How to Sacrifice Your Sacred Cow

by Lindy on January 23, 2012

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I had to make sure I had the right idiom, so I went to Wikipedia and looked up Sacred Cow.

A figurative sacred cow is something…that is considered immune from question.

Yep, that about covers it.


How could you question this face?

You see, we have a sacred cow. Though we may have questioned its existence over the years, it’s something that remains strong in the end.

It’s our dinners out.

Eating out has become a big part of our family dynamic. I cook during the week, we go out on weekends. It works for us, so we haven’t worried too much about cutting it out of our budget.

Here’s why it works.

1. I’m not much of a cook. And because I don’t have the time (or skills) to prepare meals that are interesting or complicated, I’ll be the first to admit our weekly dinner menu is Snoozeville. I’m getting bored just thinking about it.

2. We’re a family of varied tastes. One of us is a vegetarian, one of us believes a meal isn’t a meal unless it’s heaving with beef, and two of us could subsist on mac-n-cheese alone. Hence, dinners at our house tend to be a compromise on all fronts. Eating out allows each of us to satisfy our palettes with meals we don’t normally get at home.

3. We work. And at the end of the week, we’re usually too tired to cook and do dishes. Not that we couldn’t muster the energy if we needed to, it’s just nice for someone else to do it on occasion.

4. It’s something to do. We don’t load our weekends with activities. Saturdays and Sundays are spent at home doing laundry, getting caught up on projects, and generally being lazy bums. Going out to eat gives us an excuse to get out of the house and avoid going stir-crazy. It’s become our weekend family fun activity.

But recently, we’ve been questioning our sacred cow again.

When I was going over our expenses from October and November, I realized our restaurant line item was bulging. A-Rob was home more often, which meant some weekends held 2 dinners out, and maybe 1 lunch. For a family of four, that easily adds up to $150 per weekend. Do that a few times a month and we’re looking at $400 monthly in restaurant bills.

With our recently squeezed budget, we needed to cut that dollar amount back.

My first thought was to only eat out if we had a coupon. But that idea fizzled pretty quickly, given my aversion to those things.

I also thought about scoring some gift cards from But after several minutes of searching, I couldn’t find a single place where we’d be interested in dining.

Then I thought I might purchase some discount gift cards for some of our regular haunts. But then I realized we’d only be saving $6 per meal at most, and that was too much effort for such little savings.

The easiest solution was to simply eat out less.

Unfortunately, that’s also the most unsexy and uncreative way to save.

I had visions of us sitting at home in the dark on a Saturday night, eating frozen pizza and watching looping episodes of Sponge Bob, cursing the fact we couldn’t be eating at a restaurant.

Because the only alternative to spending money is sitting home in the dark and being depressed, so I like to tell myself.

In order to make this work, we’d have to find a way to eat out less and fulfill all the things that eating out does for us.

We had to find a way to eat good, interesting food, that would satisfy all our cravings, while simultaneously allowing us (the parents) to not work too hard. And to top it off, it had to be a fun (not depressing) family event.

Sounds like a tall order. But you know I wouldn’t be telling you all of this if we hadn’t found a way to make it happen. In my next post, I’ll share how.

Until then, have you slaughtered any cows lately?

Photo by wwarby on Flickr

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  • It would be eating out for us as well.
    We’re pretty good when it comes to staying in during the week and cooking dinner. But the weekends is usually when we take the kids out to the mall and with that comes the extra spending, a fruit smoothie and a bag of popcorn and then going out to a restaurant to eat.

    Eating out used to be an all weekend type of thing, but we’ve managed to cut it down to one eat out meal during the weekend.

    It’s our sacred cow, and I don’t think we could ever say no completely to eating out.

    • Lindy

      We’re aiming for the same thing – once per week is a good compromise.

  • I don’t know that we really have one… we really did live on rice and beans (and eggs and potatoes) and remaindered produce at one point. But these days fancy cheese would be one of the last things to go.

    • Lindy

      Mmm. Fancy cheese.

  • We only try to eat out if we have a groupon or a, just so that we can get more for our money.

  • I would say our sacred cow is magazine subscriptions. I haven’t been able to cut the cord with “Real Simple” though I have tried :) I have others I subscribe to and my husband has car magazines like “Car and Driver”. I figure it is what it is, and there could always be worse things!

    • Oh, I love magazines too. Have you tried Maghound? 3 magazines per month for $5. That’s helped me avoid the grocery store magazine aisle.

  • Patricia Cummings

    Eating out with your family is really great since it’s relieves stress and makes you somewhat happy while eating the food that you want the most. However, if the spending is too high, you can do some alternatives like buying something by bulk, then take turns in cooking. My sacred cow right now is Starbucks coffee. I couldn’t help but buy every weekend. It’s pretty expensive and I don’t want to buy from a different coffee shop because I don’t like the taste. Well, could you suggest an alternative to Starbucks coffee?

    I learned something new today! Thanks!


  • I know you already found a solution, but maybe you could get a group of friends together and do a rotating host thing….they cook one weekend, you cook the next, add another family for the next???
    Our sacred cow was our sports programming. But it went to the slaughterhouse a bit ago.

  • I have cut back on my sacred cow(s) by only stopping for coffee before work on Fridays and only buying one newspaper on Saturday instead of two. Let’s see…that saves me…14.14 per week or $735.28…well that’s not much! I have cut waaaaaay back on wine (pretty damn sacred) but only because I’m on the 10 Pound Challenge AND the low/no spend january…I’m sure it’ll find it’s way back into my budget in February!

    • Lindy

      I like how you kept your tradition of coffee and a newspaper for Fridays. It’s a lot more manageable (and fun!) than cutting it out completely, in my book.

  • *chuckle* LOVE your unsexy, uncreative way to save…especially since you’ve presented it so creatively! and I cannot wait to read the rest of the story!!

  • I think is a rip-off. Okay, maybe “rip-off” is a harsh word, but if you look at the fine print, it’s almost not worth spending the money. I bought several of their gift certificates to a couple places (one of which is our favorite vegetarian spot) for $2.00 each. However, considering that there’s 1) a $50 minimum, and 2) restrictions on not being able to use them on the weekends, well, geez, that sure puts a damper on our plans! I still have yet to finish using the four gift certificates we’d purchases. Grrrr……..

    • Lindy

      That’s the problem I’ve had with the site before. Too much red tape, makes it too difficult to use them.

  • Carmen

    We treat ourselves to eating out too, but are frugal in our lives otherwise. Our tax accountant once told us that when you add up the average bag of stuff you give to charity, what you usually can deduct easily equals a dinner out. So, when I am feeling guilty about going out, I scour the kids closets for outgrown clothes, throw in a few things from mine and hubby’s as well and usually a few toys and drop it off to Goodwill on our way to the restaurant. When itemizing it gets to $40 of deductions in no time, and voila! – dinner on Uncle Sam :-)

    PS: Great method for keeping down clutter as well.

  • Hmmm…so many sacred cows…so hard to choose one to sacrifice. Eating out is a lot of fun, it’s great to do as a family. But that is a lot of money! These days I say no as much as I can to going out, but still end up eating out probably once a week. Now that I am cost conscious, everything seems expensive. I hate that! But one meal a week out with friends or family? It’ll probably never get cut.

  • vacations are my sacred cow. i love to travel and just can’t give it up, even though it would help us pay off debt faster.

    have you guys thought about take out? it’s a lot cheaper than actually going out to a restaurant (there’s no tip). we used to order pizza almost every friday night, but the $15 each time was killing us. We now do Freschetta pizza, which we LOVE. seriously, you should try it. and i can usually get it on sale for $4

  • Pettina07

    Very interesting ideas here that compose our sacred cow. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pingback: The Frugal Jedi Mind Trick | Minting Nickels()

  • Dinners out is MY sacred cow!!!
    When I first started blogging I wrote an entire post whining and complaining how Mike was torturing me by making me not eat out. It was as if he was slowly cutting off my arm! In my defense, up to that point I ate lunch out every day with friends and had to change that social habit.
    Over the years (yes, I said years) it’s gotten easier. We both have an interest in cooking even though Mike does the majority of it. And how we solved the ‘I’m too tired to cook’ issue is on the weekends we make trays of lasagna and freeze them. Other batched foods that we do are rice, beans, tamales, & pizza dough. Oh! And raviolis!
    Good luck!

  • Yeah, eating out is sacred cow-like for us, too. Especially since now we have a goal of boosting our savings a lot this year ( I try to do more dinners with friends, or if dh and I want to go out, we go for breakfast, which is typically cheaper.

    • Lindy

      Good luck with your savings goals. It’s hard to break old habits, but once you take the plunge, it really isn’t so bad. I think it’s the fear of denial that makes it worse.

  • I think our sacred cow is DSL and cable. I have cut back or negotiated discounts but we can’t seem to cut the cord. Mobile phones are probably also sacred cows. I’m reading Your Money or Your Life though so I think it’s time to examine our household budget!

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