By: Danielle Pietersen| October 28th, 2020
Is eating out blowing your budget out of the water each month? Eating a restaurant meal or grabbing take out is quick and convenient, but the costs add up quickly and it can be a real budget-buster if you’re not careful. We all love to eat out, but if you want to save money, it’s important to know how much you can spend on eating out and have a plan in place to be able to stick to your budget.
Ordering takeout from a restaurant is, on average, three to five times more expensive than home cooking. Obviously, the takeout and restaurant that you choose as well as the cost of the food you prepare at home can also vary greatly. As a general rule though, preparing food at home is far healthier and cheaper than eating out.
How To Stop Eating Out:
Following a few practical tips and tricks can help you avoid eating out when you don’t want to. Your budget will thank you and so will your health.
How often do you reach for takeout just because it’s quick and convenient and you need a meal in a hurry? A little planning and preparation can help you take control of your spending. Eat out when you want to and choose to, not when you feel desperate and don’t have anything for dinner.
Meal planning seems like a lot of extra work, but planning a week of meals is actually pretty quick and easy once you get into the habit of doing it. Having a weekly meal plan in place can help you plan ahead and have your fridge and freezer well-stocked and ready to throw together quick and delicious meals. It’s not only a budget saver, it’s a time saver too. If you know what you plan to eat, you only need to do your grocery shopping once instead of making multiple trips for forgotten items which can help you save a lot of money and reduce your food budget.
Another great side effect of meal planning is that you end up with far less waste because you only buy things that you plan to eat or cook instead of just buying a variety of veggies at the grocery store in case you feel like eating them or suddenly need them to make meals you haven’t planned. Now you’ll eat those veggies instead of watching them go bad in your fridge and feeling guilty.
Plan Your Meals Around Your Day
Do your kids always have sport till late on a Thursday? Church meetings on a Monday? Plan easy meals for your busy and long days. A crockpot is a great help if you’re trying to stop eating out. Have a few go-to-recipes on hand that can be put into the slow cooker in the morning and cook away all day without any effort. You can even cook meals in advance and then eat them on your busiest days.
Use Your Freezer
If you have enough freezer space, then stocking up on some premade meals is also a real time saver for busy weekdays. Being able to quickly defrost and heat a lasagna or burritos makes for a really easy meal. These sorts of meals are great for weeknights when you just need a quick meal.
Cooking in bulk is a great way to stock your freezer and keep the clean up less. You can use time on quieter days to prepare for busy nights that are coming. It takes some effort, but the amount of money it saves you makes it worth your while. If you don’t have freezer space, you can still cook larger portions to eat the next day or later in the week.
If you don’t have time to prepare whole meals for the freezer, even just doing a small amount of meal prep will help. Try having some taco meat ready-made and waiting in the freezer, you’ll still need to put a meal together, but having a portion of the cooking done before you start is a real time-saver.
Up Your Cooking Skills
Many people reach for takeout because they don’t feel confident in their cooking skills. There are great resources and recipes available online these days. You don’t need to order professionally prepared meals to be eating good food. It’s best to start small and master a few simple dishes. (Think spaghetti bolognese or chicken pieces and veggies.)
Once you’ve mastered a few simple dishes, you can improve your skills and try some copycat recipes of your favorite takeout meals for when the cravings hit. Once you learn some basic cooking skills you’ll be able to create beautiful meals at home that are tastier and healthier than most meals available at restaurants.
Have Meal Alternatives On Hand
Stock up on a few items that are slightly more expensive, but really convenient. Having a few heat-and-eat meals in the freezer or pantry will help you avoid grabbing take out. Make sure they’re really quick, easy and delicious so that they can compete with eating out on nights when you’re exhausted and feeling tempted by takeout.
The trick with these meals is that they don’t need to be the cheapest, healthiest meals. These are not meals you’re going to eat every day. These are meals that are going to stop you from reaching for takeout on your worst days. Frozen pizzas or macaroni and a delicious Napolitana sauce are great examples of meals that come together quickly and take the place of takeout for far cheaper. They might not be the healthiest options, but these convenience foods are definitely cheaper and less unhealthy than fast food.
Eat A Simple Meal
Sometimes your planning fails and you need a meal quickly, but don’t have any good meals prepared or stocked up in the freezer. Have one or two really simple meals that you can fall back on. Ramen noodles or scrambled eggs and toast definitely aren’t the best meals you’re ever going to serve, but being willing to serve and eat a very simple meal every once in a while will help you get out of the habit of eating out or getting takeaways.
Planning Well Will Save You Even More Money
If you use these great tips to only eat out when you plan to and plan your homemade meals well, you’ll save a lot of money just because you’ll be eating out less. Buying in bulk on items that you plan to use or stocking up on easy meals when they’re on special will also help you reduce your grocery spend.
Watch out for coupons that you can use for items you’d be buying anyway. Swagbucks is a great website to start using. They have a wide variety of coupons that you can use online, which makes saving quick, easy, and convenient. They even give you money back which you can put towards things that don’t usually fit into the budget like special occasions or splurging for date night.
Where Should I Eat Out?
This is going to depend on your tastes and how often you plan to eat out. Would you rather eat out far less and splurge on a fancy evening out? Or is take out all about convenience for you? If you’re part of the group wanting to eat out more often for less, then here are some tips to help you save on your takeout:
Choose Cheap Restaurants:
Know the restaurants in your area and their prices. Chain restaurants are usually the cheapest, but if you keep your eyes open and ask around, you may be able to find a reasonable family-owned restaurant or food cart and you’ll be able to support local while saving money. If you’re looking for the big chains though, Mc Donald’s, Olive Garden, and Chick-fil-A are great cheap options.
Look Out For Specials
Most restaurants run specials from time to time and some even weekly. Be sure to look out for the specials and plan to eat out on nights when certain meals are cheaper. Specials usually run on weeknights and not on the weekend.
Watch The Drinks
If you do eat out, then watch what you drink. Restaurants put a big markup on their drinks which means that you can save big by ordering fewer drinks or choosing cheaper options.
And Lastly, Be Brave.
It’s easy to just swipe your credit card and not think about how much money you are spending, but knowing how much you are spending is one of the first steps in taking control of your finances. Be brave and work out the numbers. Get the facts. It won’t be long till you’re saving money that you can put towards the things that are most important to you.
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