Ah, eating out…
If you’ve been following out budget updates, then you know that eating out is the bane of our budget. We consistently overspend by $1oo or more, and it seems like just when the budget is going swimmingly, something goes wrong (or our willpower gives out) and we give in to our inner laziness. We eat out, and it’s a doozy.
But knowledge is power, and knowing what triggered us to eat out in the past can help us to combat it in the future.
What is it that triggers us?
So, even though I’ve driven how to lower food costs to the ground, let’s take a look at some simple strategies you can employ to curb the temptation to eat out:
Eat before you leave –
This time-tested strategy really works to lower food costs! One of the biggest reasons we run through McDonald’s drive through for chicken nuggets is because the little one is hungry. And we though we had snacks in the diaper bag. But we didn’t. Or we completely forgot the diapers bag. (Be honest parents, you’ve been stranded without diapers before, too)
Eating before you head out, whether it’s to the grocery store, a sporting event, or a family game night, eat a small snack before you head out the door. Aim for filling, nutritious foods, such as a cheese stick, a banana, or a handful of grapes.
Take Cash –
Eating out isn’t exactly convenient when you’ll have to wash dishes to pay for it, now is it. Yes, having someone else prepare delicious food for your and family is awesomely easy. And if you have culinary skills like me, it tastes way better! No dishes to clean up, and they’ll even package up the leftovers for you to take home!
When you head out, take only the cash that you need for the event you’re attending, gas to fill up your car, or whatever you actually need. Take only enough and you won’t even be able to entertain the thought of eating out.
Stash Snacks –
It’s so easy to forget the diaper bag, forget to eat your snack before leaving the house, or any number of slip-ups. One easy way around this is to always carry snacks in your car. In the back of our SUV, there is an in-floor compartment that we use to stow reusable shopping bags, extras diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for the little one, and snacks.
We like to stash things like power bars, shelf-stable fruit “squeezies,” and crackers. Sometimes, we’ll throw a juice box or two back there too, but we try to avoid bottled water, as new research says that chemicals may leech into the water from the plastic bottles when stored in a car. I’ll be honest, I have no idea if that is true, but better safe than sorry.
I’m already getting ready to implement all of these strategies, in hopes of getting our eating out budget under control again. Saving a hundred dollars on eating out is well worth purchasing a few shelf-stable and convenience foods that cost a little more than your normal groceries.
How about you? What strategies do you employ to keep yourself from eating out?
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One common reason for eating out is being invited out with friends. We don’t want to always miss out on the fun so we will eat before we go to the restaurant and then just order something small. We call it “pre-gaming” and it can make the difference between a $4 night out or $20-30.
Totally – and the pregaming is a great idea! We have also found that if we kind of take control by initiating hang out time and inviting everyone over to our house, they usually go for it!
This is my biggest weakness! My fiance and I are both teachers, so we try to cook all our meals for the week on Sundays. If we don’t–we had visitors, too many essays to grade, etc.–we eat out way too much! Plus, we just loooove food. We are really working on it, but this is right now our biggest obstacle.
I’ve definitely heard of people doing this. Question: how do you keep the meals you prepped from spoiling before the end of the week? Or do we just have a problem with our fridger? LOL
Good tips Gretchen. My little secret: Always be drinking a ton of water. When you do it makes you feel more “full” and less likely to stop somewhere.
Ooooh! That’s a good one!
[email protected] says
I am the worst at this. It is so easy to go through the drive thru and grab a quick dinner or snack. I try to wait until after breakfast or dinner run my errands so this doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
Isn’t it completely unfair how convenient the drive-thru is?
We’re lazy. Having a plan what to eat helps. Then we don’t play the “what do you want” game. Which eventually leads to us getting take out.
I second that!
Jayleen @ How Do The Jones Do It says
We employ the ‘eat before you leave’ strategy or the ‘just don’t go anywhere’ strategy;0) Seriously though, we’ve never been huge on eating out so it isn’t that big of a deal. The hubby cooks better than any restaurant;0)
Whoa – how lucky are you?!
Having a plan for the meals’ weeks really helps us. It also helps if we limit our eating out to places where we have gift-cards or go out for ice cream after eating at home versus going out for an entire meal. In that way, we still get the “experience” of going out without blowing our budget.
That’s a great idea! We love Chili’s skillet cookies – and for $8 we get to feel like we’re eating out – love this!
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says
Eating out is one of our biggest issues. Last month we decided to not eat out and a take out theme meal plan helped us make it through the month.
I love that idea! There are so many great copycat recipes on pinterest now, I don’t see why not!
Gary @ Super Saving Tips says
Having a meal plan definitely helps, but we find there are still nights when we just don’t feel like cooking, or making what we planned. On those nights it’s good to have some easy-to-make back up meals, whether it’s something already prepared sitting in the freezer, or soup and sandwiches, or breakfast for dinner (eggs, or maybe even pancakes).
Totally – there’s nothing wrong with PB&J for nights when it’s just too much to cook!
We still have a hard time with this. Living in the city does not help!