After posting our Q2 Net Worth article last week, I have received a few emails asking how we are managing to more than double our post-tax savings rate this year. Similar to how we cut our grocery bill by 55%, this post will highlight how we used Blue Apron to cut our monthly restaurant expense by more than 50%.
My girlfriend and I love going out, grabbing a drink or two and having a nice meal. We appreciate trying new food in a relaxing setting, and she really loves her wine and cheese.
We live in the heart of Chicago so there are plenty of great restaurants within walking distance. The temptations are real and they have been biting away at our budget for years.
The reality is that we often go out nearly once a week. When you add in appetizers, a bottle of wine or a few beers, taxes and tip, the costs quickly pass $100 for one dinner.
Of course, we could save even more money by avoiding this delicious and decadent hobby of ours, but we both come to the conclusion years ago that this is something we value enough to indulge in for the time being.
That didn’t change the fact that our restaurant expense is typically the biggest “luxury” item in our budget, and as someone who’s pursuing financial independence, I’m always looking for ways to optimize our budget.
With that in mind, we started to develop a way to reduce our restaurant bill by more than half.
We stole a page from Elon Musk’s playbook and applied a first principles approach to our restaurant budget.
We started to identify what the value was that we were receiving in exchange for those $100+ meals.
We began to realize the full experience of a dinner out would take 2-3 hours. This included waiting to be seated, waiting to review the menu, waiting for appetizers, waiting for our meals, waiting to ask for the check, and then waiting to be able to sign for the check.
That’s a lot of waiting.
However, waiting for 75% of the dinner experience doesn’t sound that bad when you consider the amount of time and prep that goes into preparing your meals, including the time it takes to source the ingredients.
If you read my post about commonly purchased grocery items, then you know that I’m not the most creative guy in the kitchen. This was another advantage to eating at nice restaurants; we got to try exciting new foods.
So, then we looked at the cost of the meal itself.
I would venture to say about 25% of the price of the meal is there to pay for the ingredients themselves. The rest of the money goes towards rent, utilities, taxes, labor for everyone involved from the host, to the chef, to the waiter.
We still wanted to try new foods and we wanted to spend the extra money to enjoy ourselves.
So, after wrapping up Elon Musk’s approach to analyzing our situation, we decided to try something different.
Introducing Blue Apron. Their mission is, “to make incredible home meals accessible to everyone.”
And, yes, “incredible” is the perfect word.
Blue Apron is the first product I’m promoting by writing a post about and it isn’t even a sponsored post.
I just actually think this is a great investment in our diet and our relationship. Not to mention the fact that, so far, every meal has been delicious.
If you’re interested in checking out the service yourself, then click through the link below this paragraph to receive your first three meals free. That’s the equivalent of receiving a $30 discount on your first order.
Blue Apron provides everything you need to cook your own delicious meals (assuming you have a kitchen stove, pots, pans,utensils, and salt and pepper!)
Here’s an example of what a box looks like when you open it up:
Preparing the meals is smooth because they walk through every step in the right order. The instructions tell you to preheat the oven before preparing the vegetables to make sure you’re preparing your food in the most efficient way. By the time the oven is hot, you’ve got everything chopped and ready to go.
The quality and the variety are top notch; fresh and sustainably sourced. We have received postcards letting us know which ingredients have been substituted due to shortages or seasonal reasons.
Every meal so far is something we would never have been able to cook on our own.
We are now able to cook a delicious and exotic meal, all while saving money AND time.
The other night, we spent one hour from start to finish (including clean up) to cook a fancy Peruvian Chicken. The result, was this master piece:
Then, we spent 90 minutes enjoying ourselves on a walk along the river and Lake Michigan.
Here’s a few more of the meals we managed to cook up.
Overall, we enjoy learning new cooking techniques because we enjoy cooking together. In a way, I imagine we’ll enjoy a lot more cooking once we reach financial independence, so, in a way, I see our time spent on perfecting our fine chopping skills as an investment towards our future.
You might relabel this expense as “fancier” groceries, but from our perspective, we’ve succeeded in replacing every single benefit a restaurant offers us while saving time AND money.
That’s the bottom line.
If you do end up trying out Blue Apron, be sure to swing back later and leave a comment.
Remember, you’ll receive $30 off your first order, or the equivalent of three free meals, if you sign up using this link.
Do you do any, “fancy” cooking yourself? Have you used services such as Blue Apron to eliminate the need to create and prepare unique meals each week?