I am not a cook by nature. Some people love to cook. They love the creative side to coming up with recipes or searching for new ideas on Pinterest. I am not one of those people. I cook to feed these people in my house who want a minimum of three meals a day – many times more – and that is it.
Have you given any thought to how much you spend on food not prepared in the home? I wonder if you could consider cutting back or stop eating out and save money. Let me offer you a plan and some hacks to eat at home more often.
If it were my choice, I would not cook. I would support the children of the people that cook the food and then the ones who will bring it to my house. And I would do that every day!!! But, I am also frugal. So, unfortunately, my desire to live a frugal life and wins over food delivery and eating out most days. I have learned some tips, tricks, and hacks to stop eating out and save money.
The Real Cost Of Eating Out
My husband has to be to work by six am and so that means by 5;35, he needs to be out of the house. I normally get up at 5:10 to make his breakfast and lunch. The coffee maker is prepped the night before. He gets an egg and cheese wrap to eat in the car on the way there and a cup of coffee in a really good quality to-go cup. This way, it’s a large quantity that stays hot for hours.
I then will make him a lunch. It can’t be anything that he needs to reheat as he never knows where he will be during the day.
There are some days (ok even some weeks especially when the boys are on school vacations) that I really don’t want to get up so he will buy. it’s not cheap!!!
Even the less expensive places will cost at least $10. So let’s do some math. $10 for breakfast and $15 for lunch. That’s $25 per day for five days. $125 a week. Multiply that by 50 weeks (giving two vacation weeks per year). That comes out to a whopping $6,250 PER YEAR!!! WOWZA!!! What a reason to stop eating out and save that money for something else.
Mind you, I spend less than $100 per week on groceries for four adults!!! Yeah…that’s a lot of money. And does it suck sometimes to have to get up at 5:10 am to make sure my sweet hubby has food to eat? Yup. Could he make his own? Physically, yes. But I have chosen to make food prep a priority because, well….$6,250 A YEAR!!!!
This is just for one man. And you know dinners added to that are going to make it another $4,000 per year, right? Imagine the amounts for more than one or a family?
Food Cost Statistics and Percentages
According to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person spent over $3,000 annually in 2016 for food away from home. That was two years ago per person. Just away from home.
Every Dollar suggests that 10-15% of annual income should be spent on food – ALL FOOD. Not just groceries or out to eat.
If you make $60,000 per year ($5,000 per month), $500-$750 should be spent on food. The amount of debt must also be considered when calculating these numbers. If you have debt and are trying to get out from under it, this should not be that much.
These numbers can be manipulated.
How To Stop Going Out To Eat
Decide. That is the bottom line. Decide that you will not step foot into a restaurant for 30 days. Or make a choice to have a date night twice a month. Decide food delivery happens only on the third Friday of each month that ends in a Y but only if there is a full moon!
But really though, you are an adult and we know adulting is hard but I know you can do it. You can make a decision that you know is best for your wallet.
Whether or not you are doing it to get out of debt, be healthier, or just stop spending so much money, you can choose to stop eating out and save so much money!!
Create A Meal Plan
Creating a meal plan can be as simple or as complex as you want it to. I am at the point right now where every day of the week is assigned a main ingredient and I choose the sides when I am cooking. I have a fully stocked pantry at all times to make that easier.
I suggest shopping as you get paid. If you get paid every other week, grocery shop every other week. Make a meal plan for 14 days.
Mondays may be chicken, Tuesdays may be beef, Wednesdays are for pasta, Thursdays are pork, Fridays might be meatless, and Saturdays might be pizza. Sundays are a great day to eat up any leftovers. You can create anything you want out of these 7 days per week. If you are a soup eater, make a soup night. Other ideas are salad and baked potato night. Maybe even Chinese food or Mexican night.
When making your meal plan, consider where you like to go out to eat and what types of food you enjoy eating.
Don’t Rule Out Convenience Foods
Full disclosure. I am not a big fan. However, I have been known to pick up things like frozen meatballs, pizzas, mozzarella sticks, canned pasta, soups, and macaroni and cheese. Mostly for teen boys. Sometimes, a can of soup is the only thing standing between me and ordering Chinese food, again.
Don’t be afraid to grab a frozen lasagna or a bag of ravioli. If it will save money AND be perfect for those days when you just can’t even, then so be it. I won’t be mad at you!
There is also the possibility of making your own “convenience foods”.
Make Ahead Meals To Stop Eating Out
Sometimes, I am in the mood to cook. Or I am not really in the mood but my lazy moment that I put that three pounds of ground beef in the freezer before I divided it up is coming back to bite me. So, turning lemons into lemonade, unthawing the entire package and making TWO meatloaves will serve a big win in the future.
Some people even plan this! Casseroles are a great planned freezer meal. And it doesn’t take much more time to make two. You already have everything out and cooked. May as well!
Grocery Shopping On A Budget
There is always a budget and a list when I walk through the doors of a grocery store. There have been times when I have forgotten my list and left, opting to come back another day with my list. That is how important your list is.
Create your list from the meal plan you have already made. I have a Master Grocery List that I created (you can find that in my resources page) so it is easier to find all of the items I normally use. The list hangs on the refrigerator so I can circle anything I run out of.
Make sure you do a quick inventory of your pantry or stockpile to see what you are out of or running low on.
Staples To Always Have On Hand
This is a list of items that help me stop eating out and save money. I have these great shelves in my basement specifically to home a small stockpile. If I only had a pantry!
Warehouse stores and sales are a great way to build a stockpile. You could save some money up and do it all at once or just pick up a couple of extra jars of sauce next time you are shopping.
- Pasta sauce. Aldi has a really yummy organic that is our favorite.
- Pasta. All kinds. Spaghetti, elbows, shells, and lasagna noodles. Whip up anything from spaghetti and meatballs to macaroni and cheese. Even a side dish like macaroni salad or butter and garlic.
- Cheddar worst and chicken sausages. They are already cooked and just need to be warmed up
- Frozen veggies. Pop them in the microwave in a bowl of water and 7 minutes you have a bowl full of nutrition.
- Frozen rice or quick cook rice. Life. Saver. And a great filler with some leftover beef or a quick casserole additive for all those leftovers. Also, quinoa cooks really fast and is a nice side dish. Have you seen my favorite casserole recipe? It is one of my families favorite dishes.
- Shredded potatoes. A side dish or another way to make a quick casserole.
- Ingredients for a quick pizza. I have a great recipe for a fast pizza crust that only needs to rise for a few minutes.
- Frozen beef patties. Quick to unthaw and toss in a pan on the stove. No buns? Make a stovetop gravy and call it Salisbury steaks.
- Meatballs. Mentioned above, these little frozen yummies are great to add to sauce and throw in some bread for a hot meatball sandwich, add to some pasta or just eat plain for lunch with mustard. Yes…mustard.
- Cheese. Top anything with cheese and my family will eat it!
- Salsa. I can throw any meat in the pressure cooker with a jar of salsa and serve it over rice. Add the word “Mexican” in front of it and you are golden.
- Frozen fish. A great protein and quick to unthaw in a bowl of water.
- Canned chicken. Great for salads, casseroles, and sandwiches. BJ’s sells an organic one that we love.
The Instant Pot And The Crock Pot
These appliances can be your best friend. Throw a bunch of ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning then let it do its thing. Even better, if you have an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot and you forget to take something out of the freezer, you can throw it in and in 30 minutes, you could have dinner. Three frozen chicken breasts and a jar of salsa, add a can of black beans, a can of corn, some of that frozen rice and top with cheese. DONE!
I can cook a whole chicken in 30 minutes from start to finish!
I just found an Instant Pot for my mother in law at a really great price. She got it as an early Mothers Day gift!
Check out Karen from 365 Days Of Slow And Pressure Cooking. She has so many fantastic recipes!
When you get home or are wrapped up in writing all day and forget that you need to feed these people (AGAIN), the Instant Pot saves me so many times. I can add and small pieces of meat to the pot and cook in some water and stock. it gives me a base for any meal.
Plan Ahead To Stop Eating Out And Save Money
I sometimes feel like many of my posts are summarized with one specific concept. Plan ahead. But life happens and you get stuck. I hope I have given you some tools and hacks to keep the eating out to a minimum. Think of the money you could save if you only ate out half the time you do now.
When you are thinking about it and you do have some time, that is when you can plan ahead.
And as I said above, don’t be afraid of those frozen meals every once in a while. It can’t be any worse than ordering it from a restaurant. But it sure will be cheaper!