riverside areas, etc.).
- This can be a lot of fun; not only is it cheaper but you get to experience each other’s cooking, a beautiful homely or outdoor location and can have a relaxed conversation without feeling the need to buy something.
Take a packed lunch and a packed snack
- Last night’s leftovers make a great lunch and we cook enough the night before for lunch the next day.
- If you don’t have a fridge or microwave at work, make a meal that tastes great cold and can store out of the fridge for a few hours.
- A packed lunch enables you to have a peaceful lunchbreak rather than dashing around looking for something to eat and then scoffing it down.
- Keep a snack or two handy (like some nuts and fruit) for when you’re on the go to avoid overpriced (and mostly unhealthy) convenience food.
A note on buying drinks
- A drink is usually around a third to half the cost of a meal (including bottled water!) which can be quite a rip off.
- It’s perfectly ok to decline to buy one when eating out if you don’t feel like it.
- Always carry a bottle of water on you.
This doesn’t mean that you should never eat out, get takeaway or buy drinks; it can be a great way to try something new, to enjoy foods or drinks that you wouldn’t make at home or may be in a really great location.
When you do go out, you can relish the experience and still make delicious and healthy home food your default choice.
 Here you can get a better idea of what the average is per person for a household like yours:
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-08/chart-of-the-day-food-expenditure/10169022 Term coined by urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg:
 See Chapters 14 and 15 in The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb for a great write up on third places and this topic in general.