16. You let food spoil and have to throw it out
Remember No. 2, about not planning your meals? This is what can happen. Those avocados you bought on sale now squish when you pick them up; those limes have hardened into juiceless little spheres; that ground beef smells kind of funny…. It’s all too easy to forget about the food you’ve spent good money on until it’s useless. It has been estimated that Americans toss about 23 pounds of food per person every month. For a family of four, that could add up to almost $200 a month.
17. You never get around to eating those leftovers
Making too much food can be a good thing, because leftovers, properly packaged and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, can be reheated for a no-fuss meal at a later date, or recycled into another dish altogether (that surplus beef stew, for instance, can be turned into a pasta sauce). But too many of us save leftovers and then let them grow moldy at the back of the fridge or age out in the freezer. A good tactic is to label them with the date when you stow them and put the newest foods behind the older ones. First in, first out.
18. You use meal delivery services often
DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub…. Where would we be without these ever-more-popular meal delivery services, bringing us almost any kind of food we can imagine, from a Big Mac to a yellowtail scallion roll to chicken and waffles? Ordering in from your favorite restaurant is undeniably convenient — but it also runs up the bill. Prices vary according to where you live, but, as one example, a foot-long, oven-roasted chicken sub, a bag of potato chips, and a Coke would cost $12.47 (not counting tax or tip) at a nearby Subway in suburban Connecticut. If you got the same meal through UberEats, they’ll tack on a $1.87 service charge and a $2.49 delivery fee, so the total is now $16.83. If you ordered a similar meal once a week for a year, you’d be out $226.72.
19. You never take food home from restaurants
It’s easy to over-order when you go out to eat, especially at establishments like Chinese restaurants, pizzerias, and family-style Italian places where people are sharing and so tend to fill the table with too much food. But you can find yourself with food on your plate but no room in your belly at any kind of eatery. (Maybe that Cobb salad was much bigger than you’d expected, or you just couldn’t finish that four-piece serving of fried chicken.) Almost any restaurant will happily pack up whatever you can’t eat. Doggy bags are an accepted fact of life in restaurants in America; people don’t even joke about them anymore. You paid for the food, so you own it — and the remains of tonight’s dinner might well make a perfect lunch tomorrow.
20. You exceed national average food expenditures
There’s ultimately one irrefutable way to tell if you’re spending too much money on food: Track your home food expenditures for a month and then compare them with the USDA’s monthly computation of average food costs for U.S. individuals and families. The figures are broken down according to age, sex, and family composition, and cover four levels of expenditure — thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal. In December 2019, for instance, a single male aged 19 to 50 would have spent $185.90, $240.60, $301.50, and $369.10, respectively. A liberally spending male and female couple aged 19 to 50 with two children, one aged 6 to 8, the other 9 to 11, would have rung up $1,287.50 in food costs for the month.
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