I was inspired by your reactions to how my baby makes me spend more to brainstorm all the ways in which I can save money by NOT eating out. I know there’s a lot more out there so please share your tricks and I’ll add them to this list.
- Buy yummy food (avocados, feta cheese, tortillas, salsa, steak) so you can’t resist eating at home.
- Wash all your lettuce when you get home from the store so a salad or healthy sandwich is just seconds away. My Mom does this religiously.
- Double, or even triple, recipes so you have enough for a second dinner.
- Set aside a big batch of time (in my world that means two hours) just to cook. It’s hard to start a recipe if you think you might get interrupted.
- Convenience foods are more expensive than cooking from scratch, but are much cheaper than eating out, as Lorena pointed out. “My husband and I used to love making meals from scratch, but it’s not realistic right now. So, we’ll buy roasted chickens from the grocery store deli, bagged salad or frozen veggies, and fresh bread from the bakery or a refrigerated tube of biscuit dough to bake at home. It’s not as cheap as making it all ourselves, but it is MUCH easier, especially when you’re so tired you’re falling asleep on the couch at 8 p.m. (see: me last night).”
- Cut out the carbs. Mentally, it’s easier for me to prepare dinner if I let myself skip the potatoes, pasta, or rice. I may throw in a slice of bread or tortillas, or just skip the carbs entirely!
- Stock up on snack foods, like almonds, tortilla chips, string cheese, fruit, hummus and pita, yogurt, cottage cheese, crackers, and carrots to stave off hunger, which is when you are at your weakest!
- Make soup. As Myke says: “I make big pots of soups,stews or brisket and freeze the extra portions. The prep involves a little extra chopping but the cooking time is about the same (just a little extra time to come up to a boil). You always have good food in the freezer (and you know what’s in it) and it can be thawed ahead or in the microwave and cooked. Much cheaper than eating out.”
- Can you say rotisserie chicken? Costco used to sell them for $5 on Friday nights (not sure if that’s still the case).
- Pull out your slow cooker, dump in a few cans, and dinner is on the way! Kudos to Lorena (again) for sharing her favorite crockpot blogger, Stephanie O’Dea.
- Throw away restaurant menus when they come in the mail or stapled to a take out order. The more effort it takes to track down the menu and phone number, the less likely you are to place an order.
- Save loose change in a “date night fund” so when you DO eat out, you DON’T feel an ounce of guilt. It worked for EllieD!
- Prepare food in segments, Lee says: “I want to recommend the book “Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents” by Debbie Koenig (she blogs at debbiekoenig.com) is really helpful. For example, she has a chapter on things you can prepare in stages —so, during naps “” and another on things you can eat one-handed. I wish it had been published when my kids were babies, and I’ve been giving it to friends who are new parents!”
- Beg your friends to let you eat at their house. Or, you can be civilized about it and trade off hosting each other for dinner one night of the week.
- Arrange a neighborhood meal share. Similar to hosting each other for dinner, but this time you get two to three families together that trade off cooking for each other one day a week. That week’s cook puts the meal into containers and delivers the food. Requires a bit of organization but really pays off!
- Freeze cookie dough. I can never eat an entire batch of cookies (and I’ve given it many, many good tries) before they go stale in 2-3 days. Lesson learned, I now freeze half the batch for later. Cookie dough freezes really well!
- Swap food, as Bobbi suggests. She explains how to set up a food swap.
- Your food steameris for more than veggies. Anon says: “have a veggie steamer? i love mine. you can cook rice/veggies in it. you set it up and can walk away. no more worries about burned rice. i make a pot of rice for a few meals. when hungry, i just add whatever is in the frig/freezer. it’s different every time.”
- Make Pasta Plus. That’s when I cook whatever pasta I have, plus whatever meat and veggies I have. I season with garlic, onions, salt, pepper and cheese and it always tastes great!
What do you do you avoid eating out?
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