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How to Prevent Eating Out or Getting Carry Out Food

Updated on April 8, 2009

Food is typically the biggest expense for people after their rent or mortgage. Eating out or getting carry out is often a big part of that expense. Sometimes it seems unavoidable but planning ahead will help you limit the amount you spend on eating out and help you save money on your food budget.

When I talk about planning, I am not only talking about meal planning. Planning when you go out to do errands and things will play a big part in whether you stop for something to eat or not. Instead of heading out an hour before lunch, eat an early lunch and then do your errands. You will be full from lunch and won't feel the urge to stop for something to eat. Another thing you should do when running errands for a long time is to pack snacks and water bottles. You might even prefer a soda or juice box for the kids but bringing it from home will be much cheaper than buying it while you are out. Packing a cooler takes little time or effort, yet the savings are huge.

Meal planning will help you avoid eating out. If you know what you are having for dinner after work then you won't be tempted to pick up a pizza on the way home. Also meal planning will help you on the crazy nights. Even as a stay at home mom, sometimes I find it hard to cook a meal during the dinner hour and sometimes it is because we aren't even home. Planning for leftovers or a crock-pot meal on those days helps us save a bunch of money by preventing a drive-thru dinner.

Another thing that has saved me over the past week has been what I call my "go to" meals. These are meals that I can make with items I always have on hand. These meals require little time in the kitchen and I can typically have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. For me these meals include the following - baked potatoes (microwave) and corn muffins, vegetable quesadillas, spaghetti, pancakes and bacon, scrambled eggs and toast, turkey sausages and noodles, and frozen pizza. All of these meals are easily supplemented with carrot sticks or frozen peas heated quickly in the microwave.

Some of my "go to" meals are pretty cheap. Some of them require some convenience foods that I don't purchase on a regular basis. For instance, I usually make pizza from scratch for around $4. I like to have frozen pizzas on hand though for crazy nights or nights when I don't feel like cooking and just want to order pizza. I can buy two frozen pizzas for around $8. This is a $12-15 savings over ordering pizza and it is ready before delivery could even get here. Turkey sausages are around $4 and when you add a pasta roni side dish and vegetable, the entire cost of the meal is $6 or so, more than I like to spend, but still much cheaper than going out to eat. I can cook up the sausages from frozen and have them on the table in less than 20 minutes.

Having a plan in your head of fast meal ideas that your family loves will save you lots of money in the long run. Planning your schedule (as best you can) to prevent eating out will also save you lots of money. Combine the two and you shouldn't have to eat out or get carry out often at all. Then you can get it when you really want to and it won't be a big deal. Trust me, your budget and your health will thank you for planning ahead.


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    • Garrett McLee profile image

      Garrett McLee 8 years ago from Florida

      This is excellent. My mother, when I was young (and probably still) used a lot of these techniques.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 8 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the response Jennifer. Yes, 6 people eating out must be expensive (I totally agree)...and you used to eat out almost every meal - wow - it is hard to believe with your wonderfully frugal recipes.

    • tega20002k3 profile image

      tega20002k3 8 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

      Although, it is good to minimize your spending. Thanks for this hub.

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 8 years ago

      Marlo, we do eat out some, but not often. With 6 people in the family that adds up quick. Plus I have a daughter with some food allergies, which really makes it difficult. LOL I used to eat out almost every meal, but I have definitely changed.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 8 years ago from United States

      Great hub! I chuckled at your comment "the entire cost of the meal is $6 or so, more than I like to spend."  I like to eat healthy and usually spend around $10 for dinner for 2 (cooking at home) - I cannot even make a vegetarian spaghetti meal for under $6 [$1.50 for whole wheat pasta, $1 for puried tomatoes for sauce, $2 fresh mushrooms in the sauce, $2 whole wheat bread/or rolls, $2 for bagged salad = $8.50].

      And I thought I was doing good, lol!

      Also, I think eating out once in a while is a nice treat from cooking/cleaning the kitchen and just for entertainment. What are your thoughts and do you ever go out to eat? Just curious?

      Love your hubs...

    • A2JinMI profile image

      A2JinMI 8 years ago from Ann Arbor, Michigan

      Great hub! I'm a big fan of taking snacks to go, I even have a little cooler that I carry in the car in the summer to keep them cool.

    • mayhmong profile image

      mayhmong 8 years ago from North Carolina

      I like your idea of planning ahead with meals. We need to sit down and discuss what healthy dinner we need to make, and what I need to pick up when coming home.

      I am going to miss all of my mama's cooking when I move out. :(It's hard to find time to cook anything and save when one has to work over 10 hours a day, nearly 70 hours a week, ya know?

    • Paper Moon profile image

      Paper Moon 8 years ago from In the clouds

      This is a great hub. I am the father of 4, and the primary cook. After working 10-11 hours, doing the most of the shopping, I am beat. I dont like the use of too many prepared foods, and I make huge messes in the kitchen. I have used many of the tricks that you speak of, but as of late, have fallen from grace. Thanks for the hub, its almost like a support group when I needed it. One thing my wife and I did start is making the kids clean the kitchen and dishes now that they are old enough. That may have saved my life! Lol.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 8 years ago from USA

      Hi Jennifer, this is a great hub. Really good advice. Thanks. I love cooking and I cook often but it is true that you have to be consistent and stay on top of it. I think one important thing is keeping the refrigerator and cupboards well stocked. Once your fridge is empty, that's it. You're picking up the phone to order pizza or chinese food. So remembering to make that trip to the supermarket when cooking ingredients are running low is very important.-Journey*

    • profile image

      mdawson17 8 years ago

      What wonderful ideas I am a father of three children, I am buisness owner and my wife is a stay at home mom! My wife is also home schooling, I asked her to go to this hub she could review some of your cost cutting ideas! Thanks Jennifer!