How to Stop Eating Out and Save Money
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Eating out is incredibly convenient. Having someone else prepare your food and clean up after you is the dream.
Except…. it comes at a price. And a pretty hefty one at that.
There are couples that spend upwards of $1000 a month on food. Like, holy sh*t that’s expensive. I have a heart attack when I spend $400 on two people each month.
So if you’re one of those people who eat out waaayyy too often and are looking for an out, you’re in the right place.
Set a Budget
Food is the one thing people don’t generally set aside a specific amount of money each month for. Yes it’s a necessity, but it’s entirely possible to buy enough food while setting a grocery budget and sticking to it.
To determine how much money you’re currently spending, go through your debit and credit card statements for the past few months.
Add up your total food expenses for each of those months and you’ll have a rough estimate of where you currently are. This will help you figure out what your end goal is.
Since life happens, you should definitely account for a few meals out. Just make sure you don’t go over that limit. The goal is to spend as little as possible so you have more money leftover each month.
However, it can be extremely challenging to go from eating every meal out to only allowing yourself 1 meal a week out. Due to this, you should set yourself goals.
Maybe this first month your goal is to go from spending $1000 every month on food to $800, and then next month get that down to $700. Make sure you’re being realistic, otherwise you might give up too soon.
Once you have your budget set, you can start planning your meals.
Start Planning Your Meals
Meal planning is extremely important when it comes to saving money. Without a set dinner schedule, you’ll have no idea what to make, thus causing you to eat out.
While it’s a simple solution, it can actually take a decent amount of time (hello, indecisiveness).
To help you out, here are some pointers to make the process a bit easier:
Incorporate a Few Quick Meals
One thing I’ve found incredibly helpful is making sure to add 15-20 minute meals each week. This is especially important if you have a lot going on certain days of the week and need something quick.
Some quick meals include a salad, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos or burritos, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and sloppy joes.
To make the process even faster, do your prep the night before or in the morning.
Pick Meals with Overlapping Ingredients
Another super simple way to save even more money is by choosing meals that use the same ingredients.
This helps in two ways.
1. You don’t have to buy as many ingredients. That speaks for itself.
2. Sometimes certain foods only come in large quantities. These ingredients are less likely to spoil since you’re incorporating them into several dishes.
For us, celery is the main thing we don’t eat on a regular basis. When a recipe calls for celery, we almost never use all of it because it comes in such large quantities. Due to this, I try and find another meal that uses the celery as opposed to just the one.
Create a Shopping List and Stick to It
Once you’ve created your meal plan for the week, it’s time to create a shopping list.
Go through all the recipes and write down the ingredients you need. From here, go through your fridge and pantry to see which ingredients you have and which ones you need more of.
Now create your shopping list with all the ingredients you need and their quantities.
When you’re grocery shopping, make sure you only buy what’s on your list! Otherwise, you might buy too many things and not be able to eat it all before it expires.
Use the $5 Meal Plan
Meal planning can be tedious, especially if you’re indecisive like me. It makes figuring out what to make for dinner each week a daunting task.
So if you’re anything like me, or you’re incredibly new to eating in and making your own meals, I highly suggest trying the $5 Meal Plan.
The $5 Meal Plan is exactly what it sounds like: You pay $5 a month to get amazing weekly meal plans sent directly to your inbox. Each meal plan consists of 5 dinner entrees with sides; one breakfast; one lunch; and either a dessert, beverage, or snack.
Included with each meal plan is a shopping list with all the ingredients you need for the week. Talk about a time saver #amiright?
The best part is that each meal costs $2 or less per person! Eating out costs at least 5x that.
You can try the $5 Meal Plan FREE for 14 days here. Trust me, it’s the easiest way to stop eating out and you’ll see the savings almost instantly.
Eat Before You Shop
There’s nothing more dangerous than shopping on an empty stomach! (Okay, well maybe some things are worse…)
Before you head to the grocery store, make sure you eat. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying whatever looks good at the moment and you’ll blow your budget.
After you get home from the grocery store, rinse and cut your produce. Otherwise when it comes to making dinner, you’ll have a lot more work to do.
And we all know what that means: you’re more likely to eat out rather than cooking dinner yourself!
Honestly, this is what slows me down the most each night before I make dinner. When everything’s already chopped up, all I have to do is start cooking! No 15 minute prep time each night. Just straight cookin’.
Consider Meal Prepping
Raise your hand if you’re too exhausted to make dinner each night. I totally get it, I’m right there with you.
That’s where meal prepping comes into play.
Meal prepping is the process of cooking and packaging your meals for the whole week (or longer) on one day. It’s as simple as choosing a recipe or two for the week, figuring out what you want for snacks, buying everything, and then preparing it all on a Sunday (or your day of choosing).
So now when you say you’re hungry but don’t want to cook anything, you no longer have an excuse to eat out. Just grab your pre-made meal from the fridge, throw it in the oven or microwave, and then eat! What a novel concept, huh?
If you’re someone who is serious about saving money, time, and just all around eating healthier, seriously consider meal prepping. It will definitely help you stop eating out.
Bring Snacks Wherever You Go
Snacking is my absolute favorite past time. End of story.
Snack time is anytime, so you better be prepared.
Bringing snacks with you whenever you leave the house is a surefire way to help you stop eating out. If you start getting hungry, all you have to do is grab a granola bar out of your bag to hold you over until you get home.
Since I know I get hungry when I’m out, I always have snacks with me. This stops me from getting hangry and stopping at Panera or getting a pizza.
Buy in Bulk
In some cases buying in bulk can save you money. But be careful. Buying things in large quantities that you don’t normally consume a lot of can end up costing you more than necessary.
Personally, I purchase things such as peanut butter, granola bars, nuts, bread (it’s like 50% cheaper for me so I freeze a bunch of it), frozen fruit, chocolate syrup, and chicken to freeze at Costco. All of those things are significantly cheaper at Costco than anywhere else and they last me months at a time.
And, they aren’t things that spoil quickly, so I don’t have to worry about throwing money away.
So if you find yourself using a lot of nuts, granola bars, peanut butter, and other items that have a long shelf life, I suggest stopping by Costco to pick some up.
Invest in a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers make cooking so much easier! Not to mention all the time they save.
In most cases, you can prep the night before and throw it in the fridge. Before you leave for work in the morning, just turn the slow cooker on (with your food in it, of course), and your meal will be done by the time you get home. Having a nice, affordable home cooked meal is as easy as that.
To find some great recipes, just head on over here.
How to Stop Eating Out for Each Meal
Following everything mentioned above, here are some additional tips to help you stop eating out so much for each meal.
People don’t realize just how much money they spend on drinks alone each day.
Whether you grab a coffee every morning or buy a bottle of Coke from the gas station, it adds up.
Here are some tips for reducing how much money you spend on drinks each day:
Here’s a cost comparison I did between buying an 12oz. coffee 5 days a week and brewing your own. The numbers speak fo themselves.
• Miscellaneous Drinks: If you regularly drink Monster’s or Diet Coke, quit buying them from the vending machine or gas station. Pick up a big case at Costco or your local grocery store. You can get 24 – 16 ounce cans of Monster for less than $35 (~$1.37 each) at Costco, or you can spend anywhere between $1.90-$2.50 for a single can. Do the math and you’ll be saving roughly $12 per 24 Monster’s you buy. Again, the numbers say it all.
• Bottled Water: Bottled water may not seem very pricey when you pick up a case for $4 every week, but that definitely adds. Not only in money, but also in landfills. Investing in a Hydro Flask will ensure you always have ice cold water, but without all the harmful effects on the environment. (Psssst, Ian and I both have Hydro Flask’s and they’re the only water bottles we’ll ever use. Yeah, they’re that good.)
Pro Tip: To save even more money, ditch the carbonated drinks and stick with water. You’ll not only be choosing a healthier option, but you’ll also be reducing waste. It’s a win-win!
Who else thinks it’s way too early to decide what to eat for breakfast? Preparing food every morning for breakfast is just too much work.
Fast food joints and breakfast shops take all that stress out of breakfast for you.
But, they also take all that money from you, too.
So, instead of stopping at Einstein Bros. Bagels or Tim Horton’s every morning for your breakfast sandwich, make the food yourself!
The best part about breakfast food is that pretty much everything can be thrown in the freezer and warmed up when you need it. This means you can make your own breakfast sandwiches or pancakes to freeze for later.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot better than paying $6 for some sad looking breakfast sandwich with a weird tasting egg.
Here are some yummy breakfast options you can try:
• Breakfast Burrito
• Breakfast Sandwich
• French Toast
You can actually meal prep quite a few breakfast foods, such as the burritos, sandwiches, french toast, and waffles. After everything is made, which really shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour for a few weeks supply, package it and throw it in the freezer.
All that’s left for you in the morning is to simply grab your breakfast of choice from the freezer, throw it in the toaster or microwave, and you’re good to go. Easy peesy.
The obvious solution to not eating out for lunch is to starve. Just kidding. It’s to pack your own lunch.
When doing so, you have a few options for your food choice, and they are as follows:
• Bring Leftovers: When cooking dinner, make enough so you have a meal for lunch the next day. We pretty much always make enough food for 4 people. This way, we have enough for dinner and lunch.
• Make a Sandwich: If you don’t feel like cooking a lot or want to save as much money as possible, make a sandwich. Pinterest has a lot of tasty sandwich recipes so you can switch it up. Or, just go with a traditional PB&J or meat sandwich.
• Meal Prep: As mentioned earlier, you can meal prep all your meals. That way all you have to do is grab your meal out of the fridge and go. No preparing throughout the week or making extras for dinner.
Pro Tip: Pack your lunch the night before. That way all you have to do is grab your lunch bag out of the fridge and head out the door. (Use a reusable lunch bag instead of plastic or paper bags. Also, use food storage containers instead of plastic baggies. This prevents useless waste and also saves ya money!)
As with all the other meals of the day, figure out what type of food you generally order out for dinner. And ask yourself why you tend to eat out for dinner so frequently.
Do you normally order pasta dishes, chicken fingers and fries, salads, or a variety of things? This will help you determine the types of meals you should make yourself.
If you normally order salads, take note of the types of greens, dressing, and toppings that your salads come with. You can then replicate this at home for a fraction of the cost.
Now when you go out each night for dinner, is it because you’re too tired, you hate cooking, you’re meeting friends, or some other reason? This can also help you determine the types of meals you should focus on cooking.
If you eat out because you’re too tired, try meal prepping. All your meals will already be cooked, leaving you to reheat it and eat.
Now if you hate cooking, maybe search for some easy recipes on Pinterest, such as pasta dishes or tacos. They require little cooking and you can buy the pasta and sauce pre-made from the grocery store.
Once you’ve determined all of this, it should be easier for you to plan your meals around your lifestyle and eating out every night will be a thing of the past.
You’re bound to get hungry throughout the day, so it makes sense to be prepared. Whether you have work, class, or are traveling, make sure you bring snacks.
Here are some easy snack ideas so you stop eating out, especially at vending machines.
• Cut up fruits and veggies and pair them with peanut butter or your sauce of choosing.
• Pack granola bars or nuts for a quick protein-packed snack.
• Throw some chips or crackers in a food storage container so they don’t get crushed.
• Or try some of these healthy snack ideas on Pinterest.
Trying to implement all of these changes right away will be difficult, so don’t try and change everything at once. Set yourself goals and take baby steps. Your spending habits will get better with time and you’ll learn to stop eating out so much. Good luck and happy savings!