Want to stop eating out so much? Today I’m sharing 11 pro tips on how to stop eating out that will save you and your family hundreds of dollars!
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How to Stop Eating Out
The average American family spends hundreds of dollars per month eating out and it is said that one out of every four meals is eaten away from the home in this country. To me, this is shocking and so sad.
I’m sure you’ve seen and felt the price increases of eating out over the past couple of years due to inflation, and it doesn’t take long for those fast food trips to eat up your monthly food budget. For our family of 6, we’re hard pressed to get fast food for under $40 which is a ridiculous amount to pay for one meal in my opinion.
I understand that most people are busy with work, school and extra activities, but eating out so much is costing us our money and our health. Did you know that cooking at home, no matter what you’re making, is better for you than take-out? This is because you’re in control of the amount of salt, sugar and spices that are going into the meal.
It’s also better for you to cook meals at home because they tend to be lower in calories and it’s easier to control portions. Cooking from scratch and eating at home with your family has been proven to improve the physical and mental health of all family members involved.
I could go on and on about the benefits of cooking your own food, eating at home and connecting with your family around the dinner table, but I think you get the picture by now.
So, how do we make sure that we are eating most of our meals at home to reap the benefits? Well, today I’m going to share with you my best tips for how to stop eating out and I hope that they inspire you to get in the kitchen more as a family.
As food prices and our family have increased simultaneously, we’ve been naturally eating out less and less over the past few years. It also helps that we live rurally and don’t have easy access to every restaurant under the sun.
I’ve found that eating at home more often requires planning and a shift in thinking. It can seem daunting, but really if you can make a few changes and dedicate just a little bit more time in your week to planning and meal prepping, then it is 100% doable to eat home cooked meals, even for the busiest of families. I hope you enjoy these tips for how to stop eating out and I’d love to here your opinion on this subject in the comments below.
Creating a list of meals that you want to make for the week is a huge step towards reaching your goal of not eating out. It’s smart to schedule a time each week to sit down with your favorite recipes and plan out your menu.
To save the most money, do reverse meal planning, which is planning as many meals as possible from what you already have in your house and what’s on sale that week at your local grocery store. If meal planning is new to you and you need more help in this area be sure to check out my post How to Meal Plan on a Tight Budget.
Keep Snacks in the Car or at Work
Keeping a stash of nutritious and portable snacks in the car or at work is a great way to avoid last minute drive-thru stops. Having things like nuts, cheese sticks, dried fruit or peanut butter crackers on hand can help you to get through busy days away from home. A little extra planning in this area goes a long way in avoiding the drive thru each week.
Use Convenience Foods
I cook mostly from scratch because it’s healthier and more frugal than buying convenience foods, but I still keep a stash of convenience food, such as frozen pizza, on hand for the days that I need them in a hurry. The truth is, even the most dedicated home cook will have days that go haywire and will need a backup.
It’s a good idea to keep a few already prepped meals in the freezer or on your pantry shelf for just such an occasion, so you aren’t tempted to hit the local fast food joint on the way home. As the saying goes, a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
Do Some Freezer Cooking
Taking a few hours a month to prepare home cooked meals for the freezer is a great way to save money and avoid eating out on busy nights. Things like casseroles, soups or slow cooker meals tend to freeze beautifully and are a great help when you need them.
If doing a big freezer cooking day seems too overwhelming, then simply plan to double and freeze one dinner per week and you’ll have a stash in the freezer to help you avoid eating out in no time! Check out the links below for recipes that freeze well to get started.
Family-Friendly Freezer Meals:
- Bean and Cheese Burritos
- Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Beef and Noodle Casserole
- Quick and Easy Freezer Meatloaf
Trying to eat home cooked meals with a busy lifestyle can be challenging, but setting aside an hour or two per week to do things like chop vegetables, boil eggs, cook meat, shred cheese, etc. will set you up for success the rest of the week. Some people even pack lunches for the entire week on Sunday nights so they can just grab and go the rest of the week. The more you can prep in advance, the close you will be to reaching your goal of skipping the drive thru throughout the week.
Plan for Events
If you know that on Wednesday nights you will be at soccer practice during dinner, then make a plan to pack something easy such as fruit and sandwiches. Planning ahead is a great way to keep your family eating healthy meals on the go.
Take a look at your schedule for the week and plan accordingly. For instance, we have piano Wednesday afternoons, so I know that I have to prep a slow cooker meal that morning to get dinner on the table that evening. Taking the time to plan ahead will save you a lot of stress and grief throughout the week.
Count the Costs
What is eating out really costing you? Add up how much money you are currently spending in this area to see how much you could save by eating at home. Also, compare how much a home cooked meal costs vs. a fast food meal.
Doing this will cause you to stop and think before you drop $40-$50 on one meal when you could make the same thing for $5-$10 at home. Also, count the cost of your health. Is eating takeout and restaurant meals multiple times per week really the best thing your you and your family long term?
Learn to Love Leftovers
For someone who is trying to save money and eat at home, leftovers are your best friend. I generally make enough to have at least a few servings of leftovers. I don’t cook lunch in general, because I rely on leftovers so heavily. If you don’t have leftovers, then consider cooking larger portions, so that you can have the rest for lunch the next day. You can also plan a leftovers night for dinner once per week to make sure you’re not letting any food go to waste.
Leftovers can also be a great way to get creative and reinvent in the kitchen. Got leftover chili? Make chili dogs or chili mac casserole. Got leftover chicken? Make chicken salad. Got leftover baked potatoes? Make fried or mashed the next night! Making the best use of your leftovers is a fun skill to practice and will save you money and stress in the long run.
Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Crock Pot
I’m a huge fan of the slow cooker for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest is that I generally have more breathing room to get dinner together in the beginning of the day verses the end of the day when everyone is worn out.
I lean on it pretty heavily for things like soups, chili, beans and just about anything else that I can make. I even have a casserole slow cooker which adds some variety to the slow cooker meals that we love. If you need healthy meals on the table in a hurry, then give it a try. Also, check out the recipes below to get you started.
Family-Favorite Slow Cooker Meals:
- Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken with Bacon and Ranch
- Slow Cooker Sausage and Potato Casserole
- Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Legs
Make Your Favorites at Home
Sometimes you just want fried chicken, right? Well, what’s stopping you from making it at home? It really isn’t that difficult and I promise you that it will be worth it. You can find just about any copy cat recipe online for your restaurant favorites. I’ve included some of our favorites below to get your started.
Favorite Copycat Recipes:
- Copycat Chick-Fil-A Biscuits
- Copycat Olive Garden Breadsticks
- Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana
- Copycat KFC Coleslaw
Keep a List of Simple Recipes
Life is busy and there will be times when you just need to fill bellies in a hurry. This is why you should keep a list of quick and easy meals that you have the ingredients on hand for at any given time. Things like scrambled eggs and toast or quesadillas and salsa make filling meals with minimal ingredients that can be made in 10 minutes or less. These types of foods will save you a ton in the long run.
Change can be extremely hard and if you’ve been eating out all of your life (like me) then trying to stop or just do it less often, will be a challenge, but with some commitment and planning you can definitely make eating at home more of a reality. Just make one change at a time and do the best with what you have in front of you. The best things you can do are to plan ahead, keep convenience foods on hand and give yourself grace. You’ve got this!
How many times do you eat our per week? What do you do to avoid eating out? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below!