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  • Writer's pictureMr. FI Musician

We saved an additional $5,000 a year by making this simple change

After Mrs. FIM and I decided to commit to a more frugal lifestyle in our quest for financial independence, we quickly realized how much money we were frivolously throwing away each month.

For years we spent $15/month on a car wash subscription to keep our car squeaky clean year round. One day I woke up and realized I was paying someone to clean a car that wasn't even ours. It was a lease. A long-term rental. Why should I care so much if someone else's car is sparkling?

When Netflix announced it was increasing their 4K prices from $15.99 to $17.99 last year, we made the decision to cut our subscription back to HD for $13.99. I had recently read an article that argued the bitrate of streaming services is too low to be able to see an actual difference between 4k and Full HD, so I thought I'd test it out.

Turns out the article was right (either that or our TV does a kick-ass job at upscaling). I actually forgot that we had reduced our subscription until a month ago. Not once did I notice a difference in the resolution.

Netflix never looked so good!

These are just a few examples of ways we've managed to save a couple dollars here and there that, over the course of a year, add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. Never take the small expenses lightly.

Today, however, I want to talk about one change we made that led to us saving thousands of dollars in a single year: Food habits.

Mrs. FIM and I know we used spent a lot of money eating out. In 2020 when we decided to track our spending, we also made a resolution to stop eating out, as we knew it was contributing to a large portion of our monthly expenses.

For the purposes of this post, I just looked through my bank statements from 2018 and what I saw was shocking.

Wow. Seriously?

In 2018 we spent $5,410.96 at restaurants. At least that's what I found on our bank statements. That doesn't include any food we may have bought in cash.

That's an average of $450.91 per month. It's so much money, but the crazy thing is we really had no idea how bad it was, because we weren't paying attention.

We were both busy. Too busy to cook (at least that's what we thought at the time), even though we had groceries in our kitchen. This led to us throwing away spoiled food every week and eating out. Double whammy!

Big bucks! Big bucks! Oh wait, you can't make big bucks when you eat out multiple times a day.

When we decided to stop eating out, we knew we needed a game plan for cooking, otherwise our old habits would creep back into our lives quickly. Since lack of time and energy was the main reason we would eat out, we figured our best strategy would be to cook large meals two or three times a week.

We discovered an amazing website:, which we continue to use today. We triple or quadruple what the recipes call for and it provides us with enough food for four or five meals for both of us.

Now we spend only a few hours cooking each week, but always have prepared meals ready to go. The food is healthier and tastes better than most food we ate at restaurants. We rarely throw away food. On top of everything, cooking has become a relaxing and therapeutic break in the evening.

It is without a doubt, the best change we've made in our lives since starting on our FI journey.

In 2020 we spent a total of $419.06 eating out. That's over $5,000 less than what we spent in 2018. Saving $5,000 is already amazing, but let's look at how we could make it even better.

If we invest that $5,000 in index funds each year (which is what we're doing), after 10 years we'll have $72,432.81, after 20 years $228,809.82, and after 30 years $566,416.06 (assuming an annual return of 8%).

That's over half a million dollars, just from changing our food habits. Damn.

It's your turn

I challenge you to track your food expenses for one month. How often do you eat out each week? How much do you spend on average when you go to a restaurant? Do you throw away unused groceries? I'm willing to be you'll be shocked how much money you're spending on food.

From there, try meal prepping for a month. Explore and try some new recipes. Here are some of our favorites:

Compare your finances from the first month to the second month. See how much money you saved on food and invest the difference it in a retirement account or pay off debt.

Now you're cooking! (pun very much intended).

Oh, and if you find any good recipes, comment below!

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